Expressing his anti-fascist views and in solidarity with the 50,000 Jewish residents of Thessaloniki who were deported and perished during the Holocaust, Mayor Yiannis Boutaris was sworn in in the city’s town hall wearing a yellow Star of David with the word Jude (Jew in German) on it. It was an exact replica of the yellow cloth stars that Jews were forced to wear by Germans during the Nazi occupation.
The tattooed Boutaris, who won comfortably in May’s municipal elections with almost 60% of the vote, is credited with much of the revival happening in the northern Greek port town. He was recently listed in a global list of mayors transforming their cities in The Huffington Post.
He reportedly wore the star on his lapel during his swearing in to protest the election of far-right Golden Dawn MP Artemis Matthaiopoulos on the municipal council. Golden Dawn is a Greek neo-Nazi party that has gained considerably in recent Greek elections. Boutaris has been an outspoken critic of the far-right and fascism.
During the swearing-in ceremony, protesters exchanged chants and insults with each other. Leftists and Golden Dawn supporters who sat in the opposite public gallery at the municipal council chanted anti-Nazi and anti-communist slogans.
After a while, Mayor Boutaris pleaded with both sides to calm down, telling them that “the municipal council is not a coffee house or a soccer stadium.”
The Jewish community of Thessaloniki dates back two thousand years. The city was home to a major Jewish community until the Second World War, when 50,000 people were moved into a ghetto and eventually rounded up and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where they were murdered. Only 1200 Jews live in the city today.