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With Focus on Education, Greece Set To Take Over Rotating Presidency of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis meets with met with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece as well as with the Head of the Greek Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in November 2019. Photo Credit: Office of the Prime Minister of Greece.

March 23, 2021

Greece is set to take over the rotating presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) on April 1st, according to a statement from Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Papaioannou in the Times of Israel.

“We attach particular importance” to the event, Papaioannou said, adding that Greece’s first-ever IHRA presidency would focus on education.

The announcement comes on the heels of an anti-Semitic incident in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, where a new street mural depicting the extermination of the city’s Jews in Nazi camps was vandalized.

Jewish mural vandalized in Thessaloniki. Credit: AMNA

Once referred to as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans,” Thessaloniki had a thriving and ancient Jewish community of more than 50,000 people – 46,000 of whom were murdered in the Holocaust.

Greece takes over the rotating presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance from Germany. Combating Holocaust denial and distortion were central themes during the German IHRA presidency, chaired by Ambassador Michaela Küchler.

Surrounding a landmark trial in Greece last October in which leaders of Greece’s neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn party were handed 13-year prison sentences, multiple incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism targeted Jewish sites in Athens, Thessaloniki, and Rhodes.

On the eve of the anniversary of Kristallnacht in November 2019, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that Greece had adopted the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism to help combat contemporary forms of anti-Jewish prejudice, during a meeting with members of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and the then-Head of the Greek Delegation to the IHRA, Dr. Efstathios C. Lianos Liantis.

During that meeting, Prime Minister Mitsotakis was briefed about the preparations for the 2021 Greek Chairmanship of the IHRA. According to the announcement by the Prime Minister’s office, the Greek IHRA Chairmanship, which coincides with the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution, will promote a network of academic, educational and cultural activities focusing on the role of education and social media in preserving Holocaust Remembrance, as well on promoting the two-thousand-year-old history of Greek Jews.

The definition has been adopted by 30 countries, including several other European Union member states and the European Parliament, which has urged all of its its members to adopt the definition.

The IHRA’s working definition was adopted during the IHRA plenary in Bucharest on May 26, 2016 by the alliance’s 34 member states. To guide the IHRA in its work, a list of 11 examples of contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism were incorporated into the working definition.

Ambassador Christodoulos Lazaris presents his credentials to the King of Spain in September 2016. Photo Credit: Casa Real de Espagna

A veteran of the Greek Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Christodoulos Lazaris will serve as the Chairman of the Greek IHRA presidency. Ambassador Lazaris has previously served as Ambassador to Spain, Special Envoy for Libya, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis speaks at the 2021 Mayors Summit Against Anti-Semitism. Photo Credit: Combat Anti-Semitism Movement

Ahead of Greece’s IHRA presidency, a delegation of three Greek mayors spoke at the first-ever Mayors Summit Against Anti-Semitism, hosted by Frankfurt am Main in partnership with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement earlier this month.

Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas and Ioannina Mayor Moses Elisaf spoke of the need for increased education about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, and highlighted their cities’ multicultural pasts along with Jewish contributions to Greek society.