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February 22, 2012 9:24 am

Greek Rememberance Provides Grand Opportunity

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Synagogue in Athens. Photo: wiki commons.

In the wake of the economic drama now playing out in Greece, the annual Commemoration of the Holocaust of Greek Jewry, under the auspices of the Greek Consul-General Georgios Iliopoulos, held February 18 in New York may seem of small consequence. But, the awakening of the Greek American community to the history of their country, however, is significant. That growing awareness, coupled with unofficial conversations encouraging the Greek government to finally reverse its 1947 United Nations vote against Israeli statehood could add a distinctly positive aura to the growing relationship between the two countries.

87% of the pre-war population of Greek Jewry was lost in the holocaust, the highest percentage loss of any country. In New York, Consul-General Georgios Iliopoulos opened the program with greetings from Greek Ambassador to the U.S. Vassilis Kaskarelis, Rabbi Martin A. Cohen, professor at Hebrew Union College. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios honored the event with his presence as well. A “sister” event took place in Greece at Volos, and in other major Greek cities, where the decimated Greek Jewish community was memorialized.

President of the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece, Solomon Asser, spoke of the importance of maintaining the 2300 year legacy of Greek Jewry, including supporting the Jewish Museum in Athens. Despite official Greek government attempts to repair relations with Israel and the United States, contemporary Jewish life in Greece still faces periodic incidents of anti-semitism. Professor Asher J. Matathias, President of Long Island B’nai Brith and an activist in the Greek American Jewish Community, has raised public awareness of this continuing crisis. He has requested that a resolution condemning the series of fires against synagogues in Greece be officially issued by the Federation of Hellenic Societies. Matathias says there is “a grand opportunity for Greece and Greeks everywhere to make amends for past policies,” including the possibility of a formal reversal of its 1947 United Nations vote against Israeli statehood.

In Thessaloniki, Macedonia, the Holocaust Memorial stands at the site from which, Plateia Eleftherias, the German occupation army, assembled Jewish males in July, 1942, to conscript them for “forced labor.” The public humiliation and tortures that they imposed on them (standing in the sun all day long, doing “calisthenics”, beatings etc.) were just the harbingers of what was to follow, according to Demitrios Chatzis, Asher Matathias and Dr. Bill Gatzoulis.

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  • Nick the Greek

    Alexander the Great never met Slavs, never spoke Slavic, never lived in FYRoM.

    Lest we forget: FYRoM is not Macedon. FYRoM language is not Macedonian. FYRoM inhabitants are not Macedonians.

    Macedon is Greek Kingdom. Greeks live there >3 Millenniums. Macedonians are Hellenic on this basis.

    Who is that stupid, that imbecilic they want to contest it!

  • Nick the Greek

    FYRoM covets the name of an ancient-Greek Kingdom for country-name, but ancient-Macedon is a historical region of Northern-Greece. FYRoM South-Slavs want to self-identify like Macedonia(n) but Macedonians are a regional-historical people-group of ethnic-Greek stock. FYRoM stakes claim and makes claim, to the Macedonian Name, Identity, History, Heritage, Legacy…against all the rules governing People-Dynamics.

    Demographic population statistics, census data from Ottoman archives, and from demographers commissioned under League of Nations mandate, place the inhabitants of FYRoM into the Slavic camp. Slavic presence there can be traced back to the 6th Century AD, when Slavic-tribes settled the Eastern Roman Empire. Slavs did not come into the Greco-Roman world as Macedonians…there was no Slavic tribe using the Macedonian name for self-identity. Descendants of Slavs self-ascribing by the ‘Macedonian’ designation today, cannot leapfrog that regional-identity backwards to pre-Slavic times, before Slavic arrival to the region.

    Before Slavic settlement, FYRoM was Greek-speaking region under jurisdiction of Byzantium with affiliation towards the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The peoples there self-identified by imperial, universal, supra-national identity – Romioi! During latin-Roman rule, the province of ‘Macedonia Salutaris'[[beneficial][second Macedonia]] roughly covered an area where FYRoM is situated today…’Macedonia Prima’ the real ancient-Kingdom of Macedon, however, was kept separate, Greek, and distinct from Macedonia Secunda Salutaris, on the basis of latin-Roman fondness for all things Greek.

    FYRoM covets the Macedonian name for country-name…but it is not Macedon. FYRoM is Paeonia. The latin-Romans incorporated Paeonia and Dardania into one military district they name Second-Macedonia, or Beneficial-Macedonia, the transliteration meaning remains obvious. So technically, FYRoM is Macedonia, but only in the Secondary sense, or the Beneficial sense – Never in the Greek sense.

    Historians know the history of Macedon and Greeks knew the complications it would cause the Western-world if FYRoM was ever to attain recognition like ‘Republic of Macedonia’- both warned the West against any form of recognition that would empower a minor Slavic country FYRoM to stake claim and make claims to the Macedonian Name, Identity, History, Heritage and Legacy. Evidently, the way things panned out are exactly the way historians and Greeks predicted. FYRoM now, stakes claim and makes claim to all things Macedonian.

    FYRoM duped the West…used the West for all that it could benefit, played the West to the point where FYRoM got what it wanted whilst the West got nothing – sept a long running name-dispute now in the early years of it’s third decade, still ongoing, still unresolved. Fifth columnists infiltrated the West. Anti-Hellenic, anti-Western, expedient-politicians did not heed the warnings from historians and from Greece, they planted a problem for the West that poses very real cultural and historical issues for Western Civilization, for Western-worlds cultural-historical narrative, and for Western Civil Societies common understandings of shared common heritage. Destructive corrosive issues inherited directly from FYRoM, issues constructed specifically to bring down the West, by eroding slowly, Western Civilizations cultural foundation.

  • Demetri

    @FYROM nationalist

    I would note during WW2 the leadership of the Internal “Macedonian” Revolutionary Organization aligned itself with Axis forces (as Bulgaria did). While Greece fought Axis forces in the beginning of the war, IMRO colluded in the occupation of Macedonia Greece. The highest percentage of Jews were murdered in both FYROM and Macedonia region of Greece. (as well as hundreds of thousands of Greeks killed)

    Sadly today’s ruling party in FYROM is named VRMO in honour of IMRO. FYROM nationalists also manipulatively built an absurdly large Holocaust museum in an attempt to bribe Jewish lobby and obfuscate IMRO’s role in the Holocaust.

    Why are FYROM nations voting for a party named in honour of IMRO… an organization that colluded in attempted genocide?

    And why are your apologists now dishonestly pretending not to notice your sudden identity shift into “ancient Macedonians” and “united Macedonia” irredentism langauge? Why are FYROM ultra nationalists attempting to steal the identity of Greeks? Were ancient macedonians slavic as FYROM nationalists claim or self-identifying Greeks? At last check identity is a human right not identity theft.

  • Demetri

    @FYROM nationalist

    You lie. There was no “Macedonian” state. The region where today’s FYROM is located today (situated primarily in ancient Paeonia not the original Macedonia) was part of the Ottoman empire back then. Furthermore the vast majority of the people that lived in what is today FYROM self-identified as ethnic Bulgarians back then. Until the communists modified and renamed your language into “Macedonia” it was widely considered a Bulgarian dialect. Furthermore ancient macedonians were self-identifying Greeks not Slavic as FyROM ultra nationalist seem to believe. Reaming yourselves “ethnic Macedonians” would be like a Palestinian renaming themselves “ethnic Hasamonians”. I would learn to confront FYROMs ethnic Bulgarian past before lecturing others about history

    ‘We are not related to the northern Greeks who produced leaders like Philip and Alexander the Great. We are a Slav people and our language is closely related to Bulgarian.’ – FYROM´s Ambassador to Canada Gyordan Veselinov, Ottawa Citizen Newspaper, February 24 1999

    “We are Slavs who came to this area in the sixth century … We are not descendants of the ancient Macedonians” – Kiro Gligorov, FYROM’s first President, Foreign Information Service Daily Report, Eastern Europe, February 26, 1992

    ‘We do not claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great.’ – FYROM’S Ambassador Ljubica Acevshka, speech to US representatives in Washington on January 22 1999

    “The creation of the Macedonian nation, for almost half of a century, was done in a condition of single-party dictatorship. In those times, there was no difference between science and ideology, so the “Macedonian” historiography, unopposed by anybody, comfortably performed a selection of the historic material from which the “Macedonian” identity was created. There is nothing atypical here for the process of the creation of any modern nation, except when falsification from the type of substitution of the word “Bulgarian” with the word “Macedonian” were made.” -former FYROM foreign minister Denko Maleski


  • Macedonian

    To Demetri:

    By saying that “Ancient Greeks influenced Jewish cultural enormously”, you only prove once again how arrogant and presumptuous Greeks are. Instead of working hard to pay your county’s debt, you worry about Israel’s relationship with Macedonia. You should not concern yourself with things that are outside of your realm of understanding, to be able to do that, you need to become humble first and admit certain truths about yourself. One of those truths, being the fact that Greece did not “liberate” Macedonia form the Ottomans, but it occupied half of its territory. And the other one being the fact that almost all of the Jews in Greece and “occupied” Macedonia were exterminated during WWII precisely because of the help the Nazis received from the Greeks.

    Here is what a smart man called Tatian the Assyrian once wrote once about the Greeks:

    “Be not, O Greeks, so very hostilely disposed towards the Barbarians, nor look with ill will on their opinions. For which of your institutions has not been derived from the Barbarians? The most eminent of the Telmessians invented the art of divining by dreams; the Carians, that of prognosticating by the stars; the Phrygians and the most ancient Isaurians, augury by the flight of birds; the Cyprians, the art of inspecting victims. To the Babylonians you owe astronomy; to the Persians, magic; to the Egyptians, geometry; to the Phoenicians, instruction by alphabetic writing. Cease, then, to miscall these imitations inventions of your own. Orpheus, again, taught you poetry and song; from him, too, you learned the mysteries. The Tuscans taught you the plastic art; from the annals of the Egyptians you learned to write history; you acquired the art of playing the flute from Marsyas and Olympus,–these two rustic Phrygians constructed the harmony of the shepherd’s pipe. The Tyrrhenians invented the trumpet; the Cyclopes, the smith’s art; and a woman who was formerly a queen of the Persians, as Hellanicus tells us, the method of joining together epistolary tablets:, her name was Atossa. Wherefore lay aside this conceit, and be not ever boasting of your elegance of diction; for, while you applaud yourselves, your own people will of course side with you. But it becomes a man of sense to wait for the testimony of others, and it becomes men to be of one accord also in the pronunciation of their language. But, as matters stand, to you alone it has happened not to speak alike even in common intercourse; for the way of speaking among the Dorians is not the same as that of the inhabitants of Attica, nor do the AEolians speak like the Ionians. And, since such a discrepancy exists where it ought not to be, I am at a loss whom to call a Greek. And, what is strangest of all, you hold in honour expressions not of native growth, and by the intermixture of barbaric words have made your language a medley. On this account we have renounced your wisdom, though I was once a great proficient in it; for, as the comic poet says,- These are gleaners’ grapes and small talk,- Twittering places of swallows, corrupters of art.

    Yet those who eagerly pursue it shout lustily, and croak like so many ravens. You have, too, contrived the art of rhetoric to serve injustice and slander, selling the free power of your speech for hire, and often representing the same thing at one time as right, at another time as not good. The poetic art, again, you employ to describe battles, and the amours of the gods, and the corruption of the soul.

    Perhaps there is a reason why Greeks and Jews can not get along, and the Jewish people are not the reason?

  • Demetri

    This is a nice article but unfortunately rather offensively attempts to portray Greeks as anti-Semitic. Greece was one of the few countries that fought Nazis head on during early WW2. Many Greeks also died at the hands of fascists.

    There is some anti-Semetism in Greece (mostly far left far, far right, or Muslim illegals) but also notable is there still remains anti-hellenism amongst some Jewish people too. Some mainstream Israeli politicians use term Hellenism as a slur. Many Jewish owned media outlets and lobbyists supported FYROM in the name dispute.

    What must also not be forgotten is Ottoman support of Jews Greeks in the early 20th century (including during Macedonia’s liberation from Ottoman control). Subsequent Greek hostility towards Israel’s creation was primarily a political response not ethnic based.

    That said, while I don’t think Greece and Israel are friends quite yet, times and regional political alliances are changing. Israel has distanced itself from Turkey while and Greece has also taken a more neutral approach to Palestinian situation. It just takes time to build trust (and Greece’s economic mistakes have reduced our own credibility)

    However, we seem to be moving in that direction. I hope one day we can legitimately call ourselves allies. It would be wonderful if we can turn past negativity into positive energy. Greek and Jewish identity and history is very much intertwined. Ancient Greeks influenced Jewish cultural enormously. Today the tables are reversed with modern Jews producing far beyond their numbers. It would be poetic for us to end up friends.