SPYRIDON GINAKAS (1871-1948)

The Jewish community of Arta

In 1881, following Arta’s incorporation into the Greek state, the Jewish community numbered 617 members (or 12 per cent of the total population). In 1920, just 325 Jews, most of whom were Greek-speaking, lived in the city (or 4.3 per cent of the total population). In 1928, they amounted to 389 (or 4.8 per cent of the population) – a number that likely remained steady until the Second World War. During the persecutions of the occupation, 35 Arta Jews escaped, while 352 were arrested on 24 March 1944 and deported to Poland after a long, arduous journey. Only 25 survived.

The prelate

Spyridon Ginakas served as Metropolitan Bishop of Arta from 1912 until his death in 1948. As a deacon and priest, he had served in Epirus and in the Patriarchate of Alexandria.

Support and solace

In local tradition, as recorded by historian Konstantinos Tsiliyiannis, Metropolitan Spyridon petitioned the German authorities in support of the Jews as soon as the Germans announced the restrictions in the Italian occupation zone (4 October 1943). After his petition was rejected, he advised the city’s Jews to escape to nearby villages, but few heeded his call.

Testimony

One of his successors, Ignatios III, expressed the local lore about Spyridon’s relations with the Jewish community as follows: “It would not be exaggeration to say that the late lamented bishop had the Jews under his wing and protection more than the Christians. He sympathised with their vulnerability in those troubled times and made superhuman efforts so they wouldn’t be hurt in the slightest. He had, in any case, maintained since the prewar years very good relations with them, reciprocating visits during religious festivities.”

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