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40 years of active presence

Sunday, October 1, 2023

    The Good Shepherds -Metropolitans and Chief Rabbis in the face of the Holocaust

    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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