The religious context within which senior clergy and chief rabbis operate differ greatly. But there is a connection: both are seen as shepherds guiding their respective flocks.
The Holocaust in Greece (1943–1944) confronted the shepherds of both faiths with great dilemmas: the rabbis had to choose between obedience, stalling or disobedience in all possible combinations; the bishops, for their part, had to decide how much to risk for the sake of the “other” flock in their diocese.
The risks taken by the metropolitans ranged from providing for the safekeeping of Jewish holy texts and objects (an act which could carry a severe penalty) and expressions of support, to persistent and, even more perilous, appeals to German officers.
Of course, circumstances differed in each case. In the spring of 1943, the situation in Greece was direr than in 1944, when the Resistance had grown and the war’s outcome had been sealed. Conditions also varied in each geographic region, where local circumstances – especially with regards to the existence of an armed Resistance – also played a part.
The material collected is from the cities and towns of Athens, Arta, Corfu, Didymoteicho, Halkida, Corinth, Thessaloniki, Thiva, Volos, and Zakynthos. These cities accounted for roughly 90 per cent of Greece’s Jewish population.
The core source information is a survey conducted by the Church of Greece in 1966, when it sent out questionnaires to each metropolitan diocese asking what it had done during the occupation for the Jews in the area.
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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...
ELIAS BARZILAΙ (1891-1979)
The Jewish community of Athens
According to the 1928 Census, Attica's Jewish population did not exceed 1,800. It grew during the first months...
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...
MOSHE PESSACH (1869-1955)
The Jewish community of Volos
In 1928, there were 1,071 Jews living in Volos (2 per cent of the total population), whose number...
IOAKIM ALEXOPOULOS (1873-1959)
Ioakeim Alexopoulos studied theology at the universities of Athens and Georgetown, served as a priest in the US and in 1923...
IOAKEIM SIGALAS (1881-1965
The Jewish community of Didymoteicho
Didymoteicho’s Jewish community numbered 740 members in 1928 (8.5 per cent of the total population). Ahead of the...
GENNADIOS ALEXIADIS (1868-1951)
The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki
From 1912, when the city was incorporated into the Greek state, until 1940, the number of Jews in...
CHRISOSTOMOS DIMITRIOU (1890-1958)
The Jewish community of Zakynthos
In 1943, the Jewish population of Zakynthos amounted to 275 people, who did not face any particular problems...
SYNESIOS PHILIPPIDIS (1868-1944)
The Jewish community of Thiva
Despite Thiva’s rich medieval Jewish past, as recorded by Benjamin of Tudela and other sources, in 1928 there...
SPYRIDON VLACHOS (1873-1956)
In 1928, the old and once populous Jewish community of Ioannina numbered 1,963 members (9 per cent of the population). On 25...
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...
MICHAIL KONSTANTINIDIS (1892-1958)
Jews in Corinth
According to the 1928 population census, there were no Jews in Corinth. In 1940, 15 Jewish families with Greek citizenship...
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...
February 6: Thessaloniki Jews are subjected to restrictive measures
February 22: Athenians defy protest ban to demonstrate against civil mobilisation
February 28: Thessaloniki Jews are confined...
You can watch the documentary film "The song of life" by Tony Lykouressis.
The JMG is extremely grateful to the following institutions and individuals who provided original material, photographs and information:
Jewish Community of Athens
Jewish Community of Volos