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The relation and the boundary line between freedom of speech and expression on one hand and defamation on the other provokes always great discussion. Recently Stratis Balaskas, a Greek journalist, was convicted for defamation after characterizing a fellow citizen, who is also an educator and director of a public High School, as “neo-Nazi”. Specifically, the reporter was convicted for publishing libels. The case was brought in front of the Court of Appeals, where the conviction was reaffirmed. The plaintiff, who denied any connection with such ideas and/or organizations, has published in the past several articles in websites and blogs (using also his account at the “Hellenic School Network”, a web platform of the Ministry of Education that connects educators and schools around Greece) where he argues in favor of the “Aryan race” and calls all the nationalists of the country –and especially the teachers and the parents- to unite in order to fight for the preservation of “racial purity” and spread the truth about the Jews among others. The Court decided that the characterization “neo-Nazi” is defamatory and convicted the defendant to three months jail time. Finally, the case will be considered again by the Supreme Court.

Following articles in the Greek press about this case, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece issued the following announcement in order to support Mr. Balaska’s claim for justice:

Every well-ordered society has its principles that define what is right and wrong, while the fundamental right of the freedom of speech constitutes the cornerstone every democracy. With these thoughts in mind, we worry about the conviction of the reporter Stratis Balaskas by the Court of Appeals. Mr. Balaskas, according to a press article, was convicted for defamation through the medium of the Press, after calling, in one of his articles, as “national-socialist and neo-Nazi” the Director of a local High School of Lesbos.

Therefore, we deem it appropriate to make some relevant observations: Firstly, to distinguish between the notion of National-Socialism and the notion of Nazism is historically totally incorrect, let alone to consider that the first one implies a mildest characterization than the second. According to the press article, the convicted Mr. Balaskas had rightly denounced the extreme beliefs of the plaintiff, criticizing in that way the work of a public professor and considering that the social role of the plaintiff is not consistent with the expression of extreme nationalist speech. 

Moreover, it is a really discouraging fact that a professor expresses this kind of extreme thoughts without any consequences. A teacher has no right to become a preacher of intolerance. Ideas such as extreme nationalism, fanaticism and anti-Semitism have no place in students’ education. 

We consider it our duty to stand by Mr. Balaskas and support his fight for justice, while our faith to the judiciary system remains strong.

Finally, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece will always condemn any expression of hate speech and any intolerant behavior.  

Athens, July 14, 2016

Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece


For the past several years Europe goes through an ongoing crisis. Economic destabilization has inter alia altered to a great extent the nature of relations amongst European citizens. Tolerance of the Europeans towards the refugees, the immigrants and any other minority decreases daily. This fact is also confirmed by the recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center on European scale.

The idea of a multicultural society seems to have collapsed for good. In the face of the immigrant European citizens see the foreign that will be a burden to economy and will endanger national security. The recent terrorist attacks intensify xenophobic and racist feelings as they offer ground for rushed assessments. In this context the rates of Islamophobia have dramatically increased in the recent period.

Regarding our country, the results are highly worrisome. Greece lies steadily among the first countries with the highest scores of negative opinions towards immigrants and refugees. Greece also holds the highest score in Europe regarding society’s negative attitudes towards the Jews. These results must not come as a surprise to us. For a long time diffused anti-Semitism is common in Greece, as this recent survey came to confirm. Anti-Semitic incidents increase more and more. Intolerance seems to have put roots in the very heart of society. The rhetoric of stereotypes and conspiracy theories, as well as prejudice against the Jews, and secondly against the Muslims, is widely tolerated by a major part of Greek society.

Therefore, let this survey be a starting point for reaction. It is time that all competent authorities rise high to the challenge of their responsibilities.

KIS ANNOUNCEMENT FOR THE DEADLY TERROR ATTACK IN NICE - FRANCE. Nice was stuck on the National Day of Bastille

France was meant to be once again the target of a new bloodshed on the 14th of July 2016, the day of national celebration. Bastille Day, the Festivity of the French nation was struck by terror. The date was obviously not a random pick. It is the day that represents Democracy, as well as the civilization of human rights, the modern world at large, thus all those elements despised by phanatic terrorists. This time it was Nice’s time to experience the horror of a blind terror attack. Death toll is again too heavy counting 84 victims so far. The target was selected well in advance. It was the crowd that had joyously joined the celebrations for France’s National Day.

Europe lives in fear. The only question lies in when and where the next strike will take place, as the circle of blood does not seem to come to an end soon.

As long as terrorism is not totally defeated, we are forced to live in fear.

Verbal condemnation of every new terror attack is obviously not enough. Customary announcements tend to become just words empty of meaning.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece believes that time has come for all to undertake our responsibilities so as to put an end to this tragedy. The more we remain inert and passive observers the more phanaticism and intolerance will gain ground while Europe shinks in the darkness. The responsibility we bear is historic. Finally, in these difficult moments our thoughts are for the victims and their families to whom we convey our deepest condolences.     

Athens, July 15, 2016


Wednesday, 06 July 2016 09:48

The international Jewish Community is today far poorer, as it has lost an important member. Last Saturday, 2.7.2016, Ellie Wiesel passed away, at the age of 87, and his death filled our hearts with sadness and emotion.

Ellie Wiesel was born in 1928 at a small town of the Carpathians. He experienced as a child the horror of the extermination camps, where he lost most of his family members. At the age of 30 he captured this experience to his stirring book “The Night” (1958). All of his life was devoted to the fight against oblivion for the Holocaust victims. His writings are vast and they concern the historic adventures of Jewry.  Finally, for his work and actions he was honored in 1986 with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Wiesel’s biggest fear was always peoples’ oblivion and indifference. “Let your remembrance be a vindication and an honor, an obstacle for yesterday’s enemy to cause his victims a second death – oblivion”, as he writes for the victims of Nazism and therefore asks the passer-by not to forget the 6 million souls that were exterminated just because they were Jews. These stirring words adorn the Holocaust Monument in Athens.

Greek Education Ministry honours students on Auschwitz visit and video projects Print E-mail
Monday, 04 July 2016 11:23

Greek Education Ministry posted on its website the following article:

Education, Research and Religious Affairs Minister Nikos Filis today honoured the 81 secondary school students who travelled to Auschwitz, Poland to visit the infamous Nazi death camp. The event was also attended by the Ministry General Secretary of Relegious Affairs Giorgos Kalatzis.

The students were chosen in a competition of videos on the Holocaust, and came from both general and technical high schools in Athens, Patras, and Larissa, and those that took the floor were at time overtaken by emotion. One girl said her grandfather was a Roma communist with Jewish friends who escaped the camps through sheer luck. Another presented a heart wrenching narrative of how she imagined a girl reacting to her mother’s death camp execution and seeking solace in the embrace of the surviving grandfather.

Many of the students drew direct connections between the horrors of WWII Nazism and the dangers of a fascist resurgence in Greece, Europe and the world in our day. The acceptance and embrace of minorities and the other, such as the refugees and migrants today, was among the key lessons gleaned by the students both in their school projects and the journey to Auschwitz.

Thursday, 30 June 2016 09:43

Only a few months after the successive strikes in Istanbul and Brussels, Istanbul was hit on June 28, 2016, by a new terrorist attack. Specifically, Kemal Atatürk airport was attacked by suicide bombers and the death toll so far was heavy: 41 people were found dead and at least 239 were injured. It is undoubtedly the deadliest attack that has recently hit our neighbouring country. These difficult moments our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families, to which we express our deepest condolences.

Istanbul’s incidents are the latest act of a play that does not seem to have an end. The terrorist attacks across Europe have dramatically multiplied and the perpetrator is always the same: is the Islamic State and its radical fanaticism. The fear of terrorism hovers daily over Europe.

On behalf of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, the unequivocal condemnation of these attacks is self-evident.

It is our strong duty to combat with all our strengths the Islamic fundamentalism along with the fanaticism that sinks our societies into fear. We must not allow hatred to nest permanently in Europe’s heart. Unfortunately, there is no time for complacency.

Athens, June 30, 2016

Monday, 04 July 2016 11:18

According to media reports, the president of the Workers' Union of the Organization of Urban Transportation in Thessaloniki made several anti-Semitic comments (about God been mistaken at creating Jews and about Hitler who did not finish the job), during his speech at the Union’s general assembly. Bus owners association of Thessaloniki, and union group “Anatropi” issued condemnation statements. Our Board issued the following announcement condemning this incident of anti-Semitic speech and praising the groups that promptly reacted: 

“Manifestations of anti-Semitism have unfortunately become an almost daily phenomenon in Greece. The last incident to this chain of events is the recent statement made by the president of the Workers’ Union of the Organization of Urban Transportation of Thessaloniki. According to a publication from June 27, 2016, on website, the Union’s president Mr. Dimitris Tsermenidis, during the last general assembly of the Union, allegedly stated that God by mistake created the Jews, who afterwards killed Jesus Christ. Moreover, Mr. Tsermenidis did not hesitate to express his regret for the fact that “unfortunately Hitler did not finish his work”. Finally, it is noted that he made derogatory characterizations against Avraam Benaroya, the founder of “Federation” (Greek workers’ movement), whose name bears the Hall where the assembly took place.

Wednesday, 06 July 2016 08:44

On June 1, 2016 The American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece (AFJMG) and the Jewish Museum of Greece bestowed the DAMASKINOS AWARD to the Honorable Yiannis Boutaris, Mayor of Thessaloniki in a ceremony at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in New York City.  The DAMASKINOS AWARD was established by AFJMG to recognize prominent public figures for actions and initiatives serving to build relationships of trust and cooperation, tolerance and respect between the Jews and Christians in USA and Greece. The first recipient of this prestigious award was Archbishop Demetrios, Geron of America, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America. The second DAMASKINOS AWARD honored the Mayor of Thessaloniki - a city and a name that, more than many others resonates in Jewish hearts as Salonica, the  place ,for many centuries known as “ la madre  de Israel” and “Jerusalem of the Balkans”.

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