It is my honour and privilege, to welcome you all, to the inauguration of the Hellenic Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, for 2021-2022. This was a decision not lightly taken, but one meant to underline our commitment and will to further IHRA’s values and goals.
One of the first acts of the Mitsotakis’ Government was to adopt IHRA’s working definition on anti-Semitism. IHRA’s values and goals have been ours, even before we had joined IHRA. This was clearly demonstrated through the acts of Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos in Zakynthos back in 1944. Greece and its Israelite citizens have been among the hardest hit by the Nazis, in 1941-1944, and the memory never stopped burning. The extent of horror, terror and human toll cannot be described in words. Jewish Communities which flourished in major Greek cities and played a key role in their social economic and cultural life were massively destroyed. This tragic loss undermined the country’s development in the postwar years.
Seventy-five years later, both the country and its citizenry, Christian, secular, Jewish or Muslim, have gone through much and achieved much more. Above all, they pride themselves on being citizens of one country, where social, economic and religious integration is proceeding faster and with much less controversy than in most cases around the world. This is also due to memories being kept, of things good and bad, enjoyed or endured together; To avoid recurrence, Greece has developed, over the years, a special curriculum in its school programs; in order not only to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, but also to develop ways to efficiently combat any possible resurgence of the phenomenon.
Education is our primary tool and, in this respect, we consider ourselves pioneers at European level. This is why the thread running through our Presidency of the IHRA, in 2021- 2022, will be, precisely, “Teaching the Holocaust”. Apart from that, a number of events have been prepared, focusing on the public remembrance of those fateful years.
I wish to highlight, in particular, the official opening of the Museum of the Holocaust, in Thessaloniki, and the dedication of other sites to the memory of our fallen fellow Greeks of the Jewish community. Of course, there will be much more, in particular in the academic field. We would also be most honoured to introduce our neighbour North Macedonia in the procedure of actually becoming a full member to the IHRA. Still, during our watch, Cyprus and Brazil would be expected to join the Alliance as observers, with a view to full membership in the near future.
Since ancient times Jews and Greeks liked to keep things simple and substantial. We shall try to honour their legacy in a similar manner this year.
Welcome to the Hellenic Presidency of the IHRA for 2021- 2022.