16 February 2023 - Speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, at the commemoration event at the BMH Cyprus - Israel Friendship Memorial Site

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Dear colleague, Minister Petridis,
Excellency the Ambassador of the State of Israel,
Dear Chief of the National Guard,
Dear Friends,

It is an honor to be here with you on the occasion of this commemorating event marking the 74th anniversary of the closing of the detention camps for Jewish Holocaust survivors in Cyprus. This is a not so widely-known part of history which indelibly links Cyprus and its people with both the tradition of European Jewry and the State of Israel itself.

One can only imagine the physical and psychological hardships that were endured by the 52 thousand Jewish people arriving in Cyprus in 1946, after fleeing war-torn Europe following the conclusion of World War II and the conclusive defeat of Nazi Germany. This homeland journey was intercepted and the dream of return had to be put on hold until 1949, when the British authorities closed the camps and permitted their onward journey, following the establishment of the State of Israel.

Over this three-year period, Cypriots from all walks of life, some of them on occasion at great personal risk, sought to be of assistance to the Jewish refugees interned at the three camps which were established in Karaolos, Xylotymymbou and Dhekelia. They not only demonstrated the keen sense of hospitality that characterizes Cypriots but also what they strongly felt was their moral duty.
The site where we stand today together, bore witness to the miracle of life, as more than two thousand babies, offspring of detained Jews, were born at the former Military Hospital. We recall with great pride the event that the Embassy of Cyprus in Israel organized, in 2000, in Tel Aviv, where these women and men, were symbolically honored as Cypriots by birth.

We have also begun preliminary work to upgrade this memorial site to a modest museum, which we believe will prove of great value also for the Ministry of Education’s programs for high-school students in teaching the younger generations about the Holocaust. We are grateful to both the Embassy of Israel here in Cyprus and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for their involvement in this project.

This slice of history commemorating the legacy of the Holocaust and its aftermath is at the forefront of Cyprus’ participation with observer status, since 2021, in the International Holocaust Remembrance Association, known as IHRA. In the framework of this participation, this government has been implementing relevant policies at national level, including adopting the IHRA definition for Antisemitism and the IHRA definition of Holocaust Denial.

Just a few days ago, on January 27, we jointly around the globe solemnly observed the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp in 1945. We paid tribute and honoured the innocent victims of the Holocaust, as well as the survivors of this horrific experience and the thousands who fought against it. We united our voice in proclaiming ‘Never Again’ and re-committed to international efforts to prevent the recurrence of such abhorrent crimes. Let us proclaim it once more: NEVER AGAIN!

I thank you for your attention.