WE MUST REACT N O W, WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME
The connective tissue uniting and keeping alive a People is their collective memory, shaped by the great ordeals that threaten our very existence.
The people of my generation who are still alive, especially those who have suffered to the very core of their being the savage storms that test our endurance, are committed to guarding Thermopylae until our last breath. To protect the unwritten Laws which underpin our uniqueness, our solidarity and our need to remain firmly rooted in reality and move ever onward, ever higher.
These unwritten Laws are the Laws of Life, superior to the conventional ones reflecting the social context, which constantly mutates on the surface, while deep down, the roots continue to support the Tree of the People, branches and leaves, flowers and fruits alike.
Insulting the historical collective memory constitutes fundamental hubris against the People or Peoples, whose collective memories – and also the realities forming those collective memories – are being called into question. The massacres of Greeks in Asia Minor, the sacrifice of women in Zalongo and – worst of all – the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Pontian Greeks, constitute important elements of our national collective memory; at the same time they are facts which have been experienced and witnessed by the few survivors and their families and which constitute the most sacred thing in their lives.
For someone, especially a Greek, to question these facts is an act unique in the history of this land, an act that takes us by surprise, precisely because we cannot imagine one of us endorsing the false "arguments" of the offenders. Whoever does so, however, as I have already declared, determines with this act his position among us. It is not we who reject him, but rather his incomprehensible choice that excludes him.
And it is a disgrace for these hateful “opinions” to be heard inside the Greek Parliament. The fact that a Member of Parliament could even think of questioning from the Parliament’s podium the existence of the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews, the greatest crime ever to be committed in the history of mankind, makes us vulnerable and exposes us in the eyes of international opinion and tarnishes the image of our country. This is unjust and criminal for Greece, given that our people are among the major victims of Hitler’s atrocities.
The genocide against the Jews constitutes without any doubt a tragedy of unheard of and unimaginable evil; it makes one feel ashamed of being human, considering that the murderers of Auschwitz were humans like us, transformed into sub-human monsters. For how could it have been possible to arrest children, women, old women, old men, innocent people, whose only crime was that they belonged to another race and religion – a race that gave birth to Einstein, Freud, Marx, Mahler and countless others benefactors of humanity –, load them into wagons like animals, force them to travel for endless days and nights and at the end of the journey, subject those who remained alive to indescribable methods of torture and death. An eternal Nightmare, the worst experienced to this day by mankind, that makes you sick just thinking about it, while the victims, especially the innocent children, turn into angels inside you and you feel the need to kneel before them, offer eternal apologies and tell them this: "I am ashamed that I too was born human."
They didn’t just kill Jews in Dachau and Auschwitz. They killed Man. And since then, all of us who survived are sinners.
That is what makes me so unrelenting and adamant towards anyone who dares to justify this Nightmare. They destroy my inner faith in Man. And that is something that no power in the world can make me forgive.
Besides, we Greeks have a double reason to denounce the crimes of the Nazis:
Firstly, because they destroyed our country and killed thousands of Greek patriots and
Secondly, because among the six million Jews who were killed in Auschwitz, there were 70.000 compatriots from Thessaloniki. Their loss is for us a terrible wound, since the city was their home for centuries and with their progressive spirit they contributed to its development in every way. Thessaloniki has never recovered from that wound and it is saddening at the very least that a young person can brutally insult the collective memory of a tortured people – a people friendly to us, part of us: the Greek Jews, victims of the Hitler’s barbarism.
To question a People’s tortures is hubris to the victims’ memory and a moral blow to all those who gained their freedom and honour through the sacrifices of their ancestors. Even worse, to reward murderers and torturers should constitute high treason. For those who have experienced the brutal face of violence, the severe punishment of unacceptable displays of acceptance, or worse, admiration of criminal acts against humanity is a moral imperative and constitutes an essential defence against the recurrence of similar crimes.
Thus their moral and criminal condemnation is an obvious response for any society that respects the great human values, principles and moral laws. Otherwise apathy, that unfortunately characterizes those who dominate all areas of public life in our country, and the lack of mechanisms of national and moral defence, will demonstrate the extent of the decay and threaten to turn the People into a people of slaves.
Finally, I would like to appeal to the Academy of Athens, (of which I am an honorary member, a title they recently did me the great honour of awarding me), as the supreme spiritual foundation of our country and the guardian of our great human and national values, to increase its moral stature by being the first to condemn those acts that undermine human dignity and pour scorn on our historical memory, on which repose the highest goods of Freedom, Democracy and respect for Human Rights.
© Mikis Theodorakis
(published in the Greek newspaper “TA NEA”, on Wednesday 12.6.2013)
English version revised by © Ariel Wagner-Parker