On 23 October 2014, Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth travelled to Thessaloniki, where he met young politicians, representatives of civil society and business people. During his visit, Roth awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Holocaust survivor Heinz Kounio and laid a wreath in memory of the victims of the massacre by a Wehrmacht unit in Chortiatis 70 years ago.
On what was his sixth visit to Greece as Minister of State since taking office in December 2013, Roth focused on talks with the country’s younger generation. His visit programme included a round table discussion with representatives of NGOs, young trade union members and creative professionals from Thessaloniki, which is European Youth Capital in 2014. Roth also met young politicians and visited the German School.
After the meeting, Minister of State Roth issued the following statement:
The crisis in Greece is also and primarily a crisis for young people. We must not leave these young people to cope on their own. The crisis concerns all of us in Europe. One reason for my visit here was to find out how exactly we can help. The EU has provided six billion euros in funding. However, combatting youth unemployment is not merely a question of money. We also need structures and projects that people can invest in at short notice in order to provide young people with a job or training.
During his visit to Thessaloniki, Minister of State Roth awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany to Holocaust survivor Heinz Kounio in honour of his long-standing work to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to bring about reconciliation between Germany and Greece. Minister of State Roth was moved by the stance of the Holocaust survivor, who he said had not developed any hatred towards Germany despite the suffering he endured under the Nazi regime.
Heinz Kounio’s attitude should be an inspiration to us. We must not forget the past. At the same time, we should look to the future with confidence. It is up to us to shape the future of German-Greek friendship.
In the afternoon, Minister of State Roth travelled to Chortiatis, where members of the Wehrmacht massacred civilians in September 1944. Roth laid a wreath and gave a speech in which he asked for forgiveness on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany and reminded people of the responsibility of later generations:
We must work together to keep the memory of this crime alive among our countries’ present and future generations. We owe this to the victims. But we also owe it to today’s children and teenagers to ensure that something like this never happens again. We would be guilty for a second time if we allowed the atrocities committed by people against their fellow human beings 70 years ago to be forgotten.
The Minister of State then met young people from Chortiatis and the surrounding region. He spoke with Bishop Barnabas and the vicar of the German Protestant community, Ulrike Weber, about the role of the church and the social work it is undertaking in Greece.
Roth talked with young business people about the current situation in the Greek economy. He also met representatives of the country’s LGBTI movement. The focus of this discussion was on the elimination of the legal discrimination against same-sex unions in all EU member states.
Further information: German-Greek relations