DAMASKINOS PAPANDREOU (1891-1949)
In November 1938, Damaskinos of Corinth was elected to the archiepiscopal see of Athens, but his election was annulled by the highest administrative court on a technicality. The electoral body was subsequently amended by law, resulting in the election of Metropolitan Chrysanthos of Trebizond as archbishop, with Damaskinos being sent to the Holy Monastery of Faneromeni on Salamina. In June 1941, the Greater Synod was convened by decree and reinstalled Damaskinos as archbishop. Under Damaskinos, the church undertook to feed vulnerable population groups such as the poor, children under school age, and breastfeeding mothers during the famine caused by the occupation. For his contributions in helping save the Jews, in 1970 Damaskinos was posthumously awarded the honorary title of Righteous Among the Nations.
Actions to save the Jews of Thessaloniki (March 1943)
On 15 March 1943, Asser R. Moissis was briefed about the beginning of the deportations from Thessaloniki and called Damaskinos “as he was about to undergo an operation on his throat in his home. His Beatitude postponed the operation and received us … [He later] made an appointment with Prime Minister Logothetopoulos … The next day [16 March], I did indeed visit Logothetopoulos … I asked that the Greek government oppose the deportation of some 40,000–50,000 Greek citizens … Logothetopoulos responded that he had no prior knowledge of this issue. He telephoned the general commander of Macedonia, Simonidis, although the transport had departed in the meantime.”
On 23 March, after Logothetopoulos had also sent two letters to the German plenipotentiary, Günther Altenburg, Damaskinos and the heads of 28 institutions submitted a written petition to the prime minister requesting that, if the deportations of Jews could not be prevented, that they be at least resettled within Greek territory and that women, children and the elderly be excluded.
The following day, Damaskinos and the heads of 20 institutions submitted another petition, this time to Altenburg, requesting a halt to the deportations. The fact that the petition was only signed by people who were based in the centre of Athens suggests it was prepared in a hurry.
On 29 March, “in light of the continuing persecution of Jews from Thessaloniki that had begun on 24 February 1943, the presidents of the below-mentioned Athens organisations and the deans of the higher spiritual institutions, led by His Beatitude, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Damaskinos, and in accordance with other petitions on 29 March 1943 called on the Italian ambassador in Athens, Mr Ghigi.”
On 30 March, the Holy Synod approved the Archbishop’s actions.
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