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40 years of active presence

Saturday, June 10, 2023


    IOAKIM ALEXOPOULOS (1873-1959)

    The prelate
    Ioakeim Alexopoulos studied theology at the universities of Athens and Georgetown, served as a priest in the US and in 1923 became bishop of Boston. In 1931, he was elected Metropolitan of Fokida. In 1935, he was transferred to Dimitriada diocese, where he was faced with festering problems, ecclesiastic as well as social, which were exacerbated by the Occupation. In 1998, almost forty years after his death, he was posthumously awarded the honorary title of Righteous Among the Nations.

    Support and solace
    Ioakeim played an active part in saving Jews, according to his subsequent testimony to the physician Dimitrios Tsilividis, whom he told that Chief Rabbi Moshe Pessah had sought recourse through the diocese after being ordered by the Germans to turn over a list of his community’s members: “After leaving the German garrison headquarters, the chief rabbi rushed to meet me at the diocesan offices. He insistently asked me to obtain information from reliable German sources of the Germans’ true intentions … I immediately thought of the German consul, Helmut Scheffel … [whose] reply was laconic and unequivocal: ‘they should leave the city quickly before the deadline expires’. In turn, I passed this advice on and gave [Pessah] a letter of recommendation to the inhabitants for the villages, the Resistance, and the priests, asking them to offer him their assistance.”

    Safekeeping banned objects
    “That day, and through the next, a few Jewish compatriots brought me valuables locked in metal boxes to guard for them. I saved these small treasures by hiding them behind the volumes in my bookcase and even in the metal case where I stored my mitre. When I returned these items, they received them with tears of gratitude and joy, that were especially moving.”

    I did not neglect to address the following statement to the press, published on 6 November 1944: ‘Our Jewish compatriots are returning from the villages. But the synagogue’s and the chief rabbi’s books do not exist. Anyone who happens to have these books, which are in Greek or Hebrew, as well as any pages from them, are kindly asked to return them to the chief rabbi (8 Palestinis Street). Also, anyone who has clothing, furniture or other items is asked to either return them to their owners so they can live too, now that we all have our country’s freedom’.”

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