Joint March of Remembrance and March of the Living Thessaloniki

The Joint March of Remembrance, 81 years after the departure of the first deportation train from Thessaloniki to the death camp Auschwitz – Birkenau, took place on Sunday, March 17, 2024 with 1,200 marchers from Eleftherias Square to the Old Railway Station.

This Joint March of Remembrance was organized by the Municipality of Thessaloniki, the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki (JCK), the Aristotle University, the University of Macedonia, the International Hellenic University, and the European March of the Living Network (EMOTL).

Leading 1,200 marchers From left to right: Vice-Chairman of the European Commission, Margaritas Schinas; David Saltiel, JCK President; MP. Famellos Sokratis; MP Giannoulis Christos ; Michel Gourary, EMOTL Director; Dr. Benjamin Albalas, EMOTL Chairman (© M. Tsiokas)

As Mr. David Saltiel, the President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki and of KIS – the Central Board of the Jewish Communities of Greece, and a member of EMOTL stressed it:

96 percent of Thessaloniki’s 50,000 Jews were deported and exterminated in Auschwitz…The Holocaust period is a dark period for the city for reasons such as the torture and humiliation in public view experienced by men, members of the Jewish Community, in July 1942 in Eleftherias Square, where we started the March of Remembrance…With each step of those Marches, we confront painful memories and honor the memory of the Jews exterminated in the Nazi camps. Every year it becomes more and more obvious that the march is not only about the city, it is attended by people arriving from all over the world”

Dr. Benjamin Albalas, the Chairman of the European March of the Living Network and by himself a Holocaust Survivor who was saved with his family by a Greek Righteous among the Nations explained:

Dr. Benjamin Albalas, Chairman of the European March of the Living Network

81 years ago the first deportation train, out of 89 trains, left Thessalonmiki when the Jews on board, Children, Women, Elderly people and Men left without knowing if they have a hope to come back…

This year this commemoration is very different as we have seen the atrocities of the 7th of October in Israel like the atrocities of the Holocaust. But this second experience of the Shoah, has been forgotten very quickly by the Humanity and worse, the Antisemitism rose a lot as well as the denial of what happened in Israel like the denial of the Holocaust…We are fortunate that in Greece, we don’t have severe Antisemitic acts and only some newspapers and some websites are full of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli hate speech.”

He added: “We, at the International and European March of the Living, are here marching together with you to honor the memory of the Jews of Thessaloniki, the ‘Jerusalem of the North’. And we are inviting you to march together with us on the 6th of May between Auschwitz and Birkenau to honor the memory of all those who perish during the Holocaust.

Dr Albalas concluded by saying: “I am standing today in front of you as my family as many other Holocaust survivors, we were saved by 365 Greek Christians Righteous Among the Nations who saved their Greek Jewish compatriots.

The Mayor of Thessaloniki Setlios Andeloudis said:

“…At a time when the preaching of fanaticism and intolerance is once again finding fertile ground, the reminder of the martyrdom of more than 50,000 Greek Jewish fellow citizens acquires a dramatic topicality. Our greatest enemy must and must be complacency. Silence, tolerance and indifference give precious oxygen to the monster of hatred,”.

Stressing that it is necessary “to reaffirm our commitment against anti-Semitism, racism and other form of hatred every day,” he added that “it is our minimum obligation in memory of our fellow citizens, in memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Final Solution, to hear their history, to learn from them, to remember.”

Therefore, Dr. Albalas the Chairman of EMOTL and its Director, Michel Gourary, invited personally the Mayor to participate in one of the next March of the Living.

From left to right: Dr. Benjamin Albalas, EMOTL Chairman; Mr. Settlios Angeloudis, Mayor of Thessaloniki; Michel Gourary, EMOTL director (© M.Tsiokas)

Dr. Alabalas gave interviews to leading Greek National TV news channels on behalf of the March of the Living:

Among the 1,200 marchers, participated a group of the German Marsch des Leben (MDL) branch in Thessaloniki, who are also member of EMOTL:

From left to right: Dr. Benjamin Albalas, EMOTL Chairman;Takis & Angelina, MDL Thessaloniki; Michel Gourary, EMOTL Director (© M. Tsiokas)

Dr. Alabalas and Michel Gourary laid flowers on behalf of the March of the Living: