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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ARCHBISHOP OF ATHENS AND ALL GREECE

DAMASKINOS PAPANDREOU (1891-1949) The prelate In November 1938, Damaskinos of Corinth was elected to the archiepiscopal see of Athens, but his election was annulled by the...

CHIEF RABBI OF ATHENS

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...

METROPOLITAN OF ARTA

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...

CHIEF RABBI OF VOLOS

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...

METROPOLITAN OF DIMITRIADA

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...

METROPOLITAN OF DIDYMOTEICHO

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...

METROPOLITAN OF THESSALONIKI

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...

METROPOLITAN OF ZAKYNTHOS

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...

METROPOLITAN OF THIVA AND LEVADIA

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...

METROPOLITAN OF IOANNINA

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...

METROPOLITAN OF CORFU AND PAXI

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...

METROPOLITAN OF CORINTH

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...

METROPOLITAN OF HALKIDA XIROCHORI AND THE NORTHERN SPORADES

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...

Chronology

1943 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...
video

“The Song of Life”

You can watch the documentary film "The song of life" by Tony Lykouressis. Back

Exhibition Contributors

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 Jewish Community...