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Standing at the podium in the synagogue, Samaras was surrounded by the heads of the World Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Congress, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the ambassadors of Israel and the United States.
“In our talks with [Samaras], we made it very clear that the rise of extremist, neo-Nazi forces in Greece is not acceptable and must be fought vigorously by all democrats,” said WJC President Ronald Lauder, who urged Samaras to enact tough legislation against Golden Dawn and even outlaw the party.
Golden Dawn responded to the Thessaloniki commemorations by branding them “part of an international Zionist plan to destroy Greece and reestablish the ‘Jerusalem of the Balkans.’ ”
“Little Antonis put on his kipa and went to the synagogue … to worship Zionist capital,” said a statement on the party website, which also suggested that Lauder “deal with the problematic behavior of the State of Israel and not ‘worry’ about the rise of the Golden Dawn.”
For Greek Jews, who now number about 5,000, perhaps the most heartening incident came from outside the commemorations.
On the evening of the march, soccer player Giorgos Katidis celebrated his winning goal by ripping off his shirt and giving the crowd a Nazi salute. Condemnation was swift; the Greek soccer federation handed Katidis a life ban from representing the national team. In the past, Greek society has simply shrugged off similar acts or displays of Nazi symbolism.
“This is why we say something is changing,” Saltiel said. “There is no longer a tolerance for such Nazi styles. And this is very good for Greece.”