Sunday 17th May was meant to be a day of remembrance for the 1,484 Greek Jews of the town of Kavala who were annihilated by the Nazis. A long-planned Holocaust memorial was to be officially unveiled in the center of the city.
Instead, thanks to the disgraceful decisions by the mayor of Kavala, Dimitra Tsanaka - fuelled apparently by a combination of anti-Semitism and idiocy – the event was cancelled in a fiasco that (rightly) provoked international condemnation.
In an inexplicable and deeply offensive decision, Tsanaka, backed by the majority of the municipal council, decided to postpone the unveiling ceremony because the memorial - a Holocaust memorial to the Jews killed in WWII - bore the star of David.
According to the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, the mayor of Kavala asked for the star's removal before the monument could be officially presented.
The shocking decision was immediately condemned by both Jewish groups and the Greek central government and was reported on extensively by the international press.
The Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KISE) attacked the decision as “unacceptable, immoral and insulting.”
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.”
It is now up to Tsanaka to prove that such anti-Semitic prejudices have no place in the local government of Kavala.
Source: www.thetoc.gr- The Times of Change