GRIGORIOS PLEIATHOS (1891-1971)
The Jewish Community of Halkida
In 1928, Halkida’s Jewish community numbered 64 people, compared to 150 in 1920. During the persecutions, most fled to villages in Evia and a number escaped to the Middle East with the assistance of the Resistance. Only a small number of Jews responded to the authorities’ repeated calls for them to register – and this number gradually dwindled until 24 May 1944, when Chief Rabbi David Matsas was the only one to appear. Thus, there was no systematic deportation. In all, 24 Jews, arrested at roadblocks or after being turned in by informants, were sent to death camps or into forced labour.
Grigorios Pleiathos served as Metropolitan of Halkida from 1923. During the occupation, Grigorios made great efforts to feed the population and led a general strike by the local population against the execution of hostages (August 1943). In May 1944, the occupation authorities and their Greek collaborators expelled him from Halkida.
Support and solace
The bishop is believed to have inspired the resolution passed by Halkida city council expressing its hope that the Germans would not persecute the city’s Jews. He urged Solomon Maisis, the president of the community, that all Jews who had not already left the city should abandon it immediately, and Gendarmerie Lieutenant Oikonomidis to issue false ID cards. He hid Halkida’s seven Torah scrolls in the diocesan church’s altar room, along with the synagogue’s books and holy vessels.
In January 1945, a few weeks after his return to Halkida, the Jewish Community proclaimed him a “great benefactor of the Jewish element of the city of Halkida for his strong efforts to save them from persecution by the barbarian conqueror”. His name was engraved on a marble plaque on the synagogue wall listing all of the community’s benefactors.
The Jewish Community of Halkida participated in the celebrations for Grigorios’ jubilee, which was held six months before his death. Expressing its gratitude, it said that “for the multiple benefactions he offered our community during the German occupation, his name has been engraved in gold letters in the column of benefactors in the Holy Synagogue of Halkida”.
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