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The Greek Jewish community on Wednesday expressed its concern over the appointment of a minister who in the past made controversial statements while defending a man who wanted to re-open Auschwitz, the Ekathimerini Greek daily reported.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece denounced the past comment made by newly appointed health minister Thanos Plevris and demanded an apology.

Before his appointment, Plevris crossed over to the ruling New Democracy party from the ultranationalist Popular Orthodox rally (LAOS) party.

In 2009, when he was defending a man who was charged with inciting racism, Plevris argued in favor of his client’s right to state that the Auschwitz concentration camp should be kept in good condition so it could be re-used in the future.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece said in a statement: “In 2009, Mr. Thanos Plevris stated the following, among others, before a Greek court: I will refer to issues that have puzzled you. You are concerned about the reference to Auschwitz. The one that says ‘to keep the camp of Auschwitz in good condition.’ I will examine the most extreme interpretation. That the defendant by this reference means: ‘Keep the camp of Auschwitz in good condition because I want, at some point, the national socialist regime to come back, Hitler to come back, take the Jews and put them in Auschwitz.’ What kind of instigation is this? What incitement is this? Is it one not allowed to believe and want to believe ‘I want to exterminate someone?’”

They called for Plevris to apologize to the Jewish community.

“We expect Mr. Thanos Plevris to apologize to the Jewish people for this reference and express his unequivocal condemnation of intolerance, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, conforming with the declared positions of the Greek prime minister. We also hope that the new minister will address all citizens equally, regardless of skin color, race or religion,” they said.

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