A Holocaust memorial in the Greek city of Thessaloniki has been vandalised for the second time in as many weeks.
The monument, which is located on the campus of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University and was unveiled in 2014, was smeared in blue paint, with a cross painted on it.
The series of gravestones, which are in a bed of grass next to a broken menorah, commemorates the city’s historic Jewish cemetery, on which the university is built, and is dedicated in memory of the Jewish students who were killed in Nazi death camps.
The university had the paint cleaned off the monument. It condemned the vandalism in a statement, calling it an “unacceptable action.” The university said that education is “the solution to religious fanaticism and bigotry.” The Jewish community of Thessaloniki also condemned the vandalism, calling it an “insult” to the monument. The statement noted “the necessary and successful efforts made by our Community, in cooperation with the authorities and institutions in our city and homeland to combat racism, anti-Semitism, intolerance and fanaticism while restoring and promoting the history of Thessaloniki and its aspects on the centuries-old Jewish presence.”
The Jewish community of Thessaloniki was a vital center of Sephardic Jewry for 450 years following the expulsion from Spain. Known as the “Flower of the Balkans,” it was the center of Ladino culture in the region.
In March 1943, the Nazis began sending Jews in railway convoys to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. By August, 49,000 of the city’s prewar population of 55,000 Jews had been deported. Fewer than 2,000 survived.
During the Nazi occupation, the Germans destroyed the cemetery, using the grave markers for construction material.