Anti-Semitism is still simmering beneath the surface in Greece

I was 11 years old when they rounded up the Jews of Larissa in 1943, an event I remember very well. What I remember most of all are two of my friends from primary school whom I never saw again. They took all the Jews – only a very small number managed to escape and hide with the help of Christians or resistance groups. They took them – men, women, children and babies, old people, sick and healthy – to the station and crowded them into carriages used to transport animals. One of my father’s brothers had married a Jewish woman, who managed to escape as my uncle hid her, but her large family, her parents, her sisters and brothers (one of them wounded on the Albanian front) were all lost. I realized what genocide meant, and its extent, from personal experience, even before I heard about the concentration caps and crematoria, before I read history, before I heard «Jewish propaganda,» before I learnt that the same thing was happening all over German-occupied Europe. I can’t pretend I did not know, that I needed proof. The genocide of the Jews in the small town of Larissa was simply the part that I happened to experience. A detail in a huge, Europe-wide crime. It would be paranoia if it were not something worse: criminal policy, or crime as policy. The paranoia might not be repeated but crime as policy easily finds imitators in all religions and among all nations. I am writing all this today because I believe that on Holocaust Memorial Day (designated by the UN as January 27), the memory is still alive throughout Europe. Most of all, however, I am writing this because every now and then, I am surprised, saddened and angry at the anti-Semitism that simmers beneath the surface here in Greece, as if we had never experienced, never heard anything. Last Sunday, Kathimerini published an article on the Holocaust by a Greek Jew, Iakovos Frizis, for which I wrote the prologue. The same day and the next I received a number of calls in which I heard all kinds of ridiculous and small-minded things about Jews – that they are a Satanic people who have been conspiring against the rest of humanity for 2,000 years, that they are cursed by God, that they conspired with Osama bin Laden in the attack on the Twin Towers, among other things. In other words, that they are responsible for all that has ailed humanity since «they» crucified Christ. Given that dark underlying foundation in the soul of Europe’s Christian peoples, anti-Semitism has always been the easy way for authoritarian and oppressive regimes to deceive people. For oppression to be exerted effectively, there must always be an enemy within – we learnt that over a period of decades, Jews have by definition been the «enemy within,» responsible for all evils. Anti-Semitism today sometimes takes the form of rejecting the state of Israel, as a consequence of accepting the Palestinians’ right to acquire their own state. Fanatical Jewish nationalists deny the Palestinians that right, but at least half the citizens of Israel support Palestinians’ right to have their own state. The Holocaust was not a myth. Unfortunately, it was a fact, it happened in Europe, and its roots go very deep.