METHODIOS KONTOSTANOS (1881-1972)
The 1928 census recorded 1,819 Jews (5.32 per cent of the local population) in Corfu. Their deportation to Poland began on 9 June and was completed on 17 June 1944. EAM offered to smuggle the Jews out of the city to the villages but the community leaders did not agree, considering the information about the impending deportations as no more than fear-mongering. A total of 1,795 people were deported; only 187 survived.
Methodios Kontostanos, a Corfu native, was enthroned as Metropolitan of Corfu and Paxi on 24 November 1942. He had previously served in Halkida and Attica as an archimandrite.
Support and solace
On 2 June 1944, Methodios submitted a note to the prefect, protesting “the injustice and exploitation of the misfortunes and troubles” of seven Jewish transport company owners, who had been “excluded from work by their guild … We believe that this is a grave injustice committed by Greek citizen towards a Greek citizen.” In his diary, the bishop further noted: “On this day, I called on the German military commander, Mr Jaeger, and told him that it is inhuman and unfair to exclude the above-mentioned Jews from work. Because in Greece, as Greek citizens, they are not subject to any exception.”
When the call was issued to the Jewish population to gather, Methodios, accompanied by the police chief, went to see Jaeger again, this time to ask that the Jews not be deported.
Τhe evacuation of the Jewish quarter was immediately followed by looting of their homes, while merchandise from Jewish stores was collected by the prefecture and redistributed to the needy. Methodios’ request to the prefect that fabrics taken from Jewish shops be given “to starving priests” is indicative of the contradictions of the period.
“8 June. At 11 am, although ill … I communicated with the German commander, Mr Jaeger, reminding him of his promise, and protested the rounding up of the Jews. Finally, I pleaded with him to prevent their deportation.”
Methodios Kontostanos, Archive of daily incidents during the Italian and German Occupation, Corfu, 1949, pp. 400–401, 432.
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