On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorated worldwide on 27 January, the British Embassy co-organised with the Jewish Community in Thessaloniki a series of events in memory of the Jews of Thessaloniki victims and survivors of the Holocaust, on 24 January 2015. The events were under the auspices of the UK International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Chairmanship which the UK assumed in February 2014.
Joined by the President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki David Saltiel, the British Ambassador John Kittmer laid a wreath on behalf of the members and observers of IHRA at a ceremony that took place at the Holocaust Memorial. Earlier on the day, representatives of the diplomatic corps in Greece received a tour at the Jewish Museum and historic sites in Thessaloniki, such as the ‘Monastiriotes’ Synagogue, the Baron Hirsch neighbourhood near the Railroad Station, where the city’s Jews were deported from to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, and the University, the site of the old Jewish Cemetery.
Addressing an evening event that took place at Makedonia Palace Hotel, the British Ambassador said:
Each year this day people around the world commemorate a brutal crime unique in human history. We recall and mourn innocent victims who were murdered in Nazi death camps. On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I would like to stress the meaning of our obligation: Never to forget.’
On behalf of Sir Andrew Burns, Chairman of IHRA, the Ambassador passed on the following message:
As the Stockholm Declaration said, we must strengthen the moral commitment of our peoples, and the political commitment of our governments, to ensure that future generations can understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences.’
The President of the Jewish Community in Thessaloniki David Saltiel added:
…the torch of memory and the responsibility that comes with it, is in our hands. We are the ones that must fight to safeguard and strengthen the memory of the Holocaust…We need to form a united front. Because strengthening the memory of the Holocaust, does not only have to do with the past. First and foremost, it has to do with the future; not the future of the Jews; the future of humanity.
In their presentations Dr Andy Pearce, Lecturer in Holocaust & History Education, Centre for Holocaust Education in the UK and Dr Evangelos Hekimoglou, Curator Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, stressed the role of remembrance in education and the meaning of shaping a memory in the society.
Following the event a musical performance ‘La Rosa Enflorece’ by Tota Kyriazikidou took place. The performance describes the story of the Jews people in Thessaloniki through their songs, literature and history between 1492-1945.
At the end of the week the British Ambassador will attend the commemorative events organised by the Jewish Community in Athens.
Notes for editors:
- International Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated worldwide on 27 January in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. On 27 January 1945, the advancing Red Army entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp complex, liberating more than 7,000 remaining prisoners, who were for the most part ill or dying. Days earlier, the SS had forced nearly 60,000 prisoners to evacuate the camp and embark on the infamous ’Death Marches,’ in which many thousands lost their lives.
- Holocaust Memorial Day has been marked in the UK since 2001, having been inaugurated the previous year by the then Prime Minister.
- The UK was one of the three founding members of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (HRA) and an original signatory of the Stockholm Declaration of 2000. The UK held the IHRA Chairmanship for the first time in 1999.
- IHRA currently has 31 member countries and eight observer countries. Membership is open to all countries, and members must be committed to the Stockholm Declaration and to the implementation of national policies and programs in support of Holocaust education, remembrance, and research. Member countries are encouraged to develop multilateral partnerships and to share best practices.
- For more than twenty centuries, Thessaloniki was the shelter for the persecuted Jews of Europe. The city has a large and vibrant Jewish Community, indisputably one of the most important ones in the world, especially during the period 1492-1943.
- Remembrance Day commemorated worldwide on 27 January, the British Embassy co-organised with the Jewish Community in Thessaloniki a series of events in memory of the Jews in Thessaloniki victims and survivors of the Holocaust, on 24 January 2915. The events were under the auspices of the UK International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Chairmanship which the UK assumed in January 2014.