February 5, 2016

Unveiling of Greek Righteous Among the Nations Monument

On Wednesday, 27 January 2016 the unveiling of the Greek Righteous Among the Nations monument took place at the courtyard of the Beth Shalom Synagogue of Athens. In this way the Greek Jewry paid tribute to the heroes of the German Occupation, their Christian compatriots, who selflessly saved many Jews by risking their life and the lives of their families.

The unveiling of the Monument was carried out by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and attended by few still alive Greek Righteous and by many descendants of the Greek Righteous as well as by survivors of the German Occupation.

The original idea for its construction was conceived on November 2013 by Benjamin Albalas, President of the European Council of Jewish Communities and former president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and the Athens Jewish Community, when, acting as the president of KIS at the time, he accompanied the delegates of the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation to the Presidential Mansion, to award the President of Greece with the Wallenberg Medal. Albalas recalls in his speech:

“On 18 November 2013, in a solemn ceremony held at the Presidential Mansion, the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation honored the Greek Righteous and the Greek people as represented by the then President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias. I attended as the then President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece. It was in that instant that this memory awoke within me. It was then that the honorable debt and the payment of tribute to the Greek Righteous Among the Nations filled my thoughts. It was then that I –as a child in hiding, who, along with his paternal family, was saved by a Greek Righteous– promised myself and all that were present that the Greek Jewry will pay tribute to the Greek Righteous.” On that occasion President Papoulias received the award from the IRWF Chairman, Eduardo Eurnekian and its founder, Baruch Tenembaum.

Mr. Albalas also took the opportunity to refer to the “Houses of Life”, a relevant initiative promoted by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, marking places of significance to saving Jewish lives. The first “House of Life” was unveiled last year in the Greek island of Ereikousa and another is to be unveiled soon in Piraeus.

 The Raoul Wallenberg Foundation attended the ceremony represented by Mr. Maurice Carasso.


Excerpts from the speeches

President of the Athens Jewish Community, Minos Moissis: “On this day, Greece and Athens meet not with the life stories of the Eminent but of everyday and ordinary people, whom history more often than not casts aside. Here, at this spot, the Athens Jewish Community houses the Monument of the Greek Righteous, as a small token of gratitude offered collectively by the Greek Jewry. A heritage bequeathed on the city of Athens, to always honour them and remember them by. For being truly HUMAN.”

President of KIS, Moses Constantinis: “… Those who managed to escape deportation during the persecution, experienced the full scope of human nature: indifference – treachery – enmity – self-interest and profiteering, but also its opposites self-sacrifice, heroism, solidarity, support… The first were the rule, the second the exception… Our saviours were our only hope, the light amidst the darkness”.