Holocaust memorial vandalized on Greek university campus

Monument to Thessaloniki cemetery destroyed by Nazis splattered with blue paint and daubed with nationalist symbol

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)

THESSALONIKI, Greece — A Holocaust memorial was vandalized in Greece’s second largest city Thessaloniki, officials said Wednesday, the third anti-Semitic incident since May.

Blue paint was spattered on the memorial remembering thousands of Jews deported by the Nazis during World War II, and a symbol spelling out “Christ the Victor” left on one of the monument’s plaques.

A police source said this symbol is popular with Greek and Serb Orthodox nationalist hardliners.

The incident was reported on Tuesday.

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 university had the paint cleaned off the monument — a series of gravestones in a bed of grass next to a broken menorah — and condemned the vandalism in a statement, calling it an “unacceptable action.” It said education is “the solution to religious fanaticism and bigotry.”

The cemetery had originally been created during the Roman era.

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki in its condemnation called the vandalism an “insult” to the monument. The statement noted “the necessary and successful efforts made by our Community, in cooperation with the authorities and institutions in our city and homeland, to combat racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance and fanaticism while restoring and promoting the history of Thessaloniki and its aspects on the centuries-old Jewish presence.”

A woman puts a rose as she protests against the desecration of the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki on July 4, 2018. (AFP/Sakis Mitrolidis)

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

A month earlier, vandals had also 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 rank 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 is also strong support for the Palestinian cause.

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