Jews in Greece mark WWII Nazi deportation

THESSALONIKI, Greece — Jewish residents of this northern Greek city on Saturday marked the 70th anniversary of the roundup and deportation of its Jews to Nazi extermination camps during World War II.

Several hundred people gathered at Thessaloniki’s Freedom Square, where the first group of Jews was rounded up by the occupying German forces on March 15, 1943.

The crowd held a moment of silence, then marched to the city’s old railway station, where the first trains departed for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex. A short ceremony was held at the station and flowers laid on the tracks.

Speakers included the city’s mayor, Yannis Boutaris, and Holocaust survivors.

“The commemoration is an honor for the city of Thessaloniki. But some people look upon this era nostalgically and are bringing back the old Nazi symbols,” said David Saltiel, leader of the city’s Jewish community. He was referring to the emergence of the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn, a party with neo-Nazi roots that swept into Parliament for the first time in June on an anti-immigrant platform.

On March 15, 1943, 2,800 Jews departed for the concentration camp.

“We were packed 80 to each train wagon … When we arrived, they sent a number straight to the crematoriums and kept some of us for work. We were beaten often by the guards,” recalled Holocaust survivor Moshe Haelion.

Another survivor of the camps, Zana Santicario-Saatsoglou, described how for many years she was unable to tell her story. “My children used to ask me what that number on my arm was,” she said, referring to the identification number tattooed on Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners. “I told them it was my old phone number in Thessaloniki.”

By August 1943, 46,091 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of those, 1,950 survived. Fewer than 5,000 of the 80,000 Jews living in Greece survived. The majority, after returning from the camps, emigrated to Israel.

Today, the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, which until the early 20th century formed a slight majority of the city’s inhabitants, numbers fewer than 1,000.

The Jews of Thessaloniki were mostly Sephardic ones, who immigrated to the city, then part of the Ottoman Empire, after 1492 to escape persecution in Spain.

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Associated Press writer Demetris Nellas contributed from Athens, Greece.


Europe searches for charms to lure Chinese tourists

* 200 mln Chinese seen travelling abroad by 2020

* Europe should exploit Communist history

* Spain seeks slice of market

By Victoria Bryan and Clare Kane

BERLIN/MADRID, March 7 (Reuters) – European countries will
need to focus less on beach holidays and more on communist
history, rolling landscapes and even poetic trees if they want
to take advantage of growing numbers of tourists from China.

According to the China Tourism Academy, some 200 million
Chinese could be travelling abroad annually by 2020, up from 82
million in 2012.

While the overriding image of the Chinese tourist in Europe
is one of busloads of shoppers heading for the luxury boutiques
in Paris and Milan, Europe must not get carried away by these
stereotypes and think of other ways to tempt them on a long-haul
flight, experts at the ITB travel fair in Berlin said.

“We’re been thinking not like Chinese, but like Europeans,”
Eduardo Santander, the head of the European Travel Commission,
which promotes tourism to the continent, told Reuters.

“Europe is still the number 1 tourism destination so far but
that may dramatically change in 10 to 15 years if we don’t
change some patterns.”

For Chinese tourists, the sun and beaches of the
Mediterranean that are so popular with Brits, Germans and
Russians hold little appeal, said TUI Travel CEO Peter
Long.

Instead they want to visit places that hold historical
relevance for their own culture, they enjoy classical music and,
wanting to escape the smog back home, they appreciate a clear
blue sky, Santander (Madrid: SAN.MCnews) said, citing a study the group had done
among Chinese web users.

Interesting places for Chinese travellers looking to explore
Communist history include the German city of Trier, the
birthplace of Karl Marx and Montargis, a little-known town 60
miles south of Paris.

Chinese history lovers are keen to visit Montargis because
it was the home of Deng Xiaoping during the 1920s and said to be
the place where a group of Chinese students first proposed the
idea of a communist party for China.

Furthermore, if you see groups of Chinese people admiring a
willow tree at King’s College, Cambridge (SES: E1:J91U.SInews) , it is because it is
mentioned in a much-loved modern poem ‘On Leaving Cambridge’ by
Xu Zhimo.

SPANISH DREAMS

With the euro zone crisis and austerity measures crimping
travel budgets in Europe, it has become all the more urgent for
countries like Spain and Greece to look outside their
traditional British, Dutch and German source markets for income.

In Europe demand for cross-border travel is due to rise by
only 2 percent in 2013, compared with 7 percent for Asia.

In Spain, where tourism accounts for 11 percent of gross
domestic product, 57.7 million tourists visited in 2012. But
arrivals from Britain, the country’s biggest source market with
close to a quarter of the total number of visitors, were flat.

“The British and the Germans are not getting richer… and
the times of flying for 10 pounds from London to Spain are
ending,” Wolfgang Georg Arlt of Chinese tourism research
institute COTRI said.

Spain has therefore set a target of reaching 1 million
Chinese visitors a year by 2020, up from 177,100 in 2012, a goal
described by Arlt as a tall order.

Shao Qiwei, chairman of China’s National Tourism
Administration, said Spain must also overcome the language
barrier to attract more Chinese tourists and adapt dishes to
their tastes.

“We are hoping for more Chinese tour guides in museums and
tourist sites and to see Chinese television in Spanish hotels,”
Shao said at a UNWTO event in Madrid.

PILGRIMAGE

It’s not easy to adapt though and the ETC’s Santander said
his organisation would try to ensure all parts of the tourism
chain, from taxi drivers to tour guides and luxury hotel owners
were educated on Chinese travel wishes and customs.

Spain has even already put on some bullfights where the bull
was not killed at the end, to appease Chinese tourists who do
not like blood.

Tour company Marly Camino, which offers high-end walking
packages on the Way of St. James, a pilgrimage route to a
cathedral in northern Spain, has seen an increase in enquiries
from Asian tourists from Singapore and the Philippines, but said
there was only one official Chinese-speaking tour guide in the
region.

“There’s the cultural barrier too, the etiquette is a little
different. If we’re going to be receiving that kind of client we
want to be in the loop with how you treat that kind of client
and what they expect,” said co-director Samantha Sacchi Muci.

Marly Camino therefore plans to create packages for Chinese
agencies to directly market to tourists to side-step the
language barrier, saying it needs such agencies as an
intermediary to help crack the market.

Tourism watchers at the ITB in Berlin said Europe’s beach
resorts could follow the example of the Maldives, among the top
five most popular destinations for Chinese tourists.

The islands made a conscious effort to attract arrivals from
sun-wary China with island hopping tours, night fishing and
snorkelling when arrivals from Europe collapsed after the deadly
Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

“Forty years ago, when Germans and Brits first started
coming to Spain and Greece, they were a strange race too,” said
Martin Buck, who helps organise the ITB, the world’s largest
travel and tourism fair.

“But Spain and Greece used the chance to make those visitors
into an important pillar of their economies. Why shouldn’t they
do the same with the Chinese?”