Yellow star (illustrative)
Yellow star (illustrative)Reuters

The newly re-elected mayor of the second-largest city in Greece, Thessaloniki, also known as Saloniki or Salonica, wore a yellow Star of David at his swearing-in ceremony in the city town hall last week.

Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, 72, explained his gesture in connection with the fact that over 90 percent of the city's population was murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Saloniki is today the second-largest city in Greece, with a population of 800,000.

EJP (European Jewish Press) reports that Boutaris pinned the Star of David to his jacket in response to the presence of an extreme-right MP from the Golden Dawn party, Artemis Mathaiopoulos, on the municipal council.

In 1943, the Nazi forces occupying Greece forced Saloniki's 60,000 Jews into a ghetto, later deporting them to concentration and labor camps. Only 1,200 Jews live in the city today.

Other sources say that nearly 98% of the city's Jewish community perished from gassing, forced labor, starvation and disease in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and that only 1,100 returned from the Nazi death camps.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities (KIS) in Greece congratulated Boutaris, writing to him that his act is a reminder "of the most dark and sad page in the contemporary history of your city, of our country and of the entire Europe as well. Yet, beyond remembrance, your gesture sends a strong and clear message to those nostalgic of Nazism and fascism that under your leadership your city will continue to fight against any phenomena of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism."

Boutaris won over 58% of the vote, while the anti-Semitic Golden Dawn party gained 7.7 per cent of the vote. Golden Dawn has become the country's third most popular party in the national elections, winning 9.4% of the vote in recent elections.