Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs, Nikos Xydakis, represented the Greek government, as a keynote speaker at the memorial ceremony marking the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Ravensbrück concentration camp. The ceremony included speeches from survivors or descendants of survivors of the concentration camp, the mayor of Ravensbrück and members of the local government. The memorial events were also participated in by representatives of many European countries, representatives of the Catholic Church and Judaism, anti-fascist associations and representatives of political- and social-rights movements.
Mr. Xydakis visited the facilities of the former concentration camp, guided by Eleni Vinkel, a representative of the Association of Friends of Ravensbrück in Berlin. Shortly beforehand, the Greek delegation had carried out the unveiling of a commemorative plaque for the Greek women and men who were inmates of the camp, with the inscription “Between 1943 and 1945 over 290 Greek men and women were imprisoned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Brothers and sisters, we do not forget you.”
During the unveiling ceremony, those in attendance read out the names of the Ravensbrück inmates, as compiled by the Greek Association of Friends of Ravensbrück, an initiative of the Greeks of Germany. The Greek-German choir “Polyphonia” then sang extracts from “Mauthausen”, by Mikis Theodorakis and Iacovos Kambanellis. The participants in the memorial event also deposited roses in the lake where the ashes of the victims of the concentration camp’s crematorium were thrown; a lake the existence of which was, according to witnesses, unknown to the prisoners of the concentration camp.
“We are here today to remember the victims of this brutality. Symbolically, we will proceed to the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the more than 290 Greek women and men who were imprisoned here, before they were taken to Buchenwald and elsewhere for extermination. This symbolic action does not concern only specific persons. It is also for all of the other Greek patriots who were imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps in Germany, in occupied Poland, in Austria, as well as in the Gestapo hellholes in Greece, those executed in the villages and cities of our country. People who, whether because they resisted, or because they happened to be Jews, or even because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, found themselves enmeshed in the extermination machine of the Nazi concentration camps. In fact, in the case of the 290 Greek women and men who were imprisoned in Ravensbrück, perhaps we should consider them fortunate in that, instead of being sent directly for immediate extermination in the gas chambers, the were ‘merely’ sent to do forced labour at the nearby facilities of Siemens and other companies. But neither do we forget those who bore the nearly total destruction brought upon Greece by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1945, those who survived the Nazi atrocities and the famine that leveled the country in the wake of the plundering of the Greek economy by the invaders,” Mr. Xydakis noted in his speech.
“But for all of the incredible crimes that took place in the concentration camps in Germany, Poland or Austria, there is the brutal reflection of the other heinous crime of the destruction of whole villages and local communities within the occupied countries.” Mr. Xydakis continued. “I believe that atrocities like these, which were perpetrated in numerous towns and communities in Greece, as well as in the other occupied countries, are the other side of the same coin. The Network of Martyred Towns and Communities in my country numbers over 95 Martyred Sites. I would like to invite all of you, but mainly the German youth, to come to our country to visit some of these Sites of Martyrdom, to understand the other side: that of a local community that was more or less wiped out on the pretext of combating rebels. On this pretext, infants and the aged alike, men and women of all ages, were murdered in cold blood. Such collective traumas leave open wounds for many generations.
So I wonder what constitutes vindication for the victims, as well as for those people – in the case where they managed to survive all of these inconceivable crimes – whose lives were marred indelibly. I wonder if the “literature of memory” suffices to vindicate their Golgotha. I firmly believe that the vindication of all of these people can result only from a political stance on the part of persons, governments and institutions; a stance centered on the Person and not on profit,” Mr. Xydakis highlighted.
Closing his speech, Mr. Xydakis stated that, “only when citizens as well as members of governments fully respect human existence and we recognize for the ‘foreigner’ the same rights we recognize for ourselves – and for ourselves the same responsibilities as those of others – then perhaps we will have taken a small step towards a more peaceful and just world.”
The Ravensbrück unveiling brought to a close Mr. Xydakis’ three-day visit to Berlin.
SOURCE: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Greece
PHOTO:Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Greece twitter