Make Jewish life normal again in Greece

Thessaloniki’s identity is embedded in its unique history as a multi-cultural city with long enduring prolific co-existence of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, the oldest in Europe, was present in the city for 2,000 years and was the largest ethnic community of the city between the years 1492 and 1912. The fire of 1917 destroyed many of the Jewish buildings of Thessaloniki. After Greece achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire, it made Jews full citizens of the country in the 1920s. During World War II, the Nazi Germans occupied Greece in 1941, and started to systematically persecute the Jews as they had in other parts of Europe. In 1943 they forced the Jews in Thessaloniki into a ghetto near the rail lines, and started deporting them to concentration camps (KZ)  and so called labor camps, where most of the nearly 69,000 deported were killed or died horribly as a result of the deportation. This resulted in the near-extermination of the community. The extermination of the Jewish community during the German occupation of World War II erased much of the city’s Jewish fabric. Only 1200 Jews live in the city today. Another sad chapter in the history of the city is the lack of support provided by the episcopat of Thessaloniki, which, in contrast to the archbishop of Athens, was not committed to their fellow Jewish citizens.

After a turbulent history, under the mayor Jannis Boutaris the city has resumed its responsibilities and established close contacts with the people of Turkey, Israel and especially the Jewish world population. Especially in difficult Turkish, Greek and European times, the close contact for freedom, peace and prosperity is necessary and conducive.

In particular, David Saltiel, the president of the religious community, had a dream and made a prominent contribution to the new development of Jewish life.  A recommendation and a must when visiting the city is definitely the 2001 founded Jewish Museum in the heart of the old town. Following discussions with Gaiose SA, the organization that manages the real estate property of the Railway Organization of Greece, and the Municipality of Thessaloniki, the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki signed end of 2013, a Memorandum of understanding for the development of a Memorial Center on Holocaust Education Remembrance and Research.

For the German government, it should be a special obligation, honour and only a small helping hand, to successfully support the establishment and maintenance of this planned memorial site and cultural center. At the same time, the funds promised to Saltiel by the German government and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation have led to controversy within the community, since many people do not want to end the catastrophic chapter of the mass murder of the Thessalian Jews with a relatively modest donation. It is to be hoped that both Saltiel’s commitment and the legitimate demand for further work can finally progress. It is estimated that the project will cost a total of almost 30 million euros. The cultural foundation of the Greek ship-owner Niarchos wants to contribute ten million euros. Millions more are to come from American and French clubs. And the German Bundestag decided to promote the construction project with another ten million euros. Half of this has already been paid out.

By offering the city of Thessaloniki a new public monument, the proposed Holocaust Memorial & Human Rights Educational Center seeks to commemorate the devastating fate of the Jewish community, but also to recount its cultural history and rejuvenation after World War II, and to host an open forum for multi-cultural education and forward-looking dialogs between various identity groups.

Greek Art Today

GREEK ART TODAY

Greece, the starting place of Artforum Culture Foundation, is an European country of potent contradictions, a region both central and peripheral, a historical and vital geographical point of passage, which has operated throughout history to distil alien ideas and to act as a link between two different civilisations and two different worlds to build up a connection between different civilisations and different worlds. This influence from East, the Occident as well as the north and the south found its entrance in the Greek thinking and life.  In this rich, different and contradictory intersection area, different views, influence and sensations could bundle up to themselves and cause the forming of an independent hellenic culture.

Today the overall situation remains unknown to art-lovers as well as to art critics as well. The arts in Greece, the Balkan and most of the Mediterranean countries are isolated and get a few  chances only under foreign cover. But this is at first a problem of the images of this area and of interest and knowledge abroad, not a problem of quality.

See: Famous Greek Artists

Interview – Artforum Culture Foundation

Interview with members of the Board of Trustees

Question: Which assignments does Artforum Culture Foundation (abbreviation ACF) fulfil?
Apostolidou: ACF is a foundation which runs cultural activities. The main running projects are, for instance, our NETWORK+ Project and our idea of a European Cultural Centre (ECC) in Thessaloniki. The latest example an single artistic idea is the initiation of the project Sancto Subito with which we would like to perform a contribution to the actual discussion about the system of ethical values.

Question: Contemporary art plays a leading role at ACF. What is the policy of ACF concerning international change exhibitions and itinerant exhibitions, which ACF shows in its spaces or sends somewhere else?
Apostolidou: ACF wants to promote the cultural dialogue and the artistic exchange in the conviction, that this is conducive to the reciprocal understanding and the tolerance between the nations. Concerning the role of ACF, it consists in promoting cultural variety and knowledge about the art as well as in announcing significant art in Greece and from Greece.

Question: What are the main focuses of ACF?
Apostolidou: The name of the foundation itself formulates already the responsibility to be involved for cultural interests. This contains at first all areas of culture, all parts of the arts and extraordinary expression forms of social life. We are open for all areas of culture and try to link up existing activities to allow new views. Indeed, because of personal interest and for strategically reasons, nevertheless a special focus lies on the mediation of fine art. Our assignments can be controlled and forced better over this line. Literature readings, music, dance and theatre complement our program. Furthermore we are willing to  co-operate for cultural activities of local authority districts and companies. We like to be in contact with galleries and collectors. With pleasure we exert ourselves for the objective interests of artists. This approach is especially suitable to link cultural, social and intellectual interests.

Question: Which is the practical use that do you see subsequently of such synergy effects?
Safiriou: L'art pour l'art is absolutely necessary, because mind and soul want to be able to relax. This should be immanent, in any case, of every art. However, in addition, we see art as a practical instrument of philosophy, to give sense (!) to our life. We have to imagine, that art is the only area in which science can be freely run. We are interesting in artistic research as contributions to individual psychology, to ethics and to utopia. An architecture as a living space, e.g.,  and the integration in town planning and landscape planning,  is nowadays an area where is highest state of emergency and where totally thinking and working is absolutely necessary.

Question: ACF disposes of relatively big exhibition floor spaces and more attached space. For what needs ACF has to be so self-sufficiently?
Apostolidou: It is one of the aims of ACF to led artists real, virtual and spiritual space where they can show their artwork and where it can be valued according to her own aesthetics without having to pretend. This was and is one more one of the main functions of the exhibition hall and the other spaces.

Question: How is the financial position of ACF?
Apostolidou: ACF is a non-profit private foundation. This means, our work is not profit-oriented, possible profits are used exclusively for foundation purposes. ACF undertakes all activities from the own strength and therefore private and public sponsorship is necessary and very welcomed. A municipal or state sponsorship or participation does not exist at all till today. For this reason ACF is independent and we are free in our decisions. Nevertheless, a support from the European Community would make sense and would become very helpfully to fulfil our pan-european and international targets.

Question: Which special performances does ACF offer additional to the art and cultural program?
Apostolidou: ACF publishes own publications, books, catalogues and posters. Additional and in co-operation ArtForum Edition publishes graphics and multiples of selected artists. ACF has a library system for research purposes at the seat of the foundation, as well as at the contact offices. ACF is a partner for private and institutional collectors to whom we can give assistance in collaboration with specialists in questions of the art market, for conservation, technical analysis, art historical problems and authenticity. As a partner of artists we consult objectively further approach and we coordinate documentation and inventory. We can also be responsible for treatment, care, publication and utilisation of art estates of antiquities up to contemporary art.
ACF also maintains good relations with Greek publishing companies and can arrange contacts for writers. In the same way ACF is a partner for foreign music and theatre ensembles coming to Greece and the neighbour countries. An area for which we like to do more in the very future will be cinematography.

Question: How do you see the situation of Greek literature today?
Apostolidou: There are great Greek authors, prominent lyricists. However, the young authors have fewer chances outside Greece. This has possibly to do with narrative forms, which are not simply, can be mediated to most of the audience. On the other hand, the phenomenon has to be ascertained, for Italy e.g. the Melanese publisher Inge Feltrinelli have pointed out, that the origin of the authors is not of big importance. Attributes like "German" and "Italian" or "Greek" and "English" really do not exist anymore in today's literature. Last but not least, personality is necessary for success, but however, indeed, there are cultural differences also in the reception.

Question: Does sport not replace increasingly the role from art and culture in the favour of the people?
Apostolidou: First of all, sport is an essential part of the culture and, secondly,  artists deal for a long time in an analytic way with this phenomenon. In this sense sport activities of course also belong to our assignment. The Greeks are keen on sport, they have create  sport as a cultural thing. The resumption of the Olympic games in 1896 was financed to a third part from the private pockets of the people, which were not quite rich.
A great support came also from wealthy people of the Greek community, living in  Alexandria, Egypt. It is to be seen with joy how Greece and the Greeks have shown their  capacity and organisation talent with the Olympic Games in 2004 and the football European championship as well. This has delivered an important contribution to the cultural self-confidence of Greeks today all over the world. Nevertheless, it is a pity that, although the international Olympic committee designate the environmental care as columns of the Olympic ideas, the responsible managers have done only very little for this.

Question: Did it belong to the concept from the beginning of ACF to include also art in the program from neighbour-countries and international art beside the focus on contemporary art from Greece? On which considerations this decision is based?
Safiriou:In my opinion the cultural bottom is especially fertile in these regions which dispose of a great heritage  and which has been offside for longer time because of political and economic reasons. This is in culture not more differently than in agriculture. However, it requires special care.

Question: Which politic-cultural aims do you pursue and how do you see the possibilities of ACF?
Safiriou: There will be no lasting peace, as long as mistrust remains the prevailing and everything edging out norm. Cultural ignorance is the mostly incriminating factor which sows mistrust between us and which can lead to war. The increasing efforts towards a cleaner and greener planet lead to nothing,  if we will destroy at the same time the human achievements which are contemptuous foreign to us. It is not enough giving disaster relief and economic support to the people, but to refuse her aesthetic needs, however, only because these are different from our needs.

pm I a + s

Greece in Crisis – Chance for Europe

Dec., 2009

Greece is in the focus of interest and the much-discussed crisis reveals reliably: everything is connected with everything. Pythagoras already recognized this.

Starting from this realization it becomes clear that Greece can master problems only together with those who are involved. National indebtedness with similar effect as the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers is the result of a wrong national consciousness by a system, where profits are privatized and losses are socialized. Lack of democratic control opens all gates for corruption and mismanagement. This is not only a Greek phenomenon and problem, but generally at least by the European Union bureaucracy. However the Greek people does, not make the circumstance that this pacifistic country has the highest military expenditure per head.

Naturally a recovery of the lack is not possible without strong participation of Greece itself. We have to go back finally to the roots of the evil. Continuous fraud and mismanagement in the public sector led a country, weak of innovation, into a big crisis. Deliveries and taxes were drastically increased, but only little steps are really done. The large fortunes still are not touched; the people only carry the load. Many of the few thousands wealthy people are not willing to do their contribution for the society and their necessary development. Whole industries are traditionally excluded from taxation -there are large potentials.

A further way would be additional support of education, art and culture by a simplification of the foundation laws and a complete release for amounts of foundation and donations for the. The blind pride on cultural values of the antiquity, without promoting these and contemporary efforts effectively, may not have place anymore in the Greek policy.

Within a really social and democratic European Union it should be also possible to receive foundations and donations from other countries of the European Union honored by tax reductions. Straight for Greece, whose people live approximately 50% in Europe and overseas, it would particularly boosted welfare.

At last the crisis will give the possibility to think about a renewal of societies. Democracy can function only if social justice is possible. Economic prosperity and lastingness can proceed in the long term only by a well-educated society, which take part also on the economical benefits.

All this is part of a cycle, which secures a surviving of mankind. It seem to be clear, there will be no lasting peace, as long as the mistrust remains the prevailing and all other edging out norm. Cultural ignorance is the mostly incriminating factor, which sows mistrust between us. The increasing efforts towards a peaceful and greener planet go to the vacuousness if we treat contemptuous the same time the human achievements, which are foreign to us.

Just the discovery and use of cultural resources rescues an immense potential for the economic and social development in itself.
We all should make constantly an effort to get to know our human differences and to accept and to value other traditions accordingly of her own values and aesthetics which are a share of a broader human order. By the support of those, who do this,  by the propagation of acceptance and tolerance we will be able to do something for the future of our world.

The non-profit Artforum Culture Foundation exerts itself for these targets and gives its contribution by own projects, co-operations and by interlinking with artists, galleries, collectors and as well as with museums and art organisations.