Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized for 4th time this year
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Greek Holocaust memorial vandalized for 4th time this year

Swastika spray-painted on monument to Thessaloniki cemetery destroyed by Nazis, sparking condemnation from Israeli embassy, World Jewish Congress

A woman places a flower on the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki, during a protest against its desecration, on July 4, 2018. (AFP/ Sakis Mitrolidis)
A woman places a flower on the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki, during a protest against its desecration, on July 4, 2018. (AFP/ Sakis Mitrolidis)

A Holocaust memorial has been vandalized in Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, for the fourth time this year.

A swastika was daubed Friday night on the memorial remembering thousands of Jews deported by the Nazis during World War II.

The monument was erected in 2014 on the grounds of Aristotle University to highlight that the university was built on the city’s Jewish cemetery after it was razed by the Nazis — a fact largely forgotten by most Greeks today.

The cemetery had originally been created during the Roman era.

The Israeli Embassy in Greece issued a condemnation of the incident.

“Turning Jews into scapegoats for events that they have absolutely no responsibility for is the absolute expression of anti-Semitism,” it said in a statement. “Such incidents by extreme nationalist circles must be condemned by all and the aggressors must finally be led before justice.”

The World Jewish Congress said it “unequivocally condemns the shameful and repeated desecration of the Holocaust monument in Thessaloniki.”

“It is alarming and disgraceful that a monument honoring the memory of Jews who perished in the Holocaust should become a routine target for those espousing vile expressions of hatred and anti-Semitism,” said WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer in a statement.

“We are extremely concerned by the steady rise of anti-Semitic vandalism facing the Jewish community in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. This desecration, as well as the vandalism of cemeteries in Poland and in France in the past week alone, should ring alarm bells for anyone who believes that these incidents are isolated and passing,” he added.

Holocaust survivors Heinz Kounio (L) and Zana Sadikario-Saatsoglou (C) look at the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki, on January 28, 2018, during a ceremony commemorating the persecution of the Jewish people during the Holocaust. (AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS)

In June, unknown assailants threw red paint at Thessaloniki’s main Holocaust memorial in the city center, after a nationalist protest.

A month earlier, vandals smashed headstones in the Jewish section of a cemetery in Athens.

The attacks have been attributed to far-right supporters, including those from neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which has been represented in Greece’s parliament since 2012, and consistently ranks as the third most popular movement in opinion polls.

After conquering Greece in 1941, Nazi Germany deported to extermination camps some 50,000 Jews from Thessaloniki, which at the time was one of the main centers of Judaism in the Balkans.

Anti-Semitism remains prevalent in Greece. Historically there has also been strong support for the Palestinian cause.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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