According to the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KISE), the city of Kavala has decided to cancel the unveiling of a monument dedicated to the 1,484 Jews of the community who were murdered in the Holocaust. However, this decision hides a wider Anti-Semitic concern.
The mayor of Kavala, Dimitra Tsanaka, has apparently objected to the Star of David engraved on the monument and she asked for its removal before the monument could be officially presented. She was supported in this decision by the majority of the municipal council.
The shocking decision was immediately condemned by both Jewish groups and the Greek central government.
KISE attacked the decision as “unacceptable, immoral and insulting,”
“There are no words to express adequately our shock and dismay at the news,” American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“How can it be that the eternal symbol of the Jewish people – the very symbol that the Nazis required Jews to wear in the death camps and ghettos of Europe during the Second World War – is deemed unfit for public display in Kavala? What gall for the Jewish community to be asked to remove the Star of David as a condition for allowing the monument to be displayed!” he said.
Giorgos Kalatzis, the Greek Education Ministry general secretary also decried the mayor’s decision, noting that Kavala risked being the first Greek city to turn down a monument raised for its own citizens.
“As an Orthodox Christian, I feel deeply insulted by this issue, because it would be as if someone asked us to erase or modify for ‘aesthetic reasons’ the symbol of the cross on the tombs of our grandfathers executed by the Germans,” he was quoted as saying.
Many in Kavala also objected to the decision which was damaging to the reputation of the city.
About 100 people including 4 sisters from Israel whose parents had come from Kavala and Komotini and who had been killed in the concentration camps, marched through the city of Kavala today condemning the cancellation of the memorial unveiling ceremony. Some wore symbolic yellow stars of David during the silent protest.
The group marched on the town hall where they were met by the mayor.
According to Kavala-Portal, Tsanaka reportedly apologized for the incident which she attributed to a ‘huge misunderstanding’. She provided assurances that the memorial would be installed as planned on a date that would be decided on together with KISE – likely to be on June 7th.
However while Tsanaka admitted having made mistakes – it is notable that she did not acknowledge that one of those had been requesting the removal of the Star of David from the memorial. “Perhaps” she said, “I was wrong to trust so much the deputy mayor of culture, Michalis Lychounas, who took on entirely planning the event and the memorial. That was my mistake.”
But Mr Lychounas himself, in an article written about the incident in the Kathimerini newspaper, indicates that there was something perhaps deeper behind the disgraceful episode. After describing the many delays in actually succeeding in getting the memorial ready (it was actually first approved by the municipality in 2004 but was plagued with foot-dragging and interminable delays), Lychounas writes that:
“The preparations with all relevant organs continued with the goal of a celebration of memory, but also of the future, until the cries of horror were heard: “The symbols of Lucifer (Star of David), indifference over our dead (make a memorial for the Greeks killed of Asia Minor), a global Zionist conspiracy, freemasonry, the new order of things which seeks to destroy the nation and hysteria over supposed protests” were the arguments…The bitter truth is that there remains a segment of the Greek population which has powerful anti-Semitic feelings based on ignorance and prejudice and the education system does not do enough to eliminate the phenomenon.”
Read more here.