By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
Athens, Greece — January 29, 2018 … Israeli President Rivlin commented on Poland’s denial of its role in the Holocaust.
Rivlin, who is visiting Greece, stated that in relation to the new Polish legislation that Poland’s decision to place in prison those who speak of Poland’s complicity with Nazi Germany is a reminder that it is still beholden upon Israel, all Jews and Christians to fight for the memory of the Holocaust, as it happened. Research into the Holocaust must be free, open, and sincere. The duty to remember is a duty to recognize, to know, to try and understand what happened. With the aim to ensure, Never Again.”
“We are witnessing the return of anti-Semitic, racist and neo-Nazi outlooks, many manifestations of anti-Semitism are once again reverberating around the world, radical movements are gaining strength, the new right-wing parties are winning electoral achievements – Jews feel less secure in their countries – these are phenomena that should be denounced. We must not give in to anti-Semitism or xenophobia, we must fight anti-Semitism, racism and hatred of every kind.”
“We must firmly oppose those who conceal anti-Semitism under the guise of delegitimizing Israel – as well as extreme right-wing parties which do not hide their anti-Semitic background, but declare that they love Israel. There is no such thing as loving Israelis and hating Jews, or loving Jews but hating Israelis.”
President Reuven Rivlin this evening, addressed a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, held by the Jewish community in Athens.
In attendance were Holocaust survivors from the Greek Jewish community, among them; Itzik Mizen, 90, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau; Frances Hogo, 90, who survived Bergen Belsen; Fortunita Hananel Gani, 91, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau; and David Moshe, 95, who survived Mauthausen. Also attending was Greece’s Education and Religious Affairs Minister, and the Speaker of the Greek Parliament.
“Seventy-three years have passed since the flames of the Auschwitz crematoria were put out” began the President and continued, “Auschwitz has become a symbol of the whole Jewish Holocaust. The United Nations decided that 27th January – the day that soldiers of the Red Army entered Auschwitz and freed the inmates – should be an international day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust. And yet, on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the lower house of the Polish Parliament passed a law to criminalize talk of “crimes of the Polish nation”, threatening custodial sentences those who use different expressions.
This decision is a reminder that it is still beholden upon us to fight for the memory of the Holocaust, as it happened. Research into the Holocaust must be free, open, and sincere. Just as was said by the former Polish President, “One cannot fake history, nor rewrite it, nor hide the truth. Every crime, every offence must be condemned, denounced, must be examined and exposed.” So he said.”
“The Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the entire world must ensure that the Holocaust is recognized for its horrors and atrocities. Also among the Polish nation there were those who aided the Nazis in their crimes. We will not forget that. There were also others among them who struggled to save the lives of Jews and were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Our obligation as children of the Jewish nation, to the memory of our brothers and sisters who were murdered will always be above all other considerations. The duty to remember is a duty to recognize, to know, to try and understand what happened. To understand how the most terrible destruction in history was made possible. With the aim to ensure, Never Again.”
“In recent years there has been increased interest in the Holocaust of Greek Jewry, and I want to thank the Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, and the Government of Greece for their efforts to deepen the knowledge and remembrance in this field,” said the President. He continued, “Tomorrow I will participate in the corner stone laying ceremony for the Holocaust Museum in Thessaloniki. Last year, an agreement was signed between the Greek Education Ministry and Yad VaShem in Jerusalem, to train teachers on educating about the Holocaust. Around two decades ago the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a book on Greeks who were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and just a week ago another book by Gerorge Pilichos, the most comprehensive documentation of Greek Jews and Christians sent to Auschwitz. And yet, we still do not know enough about the Holocaust of Greek Jews.”
Rivlin added: “We are witnessing the return of anti-Semitic, racist and neo-Nazi outlooks, many manifestations of anti-Semitism are once again reverberating around the world, radical movements are gaining strength, the new right-wing parties are winning electoral achievements with the use of anti-Semitic slogans. These things are happening not centuries after Auschwitz, and not in distant lands. They are happening now on European soil, and elsewhere. Jews feel less secure in their countries, there are those who are forced to hide their Jewishness – these are phenomena that should be denounced. We must not give in to anti-Semitism or xenophobia, we must fight anti-Semitism, racism and hatred of every kind. This is the time for public diplomacy and education! Against xenophobia, against racism, and against anti-Semitism.”
“Those who enter into an alliance with anti-Semites and anti-Semitism, those who adopt their language, have no part in the family of nations. We must firmly oppose those who hide their anti-Semitism under the guise of delegitimizing the State of Israel. As well as extreme right-wing parties that do not hide their anti-Semitic background, but repeatedly declare that they love the State of Israel. There is no such thing as loving Israelis and hating Jews, or loving Jews, but hating Israelis.”
Earlier, the President met with leaders of the Jewish community, including the President of the Jewish Communities of Greece and Vice President of the World Jewish Congress, David Saltiel, and President of the Athens Jewish Community, Minos Moissis, along with representatives from Jewish communities in Volos, Chalcis, Larissa, Corfu, Kavala, and Trikala.
“All the children of Israel are responsible one for another,” the President said, “This is true today more than ever”. He said, “The Holocaust harmed the Jewish people, but it also damaged humanity. This harm can only be healed through education in an uncompromising struggle against all hatred or racism”. He praised the community and its leaders for its success in playing an important role in this, and for preserving the community.
Earlier in the day, the President and First Lady participated in the “7 in 70” event, during which a medal of recognition was awarded by the Israeli Ambassador to Greece, to Greek citizens who have made significant contributions to the relationship between Greece and Israel over the seven decades of Israel’s independence. Seven recipients were awarded the honor for their contributions in the fields of politics, culture, economy, sport, music, Jewish communal relations, and literature.
“Our two peoples are brother nations. And there were those who once said, ‘twin souls’,” said the President, “Today, in this joint event, we cherish the men and women who built and build the connection between Greece and Israel”.
“You, the men and the women at the heart of this event, you are our muses in building the bonds and laying the bridges between the nations, between our peoples. Connections built under the guidance of successive Greek prime ministers, presidents, foreign ministers of the Hellenic Republic, members of parliament.” The President also said, “Today, as Israel celebrates 70 years of its independence, we are pleased to recognize each and every one of you for your contribution to the ties between Israel and Greece.”