“Dear Honorary President of IHRA, Professor Yehuda Bauer, Dear Members of National Delegations and Working Groups and Committees, Dear Permanent Office members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thessaloniki used to be the major center of Jewish Sephardic culture in South-eastern Europe. In the Judeo Spanish language spoken by the Jews of Thessaloniki, the city was called Madre de Israel, Mother of Israel. A center of Jewish life in the Balkans and Greece and a cradle of ideas, art and innovation, for Jews and Christians.The city saw its sixty-thousand Jewish citizens perish during the Holocaust, when Nazi Germany struck, in 1941.
Very few survived from the extermination camps and made it back to their mother city. Some emigrated to the USA and Israel and some stayed on, to form the nucleus of the modern Community of Thessaloniki. What they lack in numbers they make up for in spirit and activity and we are all the richer for it.
Thessaloniki today is also one of the centers of Greece’s electronic industry, with plenty of bright examples of excellence in such fields as software writing, artificial intelligence and more. Thessaloniki and the region of Macedonia are one of Greece’s gateways to the economy of the late twenty-first century and are rapidly developing into centers of excellence for the whole of Europe.
It is therefore quite fitting, that the second half of Greece’s Presidency of the IHRA should start at Thessaloniki, with our Second Plenary. This will lead to our two closing events, both focusing on the application of leading-edge technology, to explore the past, to transfer the Holocaust narrative to the new learning environment and to combat Antisemitism and affiliated aberrations on the digital battlefield.
I am referring, of course, to the International Conferences to be held in Kalamata and Ioannina in March of 2022.
At the same time, we shall keep promoting progress achieved so far, mainly the IHRA Working Definitions handed down to this Presidency by its predecessors.
In the meantime, let me express the hope IHRA will be joined by a new full member and by a new observer State, should this Plenary take a favourable decision on the matter. The more of us there are, the more and better our message will be spread.
It is a pity that the resurgence of the pandemic around the world has stolen from all of us the opportunity to meet and enjoy the city’s famed hospitality.
I am happy to say that the Holocaust Museum project is progressing.To this purpose we are receiving counsel and expertise from similar institutions around the world, assisting us to arrive at the best possible result. The Museum will not only serve as a landmark for Thessaloniki but as a symbol for Greece.
So, with eager hearts, let us take up the good work and make this Thessaloniki Plenary leave its mark on our Alliance’ s efforts to keep the Memory alive and defend Humanity from its dark self.”