On 27 January 2014, Ambassador Arye Mekel participated in two events in Athens to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day organized by the Prefecture of Attica and the city’s Jewish Community. These included a wreath laying ceremony at the Athens Holocaust Memorial in the morning and an evening event held at the Pallas Theater.
Participants in the wreath laying ceremony included the Greek Minister of Public Order and Citizen’s Protection, Mr. Nikolaos Dendias, the Governor of Attica, Mr. Ioannis Sgouros, representatives of political parties, the Greek Armed Forces, foreign Ambassadors and Holocaust survivors.
The commemoration event at the Pallas Theater was entitled: “We will beat racism together” and featured the participation and attendance of Greek political dignitaries, representatives of the Armed Forces and Church, foreign ambassadors, Holocaust survivors, students of Greek secondary schools as well as world renowned British actor, Jeremy Irons and popular Greek singer Maria Farantouri.
The keynote speaker was the Greek Minister of Public Order and Citizen’s Protection, Mr. Nikolaos Dendias, while addresses were also delivered by the Governor of Attica, Mr. Ioannis Sgouros, the Israeli Ambassador Arye Mekel, the President of the Athens Jewish Community, Mr. Minos Moissis, the Vice President of the Central Board of Greek Jewish Community, Mr. Manos Alchanatis, and Holocaust survivor, Isaac Mizan. Dignitaries who attended the ceremony included the Greek Minister of Tourism, Mrs. Olga Kefalogianni, the Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (HNDGS), General Mikhail Kostarakos, the President of the Democratic Left (DIMAR) Party, Mr. Photis Kouvelis, and others.
Among other things in his address,
Minister Dendias stated that the presence of neo-Nazi phenomena in Greece is a historical paradox and that the Greek Government has a duty to combat Fascism and anti-Semitism.
Ambassador Arye Mekel pointed to the heavy price Greek Jewry paid during the Shoah losing 87% of its population. He noted however, that the horrible tragedy that beset Greek Jews was also filled with stories of courage like those of the “Greek Righteous of the Nations,” who rescued their fellow Jewish compatriots.
The Ambassador emphasized that these stories are also a symbol of the historic ties between Greece and Israel, noting the two states have built upon them to establish an unprecedented strategic partnership.
Renowned British Actor, Jeremy Irons, touched the audience by reading excerpts of two books, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and Primo Levi’s “If this is a Man.” Popular Greek singer, Maria Farantouri, sang parts of “The Ballad of Mauthausen” written by Mikis Theodorakis.