World Jewish News
In about two years, the Greek city of Thessaloniki will have its Holocaust Museum
"You cannot build your future unless you know your past," said Yiannis Boutaris, Mayor of the Greek city of Thessaloniki (Salonika), as he unveiled a commemorative plaque in his city where a Holocaust Museum will be built.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Netanyahu, who was in Greece for a tripartite summit with that country and Cyprus, attended the dedication in Thessaloniki with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, as well as the son and daughter of Moshe Ha-Elion, 93, a Greek Holocaust survivor who this year lit a torch at the national ceremony for Yom Hashoah, Holocaust memorial day.
The construction of the Holocaust Museum is scheduled to be completed in about two years.
The Jewish community of Thessaloniki was THE largest in Greece before it was exterminated by the Nazis during World War II. "Before the second World War, almost half of Thessaloniki's population was comprised of Greeks of Jewish origin," Greek Prime Minister Tsipras said.
He said the construction of the museum aims to keep alive the memory of the pain and suffering endured by Thessaloniki’s Jews.
"Both Israel and Greece share the history of Thessaloniki," he said.
The museum’s construction, he said, is a promise to the present and future that people will “resist anything that will threaten freedom, dignity and human life.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Netanyahu said: “The Nazi fire destroyed about 95 percent of this extraordinary and proud Jewish community. There were two reasons why they didn’t destroy everyone. The first was heroism of Greeks, and this was exemplified in one case that is not sufficiently well-known, the case of the Island of Zakynthos where the German commander said: ‘Give me a list of the Jews’ and the bishop and the mayor brought a list of the Jews with their two names. They said: ‘This is our Jews. Take us’. We honor these two great heroes among the Righteous Among the Nations in Yad Vashem, an institution that will work with this museum.’’
“There’s a second reason why they survived and that is in addition to fate. It is a special capacity, the grip of life that is exemplified among the survivors.’’
Netanyahu also spoke at a synagogue in Thessaloniki, telling Jewish community members, including the Rabbi of Thessaloniki Israel Aharon and the president of the Greek Jewish community and of the community of Thessaloniki David Saltiel, that the Jewish people “rose from the ashes of the Holocaust and built a modern country; we returned to the land of our ancestors, built a country, established an army — a good one, built an economy — a very good one, and took our place among the nations.”
Mayor Boutaris said that ‘’the fact that the Prime Ministers of Greece and Israel did not only unveil the commemorative plaque for the Holocaust Museum that will be built in Thessaloniki but also confirmed officially that they will support the creation of the Museum is for me extremely significant.’’
The leaders of Greece, Israel and Cyprus were also in Greece to attend a trilateral summit seeking to further strengthen ties between the three countries.
Israel wants to supply Europe with energy through an undersea natural gas pipeline.