The Holocaust Memorial of Athens is located next to the Beth Shalom Synagogue on Melidoni Street, in a beautiful park overlooking the ancient cemetery of Keramikos, under the shade of the Acropolis. Few areas resonate as much with the ideals of freedom, equality and democracy. This is where the Jews of Athens were trapped and captured by the Nazis, on March 24, 1944, under a ruse of food handouts.
In 2008, the Municipality of Athens conceded this park for the erection of the Holocaust Memorial, fulfilling a long-standing wish of the Jewish Community. A competition was organized by the Community, which received proposals from 19 acclaimed artists. A special committee chose the proposal by Ms. DeAnna Maganias, a Greek-American artist, for its simplicity of design and symbolism.
The Memorial was unveiled on May 10, 2010. It is made of yellow marble blocks depicting a broken up Magen David (Star of David). There are six triangular, broken off pieces of the star, which are scattered around the park, pointing in the directions where Greek Jewish communities existed before the Holocaust. On each piece, the names of these communities are engraved. The central piece, a massive hexagon block remains intact, symbolizing rejuvenation. The marble blocks lay in a garden planted with aromatic herbs, a symbol of healing and a catalyst of memory. On a plaque, a text specially written by the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel reads:
Pause awhile as you pass by, close your eyes and remember.
Remember the time when here, or near here,
men, women and children- our own fellow creatures- congregated in peace and trust,
only to be arrested, humiliated, deported and murdered in the
Camps that shall forever shame our Civilization.
Because they were Jewish, six million people were denied the right to be free, happy, to hope, to smile, to pray, and finally, the right to live.
Remember them, their anguish and their death. Do not recoil at such horror; do not descend into despair at man’s inhumanity to man.
For by remembering we honour their deaths, and we save them from dying again, in oblivion.
Greek Righteous Among the Nations Monument
The Greek Righteous Among the Nations Monument, unveiled in January 2016, is mounted in the courtyard railings of the Beth Shalom Synagogue and pays tribute to the heroes of the German Occupation and the Christian compatriots who selflessly saved many Jewish lives. The monument, a book with metal pages, has the names of the 328 Greek Righteous inscribed within. The monument was designed by Ms. Matilda Beraha (architect), Ms. Kelly Kovo (graphic designer) and Ms. Anastasia Filipopoulou (architect). A tree, the symbol of life in Judaism, adorns the front cover and the base bears the inscription:
He who saves a life, saves the whole world.
In the 1950’s the Jewish Community of Athens erected this monument in the Jewish Cemetery in Nikaia, in sacred memory of the brothers and sisters that perished during the Shoah (Holocaust). The losses in numbers of each of the 29 Jewish communities that existed in Greece before the Holocaust are inscribed on a white-marble column. The Community holds a memorial service here each year on Yom Hashoah, with guest speakers and the laying of wreaths by representatives of all the organizations of the Community.
Jewish Officers and Soldiers
A Memorial for the Jewish Officers and Soldiers fallen during the 1940-41 war, was unveiled in October 1998 inside the Jewish Cemetery in Nikaia. The Memorial was erected by the World War II Greek-Jewish Veterans Association, with the support of the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece and the Jewish Community of Athens, to commemorate the coreligionists fallen at the Albanian front during the Greek-Italian war of 1940-41.
Children in the Holocaust
On June 29, 1981, a children’s playground was inaugurated at Agios Nicolaos Acharnon at Pafou St., to commemorate the 13,000 Greek-Jewish children that perished in the extermination camps during the Holocaust. The Jewish mothers of our Community took the initiative to offer this playground to the city of Athens in 1979, the International Year of the Child. In the playground, an inscription on a white marble plaque reads:
The Nazis killed them in the crematoria. They were 13,000 Greek Jewish children. The Greek-Jewish mothers offered this playground in their tender and tragic memory.