by Aggelos Skordas
The Greek Jewish Community and political parties have expressed their frustration and horror following the vandalism of nine marble headstones in the Jewish Cemetery of Athens, in Nikaia, a western suburb of the Greek capital on Friday night. In a press release issued the day after the attack -which is linked with Greek neo-Nazis as a swastika was painted on the cemetery gates along with the slogan “Raus” (“Juden raus” was a common anti-Semite slogan in Nazi Germany) and signed by the notorious “Combat-18” a neo-Nazi group, responsible for numerous bombing attacks against leftist and migrant related targets- the Jewish Community of Athens has asked “everybody to exhaust every effort to never allow such acts against anyone”.
“On Saturday, the most holy day in Judaism, it is imperative to abstain from everyday activities and, of course, from announcements. In the context of this almost absolute rigor of observance of the Sabbath holiday, there are exceptions that have to do with dealing with the threat of a life or a great pain. Such is the pain that caused us, today, the revelation of a new wave of vandalism in the Jewish Cemetery of Athens.
Unknown vandals entered our Cemetery during the night and destroyed nine commemorative marble struts kicking them with fury, leaving them to peel off their bases and crushing them on the ground. These marble slabs are used to mark the sectors of our Cemetery and are dedicated in memory of the dead by their families. The scene is repulsive and our disappointment is great. This is not the first time we see the result of a degrading act at our Cemetery but it is the first time we see such act was organised and planned in part of the Cemetery that is not visible from the neighbouring houses and with incredible fury. The view of the results of this abominable act causes us deep sorrow and anger”, the press release reads, adding that it will exercise all the legal means at its disposal and that the first steps towards the arrest of the vandals have already been taken by police authorities.
Furthermore, it calls all institutions and authorities to “stand with absolutely zero tolerance against such phenomena of violence and intolerance. There is no worse sign of a society's moral decline than desecration of a Cemetery and disrespect for the dead”.
On his behalf, the head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) Minos Moissis in a Facebook post expressed his anger: “I will not talk about anti-Semitism because the scums who vandalized the marble headstones at the Jewish Cemetery in Athens might take pride to their act. Nor will I ask the authorities to arrest and punish them. Nor will I ask the civil society to condemn profane actions. I prefer to just be angry because we learned to consider such phenomena as insignificant everyday events until the next one which, unfortunately, is usually worse.”
SYRIZA issued a statement expressing its horror over the vandalism: “The desecration of the Jewish section of the Nikaia cemetery provokes horror. Anti-Semitism, just as all racism, has no place in Greek society. We shall not permit the dissemination of racial hatred by those who have are nostalgic for Hitler,” the statement reads.
Main opposition party New Democracy also expressed its disgust adding that “unfortunately the incident was not an isolated one”, as Jewish memorials have been repeatedly targeted in recent years.
“Such incidents of hate are a challenge to human dignity and adversely affect society as a whole […] The current government has shown in practice that it has one position on racism and racist violence: Zero tolerance”, Greece’s General Secretariat for Human Rights statement reads.
Commenting on the desecration Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said: “I condemn vandalism at the site of the Jewish Cemetery in Athens. I express the indignation of all citizens, as such events have no place in Athens, in a free and open city that is not terrified.”