New Greek health minister apologizes over past antisemitic remarks

Athanassios Plevris says he has ‘absolute respect’ for Holocaust victims, having previously defended his father’s desire to see Jews in Auschwitz

New Greek Health Minister Athanassios Plevris. (The Hellenic Parliament via JTA)
New Greek Health Minister Athanassios Plevris. (The Hellenic Parliament via JTA)

Greece’s new right-wing health minister has apologized for past remarks that outraged the country’s Jewish community, and declared his “absolute respect” for Holocaust victims and his opposition to antisemitism.

Athanassios Plevris issued the statement on social media Wednesday soon after the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece — which uses the Greek acronym KIS — expressed concern over his Cabinet appointment.

A KIS statement had urged Plevris to apologize for remarks he made as a defense lawyer in a 2009 court case against his extreme far-right father, Constantinos Plevris, who was charged with incitement to racist hatred or violence over a book called “Jews: The Whole Truth.”

The elder Plevris had appeared to advocate for keeping Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp, “in good condition,” allegedly for the day it would again serve to kill Jews.

KIS quoted the health minister as having commented at the time: “What incitement is this? Is it that one is not allowed to believe and want to believe that ‘I want to exterminate someone?'”

The appeals tribunal acquitted Constantinos Plevris.

The health minister said on Wednesday that KIS’s objections to his court comments were “understandable” and that he “fully disagrees” with his father’s views.

“But I never wanted to insult the Jewish people, and I apologize if I did,” the 44-year-old lawyer said. “I am certain that… as health minister, I will leave not the slightest grounds for reservation for those who doubt my respect for the Holocaust, and they will see that under no circumstances do I harbor antisemitic sentiments.”

The new minister joined the governing center-right New Democracy party of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in 2012, having previously been elected as a lawmaker with a small populist right party, Popular Orthodox Rally. He has repeatedly said that he rejects the political views of his father.

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