Monday 2 February 2015
Remembrance Day of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust
70 years after
From Martyrdom to Education
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you totheevent taking place today, the Remembrance Day of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust
We are here today, 70 years after the event which not only indelibly stigmatized the history of the 20th century, but stigmatized the History of Humanity as well.
70 years after the systematic, industrialized, massive extermination of Jewish in Europe from the german nazi regime, during 2nd World War.
Details are tragically known.
The places of martyrdom are also known: Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka, Mauthausen, Dachau…
Concentration and extermination camps. Camps of martyrdom, camps of death for millions of people yesterday, Memorial sites today.
A memory which is institutionalized, which has political, cultural and educational dimensions.
Publications, monuments, museums, tributes, an International Holocaust Remembrance Day…
All these have the same intention, to combat oblivion. To preserve the memory of the unuttered- especially today, when there are no martyrs, due to biological reasons, meaning those who know first hand and those who suffered from the barbarity of the Nazis.
Today Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today that we are in the 2nd decade of the 21st century,
Today we are urged to try to compete with what I call “Duty of the Memory”, not only towards the six millions of victims. Not only towards a single community, but towards Humanity itself. Towards the values of sacredness of human life, of human dignity, of right to life.
We all share the sacred and universal duty to remember. It is our duty, because sometimes, nothing is self-evident.
And we have to carry a very heavy burden.
However, we must carry it. The responsibility is individual as well as collective,
because the duty of the Memory is first and foremost a Duty of Responsibility.
A Duty of Responsibility towards History.
A Duty of Responsibility towards the new generations, which must be informed. We must pass on the tools of Knowledge against ignorance, against misinformation, against the distortion of the Truth to the new generations.
The tools against oblivion.
And this effort and duty is constant.
It is not limited to one Remembrance Day, even if it is International.
It is not about a specific event, however successful it may be.
It cannot be limited to a museum, however ample it may be. It can not be closed in upon a Memorial Site, however symbolic it may be.
This is a duty which does not have an expiration date.
It is a duty which starts from where everything is shaped.
From the womb that shapes collective and individual behaviour, from schools, from education.
Education that must function against the forces of darkness and oblivion.
From education that has to shape citizens.
Citizens who are aware of the fights of National Resistance against the
nazi occupation in our country.
Citizens who are aware of the events and the slaughters that took place at Distomo, at Vianno, at Kalavryta and at other places of martyrdom.
Citizens who are aware of the martyrdom of Greek Jewish.
In other words, citizens who are aware, without blinkers, inadequate knowledge and scrappy education regarding modern greek history.
It is about a challenge of Democracy,inside and outside classrooms.
This is not an easy effort because it has to do with characteristics and behaviours that are shaped, unfortunately, through collective actions. It has nothing to do with characteristics and behaviours of a few exceptions.
Hannah Arendt talked about the “banality of evil” on purpose, referring to the interpretation of the Holocaust.
Back then, 70 years ago, some people knew and were partners in crime. They knew and remained silent while the crime was committed.
Today, some forces are trying to undermine the importance of the crime, they are trying to wipe out its traces.
To create the conditions for a new period of barbarism.
These are the forces seeking to establish hatred and intolerance.
These are the forces aspiring to reduce any political or religious identity to fundamentalism which excludes other identities as being hostile.
These are the forces abominating anything that may be unlike them.
The forces that reject whatever may be different.
These are the forces that have always endorsed jewphobia, homophobia, nowadays islamophobia too.
These are the forces of fear, aiming to impose terror in society.
These are the forces loathing the freedom of expression, the forces despising liberty and democracy.
These are the forces which have recently found themselves in the spotlight for having caused a brazen slaughter at the offices of the satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris.
A tragedy indeed, though unfortunately not an isolated one.
There have been other similar fatal incidents in France, in the Netherlands as well as in other countries, both within and outside Europe.
It is the same forces struggling fiercely to disregard the Holocaust Remembrance Day, as they refuse to acknowledge it as a reality.
“Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.” wrote Primo Levy.
Today, 70 years after the unspeakable genocide, they are not hiding their intentions.
Unfortunately, today this is more than obvious in Greece, the birthplace of Democracy, with the emergence of a neo-Nazi, xenophobic party.
The party which came third in the parliamentary elections, and is about to take the oath in a few days.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The task and the responsibility in fighting Lethe, i.e. Oblivion, is a timely task and a responsibility of our times.
Because it does not concern the past, it concerns the present as well.
The task to keep the Memory of Greek Jews and the martyrs of the Holocaust alive, is precisely achieved through a fight that brings together all – political forces, social forces, citizens, collectively and individually, against the expression of xenophobic and Nazi ideas.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We now find ourselves at a turning point.
As per the journalistic cliché, “The snake egg is hatching very rapidly”. Its shell has begun to crack already.
We must act accordingly, without turning a blind eye on it.
We must follow the example of the Jews martyrs of yesterday, in order to fight the dark forces of hatred which take advantage of, if not cultivate, the ignorance of the younger generations.
We must rise against a blinding, sometimes fatal oblivion.
The way our ancestors did.
The responsibility to keep the Memory alive and to struggle against oblivion lies to us all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This task will be fulfilled by Athens and Jerusalem together.
On the basis of shared values and principles which have been uniting the Greek and the Jewish people for thousands of years — two people finding common ground in letters, art, trade.
Two people, two centuries-old cultures.
Two civilizations having laid the foundations of contemporary political thought, not by pure chance.
This is because, as Leo Strauss underlines, the dialectical tension between Athens and Jerusalem, symbolizing the claims of Reason and of Revelation, feeds the heart, the nucleus of the political tradition of the so-called Western world.
There lies the challenge of our common effort, our endless struggle to keep Memory alive.
Our obligation is that ‘never again’ becomes an attitude.
A state of mind in politics and in society.
A daily reaction to ignorance and indifference.
An antidote to those who believe that this matter does not concern them.
A response to those who keep distorting reality, misinforming the society, and altering the historical Memory.
We have an obligation to keep the legacy of heroes alive, a source of life, a fountain of peace, as memorial sites, places of remembrance and museums all bear witness to history and heritage, according to the poem of Sofia Mavroeidi — Papadaki, hereinafter stated in Greek:
«να γίνει, πίδακας ζωής ευφραντικός,
αέναος κρουνός ειρήνης,
να το πιστέψουν κι οι νεκροί κι οι ζωντανοί
πώς είναι πια στυγνή προϊστορία
των μαρτυριών οι τόποι και τα Μουσεία».
We won back then,
We shall win today.
Glory be with them!