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Thessaloniki: World Jewish Leaders Meet in Show of Support to Greek Jews

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AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis scored the winning goal iin his team's victory over Veria last weekend, but celebrated by giving the Nazi salute to spectators at the Olympic Stadium.

AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis scored the winning goal iin his team's victory over Veria last weekend, but celebrated by giving the Nazi salute to spectators at the Olympic Stadium.

AEK Athens midfielder Giorgos Katidis scored the winning goal iin his team’s victory over Veria last weekend, but celebrated by giving the Nazi salute to spectators at the Olympic Stadium.

Leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Sunday sent a strong message of solidarity to the Jewish community of Greece as they gathered in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki for meetings of the WJC Executive Committee and commemorations on the 70th anniversary of the first deportation of Salonican Jews to the death camps. In a speech in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder urged Greece to take decisive action against the growing neo-Nazi movement Golden Dawn, which he called “the new Nazis” and “a threat to democracy.” In a resolution, the World Jewish Congress called on Greece to consider banning extremist parties such as Golden Dawn.

Samaras on Sunday, March 17, became the first sitting Greek prime minister of the last 100 years to visit a synagogue. He pledged that his government would do everything to rein in the extremists. The Greek government would enact legislation that will be “completely intolerant to violence and racism,” he said, noting that with neo-Nazi parties on the rise again in Europe, governments had to “be very careful not to let them gain ground as they did in the 1930s.”

Fifty Jewish community heads and representatives from around the world attended the series of events in Thessaloniki in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust. They were co-organized by the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki. More than 48,000 Jews of Thessaloniki were deported between March and August of 1943 and 96 percent of them were murdered in the German death camps. On Saturday, the WJC representatives took part in a commemorative march organized by Thessaloniki’s mayor Yiannis Boutaris which attracted nearly 3,000 participants.

In his speech at the Monastiriotes Synagogue, Ronald Lauder thanked the survivors – some of whom were present and lit candles – for returning and rebuilding the Salonican community. He also praised Jewish community leader David Saltiel for his tremendous efforts in strengthening the community. (For the full text of Lauder’s speech, please see the document attached to this E-mail.)

As part of the resolution, the WJC calls on Greece to “consider banning political parties, such as the Golden Dawn movement, which pose a serious danger to liberal democracy”; and also calls on the European Union to “ensure that political movements that actively espouse a platform of discrimination of ethnic or religious minorities, in contravention of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, are dealt with in a coordinated manner in all EU member states that law enforcement authorities receive all necessary support for the protection of citizens against such crimes.”

About the World Jewish Congress

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.

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