Sitting in a wheelchair, 92-year-old Holocaust survivor Moshe Aelion defied the rain and led the march of painful Remembrance. The march of the Jews of Thessaloniki, from Elefterias Square to the Old Railway Station, from where the first train left for the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau on 7. April 1943.
Moshe Aelion was 18 years old, when the Nazis gathered the 50,000 Jews of the city and sent them to the camps. He was sent to Auschwitz together with his mother and his 16-year-old sister. He was the only survivor.
“I don’t know how I survived. the worst thing was that you did not know whether you will still be alive in the next hour,” he said and remembered that he was “skin and bones” when the US troops arrived at the camp.
“When an American tank came there was a little Greek flag. The soldier inside was Greek living in the US with his family. We sang together the Greek National Anthem,” he recalled.
Despite his high age and the fragile health, Aelion flew from Israel where he has been living in the last decades to Thessaloniki to join his voice with the hundreds who marched sending an important message: “Never Again!”
Members of the Jewish community, representatives of local authorities and the central government in Athens walked on Sunday morning holding flowers and white balloons with the message.
“The memory must remain alive, not only to pay tribute to the victims of this atrocity but to always keep alive before us the image of the horror that we can find ourselves living again, if we do not learn from the past. These are days when we must take action to avert the hatching of many ‘serpents’ eggs’ that threaten us. Nationalism, racism are great problems that have not been eradicated and can easily return to the forefront. We must refuse them the way so that humanity does not again live through the horror that the Jews of Thessaloniki and the world once did,” Deputy Economy and Development Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas said in an address on behalf of the Greek government.
Taking part in the march were members of the city’s Jewish community, local residents and many visitors, while speeches were made by the head of the Jewish community David Saltiel, Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris and Israel’s Ambassador to Greece Irit ben Abba.
The rector of Thessaloniki’s Aristotelian University Periklis Mitkas said the university is considering a third memorial monument to Jewish students killed by the Nazis while the event was concluded by Greek singer Charis Alexiou and Israeli singer Jehuda Poliker, himself the son of a Holocaust survivor.
Afterward, those present laid flowers on the tracks, lit candles and wrote messages on the old train carriages, in Greek, English and Hebrew.