Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu honored the Greek Jewish community lost during the Holocaust at the dedication of a site to build a Holocaust museum in Thessaloniki, also known as Salonika.
Netanyahu, who is in Greece for a tripartite summit with that country and Cyprus, attended the dedication on Thursday with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, as well as the son and daughter of Moshe Ha-Elion, 93, a Greek Holocaust survivor who this year lit a torch at the national ceremony for Holocaust memorial day.
“The Nazi fire destroyed about 95 percent of this extraordinary and proud Jewish community,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony. “There were two reasons why they didn’t destroy everyone. The first was heroism of Greeks, and this was exemplified in one case that is not sufficiently well-known, the case of the Island of Zakynthos where the German commander said: ‘Give me a list of the Jews’ and the bishop and the mayor brought a list of the Jews with their two names. They said: ‘This is our Jews. Take us’. We honor these two great heroes among the Righteous Among the Nations in Yad Vashem, an institution that will work with this museum.
“There’s a second reason why they survived and that is in addition to fate. It is a special capacity, the grip of life that is exemplified among the survivors,” the prime minister added, specifically mentioning Ha-Elion, who was unable to attend the ceremony after being hospitalized the day before he was scheduled to leave for Thessaloniki.
— Alexis Tsipras (@tsipras_eu) June 15, 2017
“We commemorate the loss of these human beings, our fellow Jews, but we also dedicate ourselves to make sure that this horror will never happen again.”
Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife, Sarah, also spoke at a synagogue in Thessaloniki, telling Jewish community members, including the Rabbi of Thessaloniki Israel Aharon, the president of the local Jewish community David Shaltiel, and the mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris, that the Jewish people “rose from the ashes [of the Holocaust] and built a modern country; we returned to the land of our ancestors, built a country, established an army — a good one, built an economy — a very good one, and took our place among the nations.”
He also praised Israeli ties with Greece and Cyprus, calling the three countries “the real democracies in the Mediterranean basin.”
The countries signed several joint statements, including dealing with energy and cultural exchanges, during the two days of meetings.