Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

The Persistence Of Memory


The Jewish Museum in Thessaloniki is carefully guarded. The man who let us in the outer door asked where we were from; it may have been more than polite interest. The inner door was electronically operated by another watchman in a shadowy cubbyhole.

The first room held stone fragments from the centuries-old 80-acre Jewish cemetery outside the city's eastern wall. The tombs and monuments of half a million burials had been smashed at the close of 1942 and reused for construction.

Then began the Holocaust in Greece. The victims were crammed onto trains for the halting, week-long journey to Poland's death camps. Of fifty thousand Thessalonian Jews not one in a hundred escaped. The few survivors who returned post-war had fled south or joined the Resistance.

Thessaloniki's authorities had been eyeing the necropolis for redevelopment ever since the Great Fire of 1917. Some of the sacred rubble went towards making the Royal Theatre and Aristotle University there. Today, near the White Tower, two statues illustrate a different Macedonian history: Philip II, conqueror of Athens, and Alexander, who razed Thebes; this is the sort of greatness we tend to remember.

Yet despite the systematic murder of so many of its people Judaism has survived, thanks to its own memorial culture. For example, the seven-branched Menorah is modelled on the candelabrum used in Solomon's Temple, destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar

The collective narrative grows by accretion. Thus there is another, nine-branched candlestick used in the feast of Hannukah, celebrating the dedication of the Second Temple. The story is that the small cruse of oil found in the new building was only sufficient to furnish its Menorah for a single day, yet somehow lasted seven more until a fresh supply could be found. In the family home the central taper, seated on a projection, is used to light eight others, one each day.

As our own, Western culture erodes, what memories, what values shall we preserve?

Facing the bay waters since 1997 is the Holocaust Memorial, a sculpture melding a seven-branched Menorah with agonised human shapes. It was defaced in January, not for the first time, with swastikas and ultranationalist symbols. The flames of hope and reconciliation have to vie with the fires of renascent fascism, as we see in the foreign-sponsored chaos in Ukraine. Which will burn out first?

As we left the museum we bought a fridge magnet that says 'Shalom.'

Font size: +

Contact us

Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
London W1B 5TB
United Kingdom
Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames