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40 years of active presence

Friday, December 1, 2023


    The resistance activity of Zak Kostis reads like a novel. Born in Chalkida, Evia, in 1912 to Moschon and Hana Kostis, he was a law graduate and is the only Greek Jew who participated in the Apollon/Yvonni organisation, the largest intelligence and sabotage network in occupied Greece. Two German Jews, Petros (Peter) Mordos and Ulrich Wels, also acted as informers. From January 1943, Zak’s office at 43 Kolokotroni St was a key meeting place for the organisation in central Athens. As a member of the unit run by Gerasimos Paloumpis and the “ghost saboteur” Yiorgos Varnakiotis, Zak participated in many acts of sabotage at Piraeus port. Among the unit’s accomplishments was the blowing up of the Santa Fe cargo ship, nicknamed the “devil’s ship”, in Keratsini, the trooper B103 (21 June 1943), the tugboats Titan and Iraklis and the freighter K273.

    Zak spent many hours at the Kolokotroni St “headquarters” until September 1943, when the address was betrayed to the German Ortskommandantur. “The Germans blocked the office on Kolokotroni St. All had left. Zak Kostis remained. He wasn’t afraid. He was arrested. The Germans were confronted with an unimaginable composure. The Germans got angry. They beat him and escorted him to the Gestapo in Piraeus, where he was interrogated extensively” (Ta Nea, 9 July 1946). His comrade Nikos Adam was executed, but he managed to escape. Soon, there were more reasons to go into hiding: A few days later, after the announcement of the first anti-Jewish measures in Athens, Zak was forced to go underground. He hid in Liopessi (Paiania), helped by Vangelis Sideris and Stavros Batas, who had connections with his brother in law, Ilias Dentes. Next to the house was a German outpost. “While the smart old man Vangelis kept a look out, I took out the radio and listened to the news from London and Cairo,” he would write years later. His activities as a saboteur, liaisonand informant for the Apollon / Yvonni resistance group was recognised in 1949 by the army ministry as the equivalent of “nine months’ service in the frontline” and he was awarded the rank of colonel. In 1968 he recorded his memories of the occupation in a rare book entitled Ptyches (Aspects), which today adorns the collection of the Jewish Museum of Greece.

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