“Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
Holocaust Remembrance Day: 27 January
Greece, a member of IHRA since 2005, reaffirms its strong commitment to promoting Holocaust education, remembrance and research, and combating antisemitism, racism and prejudice against the Roma and Sinti.The recent terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe underline the needfor EU countries, UN members and the international community to remain united and act together to combat antisemitism and any other form of discrimination and xenophobia.
Expert Minister - Head of the Greek Delegation to the IHRA
The Greeks have always resisted the debasement represented by racism. All the constitutions of Greece, from the very first Provisional Constitution of Epidaurus in 1822, which enshrined the principle of freedom to choose one’s religion and to perform religious duties. In this respect, and due to the strong bonds that have connected the two peoples, Greek and Jewish, since antiquity and later when the government of Eleftherios Venizelos first called for the establishment of a Jewish state in 1917, four months before the Balfour Declaration, Greece has played an important role in this particularly turbulent international environment.
President Shimon Peres of Israel and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece during the former's visit to Athens, 9 August 2012 (Source: Flickr, Antonis Samaras, Prime Minister of Greece).
In 1944 by decision of George Papandreou's government, the Greek State became the first in Europe to return Jewish property which had been confiscated in the course of the Second World War. Furthermore, it waived its lawful right of inheritance to those properties whose owners had not left descendants to the fourth degree, and the property of the deceased was transferred to a common fund to aid Jews impoverished by war. The 1944 decision of the Council of Ministers stated that "the Greek Government, not willing to take advantage in any way of the persecutions against the Jews by the enemy's occupation authorities, decided that all items of property that would be placed into custody of the Greek State, as intestate heir of Jews who perished in concentration camps without any legal heirs, would not become part of the general state property. Instead they would be used for special humanitarian purposes, mainly in order to serve the needs of the Jewish community." This decision became a Law of the Greek State in January 1946 (Law 846/1946).
In this very important field, Greece both trains educators and teaches young pupils. The subject of the Holocaust is included in the curriculum for the examinations at the end of the school year. Furthermore, pupils from several schools undertake special projects on the Holocaust and, in particular, on the teaching of local history with reference to Jewish life and religion, the contribution of Jews to the social and political life of Greece, and the Holocaust.
Classic works, like the "Diary of Anne Frank," or works of Greek authors such as Yiorgos Ioannou referring to the prosecution of the Jews of Thessaloniki by Nazis, together with schoolbooks and other educational material that have been revised by the Pedagogical Institute, are included as teaching materials. During students' workshops projects are carried out based on authentic materials. Furthermore, theater performances, photo exhibitions and visits to synagogues are part of these activities. The Pedagogical Institute has been revising schoolbooks according to the guidelines established by IHRA and recent research using up-to-date teaching methods.
Finally, Greek educators participate in special seminars and events organized both in Greece and abroad.
By Law 3218 of the Greek Parliament, adopted unanimously and published in the Government Gazette No 10, issue 27/1/2004, 27 January is established as a Remembrance Day for the Holocaust Victims and Heroes. Remembrance ceremonies take place in Athens, organized by the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece and the Prefecture of Athens, and in Thessaloniki organized by the Jewish Community and the Prefecture of Thessaloniki and in other cities.
These events are attended by religious, political, and academic figures, as well as diplomatic representatives and the wider public. Foreign guests and survivors have also participated in the ceremonies. In conjunction with the ceremony, every year the Jewish Museum of Greece presents a relevant exhibition at the venues while, at the same time it offers a fortnight of educational programs and activities for school groups.
Greek television and other media have devoted lengthy programs and articles to the Holocaust.
In respect to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, Greece has signed an agreement with Polish authorities to create a memorial to honor Greek victims at the Auschwitz concentration camp in barrack No 18. The construction of the memorial is still in progress.
Greece has played a significant role in the release of the International Tracing Service Archive held at Bad Arolsen. In 2013 the Greek Parliament ratified the latest Agreement of Partnership with the Federal Archives of Germany. Both remote access to Bad Arolsen files and local access (in Greece) use of a copy of the digitized material in the future, remain a non-negotiable country’s right.
Greece has also made long-term efforts to repatriate the Archives of the Greek Jewish Communities looted by the Nazi occupation forces that have been held in Moscow since the end of the Second World War. In this regard, negotiations with the Russian Authorities today seem to be more favorable than ever.