Greek PM Promises Jewish Leaders a Law Against Holocaust Denial

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THESSALONIKI - The premier of Greece promised Jewish leaders on Sunday that he would introduce a new law to prevent Holocaust-denying parties from running for parliament in his country.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was participating in a commemoration service at Thessaloniki's Monastiriotes Synagogue marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the deportation of the town's Jews to the German death-camps.

Over 90 percent of the 53 thousand Jews living in Thessaloniki on the eve of the Second World War perished in the Holocaust.

In what was the first visit by a serving Greek prime minister to a synagogue, Samaras said that "Greek society has been infected by voices that seek to resurrect racism" and that "neo-Nazis have reappeared once again in Europe."

His government would "continue to legislate towards complete intolerance of violence and racism," Samaras said.

He did not however directly refer to the neo-Nazi and anti-immigration Golden Dawn party which won seven percent of votes in the last Greek election.

The event was attended by members of the executive committee of the World Jewish Congress which helped sponsor the commemorative events organized by the local Jewish community and the city council of Thessaloniki.

In a meeting after the service with WJC President Ronald Lauder, Jewish Agency Chairman Nathan Sharansky and Israel's ambassador to Greece, Samaras explained that the proposed legislation would bar parties that denied crimes against humanity, such as the Holocaust-denying Golden Dawn, from running in future for the Greek parliament.

The service in Monastiriotes Synagogue was attended also by senior representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church,  Thessaloniki's mayor, Iannis Boutaris, and even a representative of the far-left and anti-Israel Syriza party who said that "the names of Nazi collaborators must be wiped from the streets of Saloniki and we must all continue to fight fascism." WJC President Lauder was the only speaker at the service who singled out Golden Dawn by name and said "they think like Nazis, they speak like Nazis, they act like Nazis - they are Nazis," calling upon the Greek parliament to outlaw the party.

Jewish Agency Chairman Sharansky said that "because of our history, we Jews have a reason to be paranoid" and said that the Greek government "must fight without compromise against those voices which are a danger to Jews and to all Greeks."

Greek PM Antonis Samaras attending a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the first deportation of Jews from Thessaloniki to Auschwitz inside the Monastirioton synagogue in Thessaloniki.Credit: Reuters

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