The president of Greece’s Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, David Saltiel, was awarded the “Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany” on Thursday, for his contribution to German-Jewish cooperation, in an event in Thessaloniki.
The honourary distinction was presented by German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth, on behalf of the German President Frank Walter Steinmeier.
“It was a personal matter to travel to Thessaloniki today […] for this very important act between friends,” Roth said and thanked Saltiel for the hand of friendship that he extended towards Germany”, despite any reservations he or his environment might have had.
He also spoke about the Holocaust Museum that will be built in the city, saying it will not only keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, but will also honour the significant contribution of the Balkan Sephardic community to the society, economy and culture of the city.
The minister said this is his 14th visit to Greece, more than in any other country during his four-year tenure, adding that it will also be his last one in his current capacity.
Saltiel accepted the award with emotion, a toast “to life”, which the Holocaust brutally deprived from the majority of the members of the once thriving Jewish Community of Thessaloniki and a big “thank you”.
He was surrounded by members of the Greek-Jewish community and guests who wanted to attend the event, held at the house of the German Consul, Walter Stechel.
The head of KIS also thanked Roth for his contribution in the building of the Museum because “he believed from the first moment that it has to be done” and supported it, as well as Thessaloniki mayor Yiannis Boutaris who was present.
Speaking later to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, Saltiel said the honour reflects on hos community and Greek Jewry in general.
“I was born after the Holocaust. I know and I fight so that it doesn’t happen again, and I have observed that the German state is now on the same boat as us against anti-Semitism, racism, and so I think we have a common course and ideals,” he said.