discarded lies: thursday, march 22, 2018 3:53 pm zst
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Burning Judas

Wishing to keep the holiday spirit rolling, I thought that it would be interesting hearing about this. Easter in the christian orthodox tradition has always a far greater weight than Christmas and it’s celebrations are always solemn in churches and joyous in the countryside.

One of the characteristic celebrations is the “Burning of Judas” which is also presented as the “Burning of the Jew” and at least in one place as the “Burning of the Nigger”. In the last days of Easter a stuffed doll in humanlike dimensions is being prepared, stuffed with inflammable material and often with fireworks. It is hanged, in some places shot upon and ultimately burned. All this is accompanied by insults, curses but also great joy from the children. In the past it was also a chance for an occasional outburst of the population as various ethnographic and literary sources tell us; the mob set fire to a house or two in the local jewish neighbourhood but usually it was reduced to stone throwing - almost never human casualties were noted but an occasional beating of a jew found nearby, wasn’t completely rare. Of course all these happened where jewish communities were present; lacking jews the “Burning of the Jew/Judas” took a more folkloristic turn with absolutely no physical violence involved and this is the form we find it today.

For details on how it is done and photos one can visit the Akanthou in Cyprus page, a page from Crete containing also anti-jewish carols, pages from Hydra and again from Crete. In the same page one can read the carols that small children sang in Volos cursing jews.

A source from the end of the 19th century tells us about the Burning of the Jew in a village in the greek Asia Minor:

It remains alive in my memory this custom from home, the burning of the jew.. […] I waited with anxiety this day. […] We thought and felt some kind of delight because we were taking revenge […] Friday night before Easter we would light up the fire and then throw the jew and he would be set ablaze and all the kids would yell like victors after a triumph with something wild together. […] The fire would become enormous, the flames would reach high and light ,the beach and the boats in see would see from far away the flames and would know than in Petroumi the christians burn the jew. That day jews would hide in their homes and didn’t dare set foot outside. They kept the children inside and didn’t even go to their shops. The children had such a fury, such hatred that searched a jew to burn him alive”.

Centre of Asia Minor studies, Oral Tradition Archive, Karia

This kind of physical violence, which disrupted the public order and the fact that this custom has pagan roots led the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church to condemn it unequivocally in encyclicals in 1891, 1910 and 1918. In these official papers it is condemned and repeated that this tradition: “…incites religious hatred and fosters fanatism.”; also it repeated that: “the observance of these traditions is going against the basis and foundations of our faith”. Although these encyclicals were never revoked, modern religious leaders have failed to repeat these concepts and even attended such events, indirectly approving them. On the other hand, persons like the spokesperson of the Holy Synod have recalled them in a recent article and claimed that they remain valid examples of the good nature of the Greek Church. Other local religious leaders like the former Metropolite of Alexandroupolis Anthimos, (who isn’t characterized by feelings of love towards greek jews), have issued similar encyclicals as recently as 2005. In his, independently of his other racist declarations, excellent circular he asks the communities of Chilis and Amphitritis: “Does the burning of Judas, which is wrongfully maintained in your communities, have anything to do with the Resurrected Jesus Christ which we will celebrate in a few days? […] For this I ask you and I urge you and I beseech these two communities of Chilis and Amphitritis to stop this unhistorical, uncivilised and unchristian custom. […] The Holy Synod of Greece has condemned with encyclicals in 1891, 1910 and in 1918 this atrocious custom.”

Of course later he also states why, in my humble opinion, really gets him mad:
“It is an insult to the holy Epitaph since it includes the immaculate body of the God of love, to forsake it during the procession and stay back to set fire to Judas! ” (exclamation marks follow faithfully the ones in the original).

The antisemitic character of this custom was obvious also to the Catholic Church which in the mixed orthodox-catholic island of Syros forced it’s abolition. We read: “this custom generated anti-Semitic feelings among the Catholics and was therefore abolished by Jesuit monks, despite public reactions”.

It isn’t only opinion of the Greek Orthodox Church that this is a custom that promotes hatred, but also of the scientific community. Professor of Modern Greek Language at the University of Thessaloniki F.Abatzopoulou, concurs that the “Burning of Judas” is the “most familiar and widespread manifestation of traditional anti-Semitism in Greece.” Korombokis and Kotinis also state that in Thessaloniki the custom was linked with traditional hatred towards jews based on religious grounds.

A special reference should also be made in the case of Dalmedico Abba who was the delegate of the jewish community in the ottoman held Chania in Crete. Member of the local Assembly in 1875 he proposed and apparently managed to approve the abolition of the “Burning of Judas” though there are doubts if eventually this decision was implemented. In any case it serves as an example of jewish opposition to the custom and it’s obvious antisemitic character through time.

So, in theory we have a situation where the Greek Church, despite local support to this custom, has officially taken a strong stance against it, the scientific community which also talks against it, the local Jewish Community which has protested against it, we are aware of the antisemitic feeling that creates since it’s well documented in literature and folklore and also Human Rights groups like the Greek Helsinki Monitor, each year protest against it. So where is the problem? The problem is that it still continues today since nobody actually wants to actively move against it. Even worse, it gets promoted officially by the Greek State through it’s National Tourism Organization. In it’s site there are several references, (here, here and here) when describing easter customs in various parts of Greece, showing it’s a widespread phenomenon. Unfortunately even some members of the Greek Church chose intentionally to ignore what the same Church has admitted; an example is the Metropolite of the greek island of Hydra. In 2005 the Central Jewish Board sent a letter to the Metropolite asking him to pronounce on this custom on the island of Hydra. Instead the office of the mayor responded, (!), that this custom was “connected with the greek War of Independence” without of course explaining how these two things are connected. The Central Board was not satisfied with this explanation and responded to the mayor; as far as I know it was also repeated this year.

To an extent it is possible to say that how, greek institutions and greek society, deal with this matter it is indicative of how the phenomenon of anti-Semitism and hate speech are treated in Greece. Although it is clear that the phenomenon is linked with antisemitic manifestations, although official sources like the Church of Greece have condemned it, although nobody denies that even today there are racist outbursts during the burning, although there are numerous documented incidents, it is still regarded as a matter of foreign interference! How is this? Even among known members of the greek blogosphere or among the known neo-Nazi groups like Crissi Avgi and LAOS the whole matter only appears when the State Department accuses Greece of anti-Semitism and lists the “Burning of Judas­/Jew” as one of it’s manifestations. The protests of the greek jewish community simply don’t register! Nobody gives a damn about them; only when the americans make a generic statement, which even they don’t really pay attention, the greek society decides to talk about it! And I think it’s indicative the fact that the government member that is called to comment is the vice-minister of Defence as if we were talking about a foreign state and not about insults to greek citizens!

Anyway to complete the picture we need to state that the “guest of honour” during the easter celebrations isn’t only played by jews. In a twisted deviation of the custom in the village of Gastouni the jew is substituted by a black man and the whole ceremony is called literally “The Burning of the Nigger”. In other pages we also learn that the Roma are accused of forging the nails that were used to crucify Jesus, (no one remembers that there were no Roma in Palestine for centuries so it was physically impossible for them to do it). The oral tradition goes that this is the reason which do not settle in any land, a punishment for their presumed involvement.

I’d like to end this small post with a small discovery I made. One of the sites which lists all of the traditional customs for Easter and relative songs, that are often an open incitation against jews and roma, is this one. To my great surprise I found out that it is the site of the Regional Directorship of the Primary Education in Thessaly, (the organization that coordinates elementary schools in the greek region of Thessaly). The page is listed as a page which includes recommended material for Easter celebrations inside the schools. It contains things that are already known but it is simply amazing and disgusting that they are officially proposed to be taught at small children! Some of the things that the greek educational system considers that need to be taught in all schools, re-enacted in schools plays and be sang by children from 6 to 12 years old, include the following:

1)Of course the Burning of Judas/Jew with relative details.

2)The Easter carols which says:
“Σήμερον μαύρος ουρανός, σήμερον μαύρη μέρα, “Today black sky, today black day
σήμερα κόσμος θλίβουνται και τα βουνά λυπούνται, today the people grieve and mountains grieve
σήμερα βάλανε βουλή οι άνομοι Εβραίοι, today the wicked Jews decided
οι άνομοι και τα σκυλιά κ‘ οι τρισκαταραμένοι,
the wicked dogs and the threefold cursed
για να σταυρώσουν το Χριστό, τον πάντων βασιλέα
to crucify Christ, the king of all

3)The carols that accompany the Burning of Judas/Jew; they testify how these two figures are interchangeable to the public opinion, (the poem is in rimes so difficult to translate):
“Ράτσα, κεράτσα lady, milady
δώσ‘ μια κληματσίδα give me some vine wood
να κάψουμε τον Οβριγιό to burn the Jew
πόχει πολλή κασσίδα, that has a lot of filth
Οβριγιός φορεί φτερό the Jew wears a feather
στο κεφάλι τ‘ το ξερό…” on his mulish head…

4) In Easter, jars are broken “to the joy of Christ and ridicule of the Jews”.

5) Among the traditional customs it mentions that on Good Friday “no craftsman touched a nail because the gipsy nailed with nails Christ”.

It is completely unacceptable that small children learn how and why to hate Jews and Roma. It is simply appalling that these traditions are passed upon small children in the form of songs and there isn’t even recommended that the hatred towards jews should be minimized. It is simply frustrating and disappointing to see that the hatred towards jews, even at the form of traditions which are by the admission of the Church antisemitic, is passed from the elders to the younger with the blessing of the Greek State and the educational system which fails miserably even to understand that what it does is contrary to it’s mission or even to common decency. Maybe this is an exception? Evidently not since the Parents and Guardians Association of the 3rd Elementary school of Alimos has a site containing the same carols.

I’d like to expressly state that in no way I think that people who participate are raging racists who yearn to burn jews and since they can’t, they limit themselves to dolls. I’m sure that most of them consciously do not understand that what they do is wrong. The problem here is that the Greek State and generally people like the mayor of Hydra do know the racist nature of it, but still they choose not to act against it. This isn’t simply a case of jews being oversensitive; it is the Greek Church herself who has condemned it as an act against the christian faith and modern religious leaders describe it as atrocious.

Each time I think of anti-Semitism in Greece I think that the situation is hopeless. Not because the situation is so desperately violent, (even though each year that passes it becomes significantly worse), but because nobody seems to care. The same institutions that are supposed to work towards diminishing the hatred, are the ones who work actively to propagate it! When in school the textbooks often have antisemitic references or completely ignore jews and the Holocaust, when school actively perpetuates racist traditions and songs, when the school teachers are often completely ignorant on racism issues, when the system fails to pursue a policy of integration and often schools end up as the privileged place of nationalistic actions, how can we ever hope in a change? A quote says that “A pessimist is only a well informed optimist” - I think it fits perfectly in this case.

(Belated) Happy Easter to all…

PS. The greek Helsinki Monitor, a human rights group, recently protested on the Burning of Judas. Some facts which I state here derived from that report and I’d like to thank them – read about it here -> http://deviousdiva.com/2007/04/13/burning-judas/

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How I learned what malakas means
Just this morning someone on bloggie asked what malakas means. Then this afternoon I was introduced to a wonderful blog owned by a Greek Jew (dare I hope he's from Salonica?) who has a very relevant post: How I learned what malakas means. Say hi to Abravanel everyone, he's going straight into my list of favourite blogs. Γεια σου Αμπραβανέλ αλανιάρη :-)
I grew up in a rather poor part of my city which still maintained the populist image of the neighborhood/γειτονιά typical of the Greek cities in the past decades. It was a time where parents were a bit less anxious and maybe a bit more naïve and let their kids roam about freely and play in the open spaces that still existed, (the Greek term is not translatable but certainly will invoke memories for the Greek readers: αλάνες).

Each day my best friend N. would come by my house and yell my name for me to come down.
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Jewish and Christian and Muslim clergy
Greece to pay rabbis’ salaries? I hope so. I'm suprised they haven't been all these years, I had no idea.
A Greek Jewish leader wants the government to pay rabbis’ salaries, as it does for Christian and Muslim clergy.

“We believe that rabbis should be paid by the Greek government,” given that the “believers of the Jewish religion are also Greek taxpayers,” said Moisis Constantinis, president of the Central Jewish Board of Greece.

Constantinis said the Jewish community also should be allowed to build synagogues without the approval of Greek Orthodox Church leaders. There are currently 13 synagogues in Greece, but only three operate regularly.
It's shameful that the Jewish community cannot build synagogues without the approval of the Christian church. We have Christians living as dhimmis in Muslim countries and Jews living as dhimmis in the West? Shame.
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Bulgaria's dirty little secret
Today Bulgaria commemorated the rescue of nearly 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from the Nazi concentration camps during World War Two.
On March 10 in 1943 Bulgaria, led by the Orthodox Church and King Boris III, halted the implementation of a governmental decision dispatching the first groups of Bulgarian Jews to fascist death camps. Tsar Boris III and his country made extraordinary effort and sacrifices to save its entire population of Jews.
The "extraordinary effort and sacrifice" involved deporting Jews from Thrace and Macedonia instead, two areas that became part of "Greater Bulgaria", a reward to the Bulgarian government for becoming Hitler's ally.
Bulgarian officials were much more willing to “deport” Greek, Macedonian, or Serbian Jews, that is, “foreign” Jews, than Bulgarian Jews. Bulgarian forces substituted Greek Jews for Bulgarian Jews on the Bulgarian “death trains” as part of their “Bulgarization” program. On March 4, approximately 12,000 Jews in Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia,Thrace, and eastern Serbia were rounded up and deported. They were herded in camps where many were robbed of their possessions. Bulgarian officials then put then on trains which were under the authority of the German Wehrmacht.The port of Lom on the Danube was their first stop. Cargo boats took them to Vienna from there. They boarded trains in Vienna which took them to Treblinka, where almost all were killed in the gas chambers. On March 20 and 21, 4,226 Jews from Thrace and Pirot in Bulgarian-occupied eastern Serbia were deported.From March 22 to 29, 7, 158 Jews from Macedonia, mostly located in Skopje, were deported. The total number deported from Macedonia,Thrace, and eastern Serbia, i. e., Greater Bulgaria, was 11,384, 21 of whom died during the transport.
I wonder if their commemoration ceremony today mentioned these minor details.
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A Love Story
This following events happened in our family's farm, an isolated place on a cliff by the Ionian sea, somewhere in Southern Greece, in the first year of World War Two. The area came under Italian occupation and the Italian army was getting provisions from local villages and farms. One day, two Italian soldiers stopped by the village church to ask where they could get flour and oil. The priest pointed them to the south, our farm was a few minutes walk from the village, and the soldiers set off to get supplies.

They met my grandmother, a very cultured woman who spoke Italian and French perfectly and had taught her children as well, and she introduced them to my grandpa and the rest of the family. After exchanging pleasantries, the soldiers bought olive oil and a few chickens, admired the farm and left.

The soldiers, Domenico and Giovanni, were stationed in the area and their visits to our farm became more and more regular. Domenico was a cobbler and he offered to make shoes for the family in exchange for provisions which my grandparents accepted gladly.

The visits also became more social as time grew. Domenico, who loved to sing and played several instruments, would visit some evenings and after dinner someone would play the violin, someone else would play the piano and the family would spend hours around the table, singing and telling stories. The first year of the war passed without touching them.

Then the Germans came.

I don't want to get into historical details here, read a history book, this is just a love story. The point is that the Germans started hunting down the Italians, their former allies. They arrested everyone in Domenico's and Giovanni's unit except our two friends who sought shelter at my grandfather's house.

My grandfather agreed to hide the two men except there was no place for them to hide. The Germans had already visited the farm several times and had searched the house, looking for Jews, Italians and valuables, all in that order. The farm was mostly olive trees and vineyards, not much shelter there, but over the cliff that separated the house from the sea hung myrtle and holly bushes and that's where Domenico and Giovanni hid. In the winter they could hear the roar of the waves breaking on the sharp rocks sixty meters below them as the wind would threaten their little shelter above the sea.

They spent two years in their shelter of myrtles, hardly ever getting out since German units patroled the area by land and sea. My two oldest aunts, barely teenagers at the time, would bring them food and water and take their clothes to wash. On some nights, if there was no moon and no wind, Giovanni and Domenico would come to the house for a few minutes of normalcy and civilisation. Eva, the second-oldest daughter, would play the violin and Domenico would get tears in his eyes from nostalgia.

When World War Two ended, the Greek Civil War began and communist guerrillas would raid the farm regularly so our two Italians continued to remain hidden. The communists were looking for enemy soldiers, collaborators, royalists and of course, provisions. My grandma used to complain that the communists did more damage to the farm than the Germans and the Italians combined. Of course my grandma was a royalist, but that's a subject for another post.

After the civil war ended the two soldiers were finally free to go home. Except that they were broke and had no way home so my grandfather paid for their fare to Italy. My family and the two soldiers parted with tears in their eyes and promises to never forget and to write. Indeed, their correspondence lasted through life.

My grandfather and the rest of the family turned their focus, as all of Greece did, on getting back on their feet after years of war, occupation and misery. Then one day, about a year after the two soldiers had left, my grandfather received a letter from Domenico telling him he's in love with Eva and asking for her hand in marriage. My grandfather asked Eva if she accepted and she said yes, she was in love with Domenico. A romance had bloomed right under grandpa's nose, in a few stolen evenings of violin music and Italian poetry. Grandpa accompanied Eva to Italy where she and Domenico got married.

In the next fifty-five years, Domenico and Eva had several children, my sophisticated and beautiful older cousins whose life I made hell when I was little and all of us would come together to spend our summers in the old farmhouse. I remember that on our way to the beach, we'd pass by the myrtles that served as shelter during the war and stop to re-examine the drop below, as if to make sure it was all real. In my last memory of Tio Domenico, we're in the patio of the house one summer night. He's playing the violin and he's singing "Mamma, Son Tanto Felice," an old World War Two song. His hair is all white, his voice thin and old but still beautiful, bringing the history of our family to life. May he rest in peace.

Names have been changed to protect identities. Who cares anyway, where love is concerned, names are not important and neither are politics.
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Why I like being Greek

Because we have a small, poor country full of people with big hearts.
Because we never visit others empty handed.
Because there is no way to explain to foreigners what is "kapsoura" (burning desire for someone).
Because in Greece family is still something valuable.
Because we always make it, albeit in the last moment.
Because we were slaves for 400 years yet never bring that up as an excuse for our current state.
Because we are everywhere around the planet.
Because "filotimo" (friend of honour, helping someone because it is a shame not to) does not exist in any other language.
Because whenever foreigners cannot find a word, they use one of ours.
Because Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were Greek.
Because we invented theatre.
Because we gave birth to Democracy.
Because we discovered logic.
Because we jumpstarted science.
Because we have a distinction between Eros (falling in love) and Agapi (innocent love), while we feel both of them passionately.
Because Eros was a Greek God.
Because "Greeks do not fight as heroes, heroes fight like Greeks" (Winston Churchill,1941).
Because we gave our ancient alphabet to the Romans & our medieval alphabet to the Slavs.
Because we are not ashamed to cry.
Because we dance when we are sad.
Because we work to live and do not live to work.
Because 97% of the stars' names are Greek.
Because when you shout "brother or cousin " in the streets everyone turns around.
Because our parents do not forget that we exist when we reach 18.
Because we confront every difficulty with humor.
Because our sky is blue, not grey.
Because 40% of Oxford dictionary is made up with Greek words.
Because we know what "Kefi" (propensity to fun) means.
Because Homer wrote Iliad 3500 years ago and Hollywood turned it into a movie just recently.
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The few Jewish survivors that returned to Greece after their liberation from the death camps found their homes occupied by strangers and their properties taken. The community was practically extinct, most of the synagogues had been destroyed and the Jewish cemetery, the oldest and largest in the Balkans, was being used as a quarry.

The Greek government was of no help. Greek Prime Minister Logothetopoulos not only had failed to protect his Jewish citizens but, as he later confessed to a colleague, he was in favour of the deportations because Salonica and other Greek cities would then have plenty of vacant houses for the Greek Christian refugees from the Bulgarian-occupied zones of Thrace and Macedonia. Even though it was Greek citizens that died in Auschwitz, their abandoned property was treated the same way as that of enemy aliens residing in Greece, Jewish properties were reverted to the State.
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The Looting
George Ioannou was born in Salonica in 1927 and lived there until his death in 1984. He was an author and an elementary school teacher and he gained a reputation as the city's chronographer. His books describe life in pre-war and post-war Salonica and below I've translated a small excerpt from his memoir "In Those Days", the part that describes the deportations of his Jewish neighbours.

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The Sonderkommando
Five manuscripts of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau have been discovered at different times between 1945 and 1980. On October 1980, while cleaning weeds among the ruins of Crematorium II and Crematorium III, a container was found inside a leather bag, buried at a depth of 30-40 cm. Inside the container was a twelve-page manuscript. This finding was handed over to the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum.

After the language of the manuscript was found to be Greek, the museum director sent it for translation to Theodoros Alexiou, in the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Poland. He had a difficult time reading the half-destroyed manuscript but he was able to make out the author's name, Marcel Nadjary, and he notified the offices of the Jewish community in Salonica, Greece. They recognised the name of the author and contacted the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum seeking photocopies of the manuscript which they received.

The following is my translation of the manuscript. The dots [...] signify areas that were destroyed. The parentheses ( ) signify areas that are thought to mean what's written.
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The Auschwitz Uprising
There hasn't been a lot written about the Greek Jews in Auschwitz. From the little we know, they were noted for helping each other, "their hatred of violence, their trying to keep their dignity, made the Greeks the most compact ethnic group in the camp and therefore the most civilized" wrote Primo Levi in "Survival in Auschwitz." But they also participated in acts of heroism and resistance.

In September 1944, Alberto Herrera de Larissa, a Greek Jew and officer in the Greek army, escaped after hitting the German guards with a shovel. He was captured and died after being tortured.

In June 1944, a group of 100 Jews from Corfu, newly arrived in Auschwitz, were ordered to work in the Sonderkommando unit. They refused and were shot immediately.

But the most significant act of resistance of the Greek Jews who worked in special work detail was the uprise they organised with other Polish prisoners.

The Sonderkommando unit at Auschwitz-Birkenau consisted of teams of prisoners who were responsible for emptying the gas chambers after the gassings, transporting the bodies to the crematoria, and loading the dead (and sometimes not completely dead) in the ovens. Then they would scatter the ashes on the barracks paths and the nearby ponds. They were kept in special barracks, away from the other prisoners and were replaced by new prisoners every six months. The previous Sonderkommando prisoners were gassed.
According to the commonly accepted conventional wisdom, no Sonderkommandos survived, since they were usually sent to the gas chambers after a few months on the job. Many historians have accepted this opinion as fact. However, as Greif's book proves, some 100 Sonderkommandos emerged alive from the death camp following its liberation by the Red Army; of these approximately 30 are still alive in various countries. Sonderkommando, Auschwitz
In the fall of 1944, the Sonderkommando unit at Auschwitz staged a revolt. One hundred and thirty five Salonica Jews were part of this uprising.
That day the word spread about a transport of men and men of the Sonderkommando. Just a few minutes later and six hundred of the men of the Sonderkommando rebelled. Crematorium 2 went up in flames and the German Kapo, who excelled in cruelty, was thrown into the burning oven. In a battle at close quarters four SS men were killed and several others were wounded. The area surrounding the crematorium turned into a battlefield. The barrier around the area was destroyed and the rebels escaped.

All of the SS in the area were summoned to the camp. The work gangs stopped their labors and were returned to their blocks. A count of the prisoners was made. The SS men ran around the camp like poisoned rats. This was something they had not expected nor had it ever occurred to them that they would have to defend themselves against Jews. Oswiecim, Poland
Almost all of them were captured and killed as were the women who helped them sneak in munitions from the factory. The least we can do is tell their story again and again, hoping to forever extinguish the myth of Jews going to their deaths unprotesting.
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The Islands
On June 6, 1944, the same day that the Allied forces landed in Normandy, the German army in Greece was busy rounding up every Jewish person they could find in every little corner of Greece.

In the island of Corfu, the whole Jewish community of 1,795 people was seized. The island's Greek mayor printed a proclamation declaring that the Jews had been rounded-up and that the economy of Corfu had 'rightfully reverted' to the Christian citizens. On the 9th of June (which the Corfu mayor declared a holiday) all the Corfu Jews were deported to Birkenau. Fifteen-hundred were gassed on arrival.

In other places a few people helped. In the nearby island of Zante, the mayor Lukos Karrer and Archbishop Chrysostomos the local church leader not only alerted the Jewish community to the danger but sent 195 people to remote villages in the mountains. Another sixty-two people, all of them elderly, could not make the rough journey and were caught by the Gestapo and taken to the port. "If the deportation order is carried out," Archbishop Chrysostomos declared, "I will join the Jews and share their fate." When the boat arrived from Corfu to collect them, it was already packed with so many Jewish souls from Corfu that it didn't stop.

In Rhodes there were close to 2,000 Jews living on the island in a community which was at least 500 years old. Fifty people, as Turkish citizens, fell under the protection of the Turkish Consulate. The rest were deported. The deportations from Rhodes were the last ones conducted by the Germans in Greece.

The Jews of Rhodes and of the neighbouring island of Kos, were sent by boat to the Greek mainland. They were crammed into boats in the hot summer sun, without food and water. Twenty-three people died on the voyage to the mainland. After arrival in Athens, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only 151 Jews from Rhodes survived the Holocaust.

In Crete, 260 Jews from Chanea were arrested on May 20, 1944. They were executed and their bodies put aboard a ship together with 400 Greek hostages and 300 Italian soldiers. The ship was sunk to destroy the evidence. According to witnesses, the Chanea Jews were shot because they were involved in helping British Intelligence with their plan to abduct General Kreipe who commanded the German forces in Crete.

For more information on the Jewish community of Rhodes: Island of Roses: The Jews of Rhodes in Los Angeles

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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The Mainland
While the Allies were getting ready to invade Normandy, the Germans systematically continued to round up and deport the Jewish communities throughout Greece.

In the town of Kastoria, the Jewish community numbered about 900 people at the beginning of World War II. On March 25, 1944, 763 Jews were rounded up for deportation to Auschwitz. In the days before they were deported, they were imprisoned in an abandoned school with no food or water and the young girls were raped by German soldiers. Thirty-five Jews from Kastoria survived the Holocaust. Only one Jewish family remains after 500 years of a Jewish presence in the town.

In the town of Volos, Rabbi Pessah, through his contact with the resistance, obtained shelter for more than 752 people from his community. One hundred and thirty who could not flee, were deported to Auschwitz.

In Trikala, 470 Jews found refuge with Greek villagers in the mountains. Fifty were captured and deported.

In Patra, the German consul wrote to his superiors that "after the newspapers announced the obligatory registration of all Jews, they disappeared."

In the town of Ioannina the Jewish community was one of the oldest Romaniote communities in Greece, already settled in the city before the influx of Sephardim in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the beginning of the war, Ioannina was occupied by the Italians and Jews did not experience any discrimination until Italy surrendered.

After the Germans took over, they told the community leaders that there was no need to worry about deportations. The Germans promoted the idea that since the Ioannina Jews were Greek-speakers they were in no danger at all.

In March 1944, however, they arrested the president of the Jewish community in Ioannina. While he was detained, he learned of the German plans to deport the Jewish community and he managed to smuggle a note out to a community leader, advising everyone to flee. Unfortunately, this warning was not relayed to the people and on March 1944, the entire Jewish community of 1,860 people was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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The Trap
On the eve of Yom Kippur, October 8, 1943, the Germans issued a new order to the leaders of the Athenian Jewish community. This order was designed to isolate the community and place it under direct German supervision and control.

Jews were ordered to return immediately to their place of residence as given before June, 1943. They were to appear immediately at the community offices to declare this residence and register their names. They were required to present themselves every Friday to the synagogue. And a new community council was formed.

Despite the order, only 200 people had registered at the community offices by the end of October. But the Germans thought there were at least 6,000 Jews in Athens and they waited patiently.

There were few ways of escape. Some Jews paid enormous sums of money for a three-week journey crossing the Aegean by night, from island to island, until they reached the shores of Turkey. Young men with no family responsibilities escaped to partisan camps in the mountains and joined the resistance.

But not everyone could leave. More and more Jews gradually registered at the community offices throughout the winter. Famine had been raging in Athens the last two years, food was in short supply, people couldn't work without being registered and they had families to support. Others were afraid of reprisals that might be exacted on Christian neighbors who were hiding them. Also, there were no other racial measures and people began to feel safe and decided to return to their homes. By mid March, 1944, approximately 1,800 Jews had come out of hiding and enrolled on the new community register.

Passsover that year was to be on the 8th of April, and in early March the trap was set.

The Germans told the council that special flour had been brought to Athens for preparing matzo. The council was to make the announcement and the flour would be distributed at the synagogue on the 24th of March. In a city where even ordinary flour was a luxury, the good news spread quickly.

On the 24th of March, 800 people went to the synagogue to get flour. German guards were waiting inside the synagogue and arrested people as they entered. Everything was done quietly and methodically and the detainees were held there overnight. Over the course of the next day, another 1,000 people, not knowing what happened, came to the synagogue to look for their family members. They were arrested as well.

By Passover they had all been deported to Auschwitz.

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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Rabbi Koretz
Rabbi Zvi Koretz, has been a controversial figure in the Holocaust of the Salonica Jewish community. Many survivors accused him of collaborating with the Nazis and of knowing about the deportations and not informing the community. Crowds of people would gather at the community offices and express their fears of deportation and ask the Rabbi for advice. Rabbi Koretz would calm them down and assure them they would not be deported.

He really was in a very tough spot. The Germans were subjecting him to terror, intimidation and constant demands for money. He tried to handle that the best way he could and in the best interests of the Jewish community. As community president, he ransomed thousands of people from forced labour. But the Germans were asking for enormous sums of money which the Salonica community was not able to raise, even with the help of the Athenian Jews.

He did create the Jewish Police Force that ended up including collaborators, war criminals, rapists, extortionists and murderers. He naively thought that this was a measure to maintain order during a tough period in the community's history. Koretz did inform the Jewish communities of Florina and Veria to report for deportation, but he was relaying German orders.

Documents from the Italian Foreign Ministry show that Rabbi Koretz was in touch with the Italian consul at the time and his staff about rescuing Jews. He also proposed to the Germans to exile the community to an uninhabited Greek island, anything but deportation to Poland.

In the beginning of April 1943, after the deportations had been in full swing for several weeks, he begged the Christian Metropolitan Gennadios to arrange a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Rhallis in order to try to prevent further deportations. The Prime Minister did not show much interest in his pleas and the next day Rabbi Koretz was ousted from his position as Chief Rabbi and community president. He was detained until deportation.

Rabbi Koretz was also deceived by the Germans. The Salonica Jews were not sent to labour camps in Poland, as the Germans had assured him, but to the death camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka.

In August 1943, he was deported to Bergen Belsen, where the prominent Jews and those who held Spanish citizenship were taken. He suffered greatly until the liberation, and died of typhus six weeks after that.

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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Rabbi Barzilai
Wisliceny, Eichmann's deputy, arrived in Athens on the 20th of September, 1943. He immediately sent a summons to the Chief Rabbi, Elia Barzilai, to meet with him on the following day. The Rabbi, upon receiving the summons, informed the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop Damaskinos, and the leading members of the Jewish community.

On the 21st of September, Rabbi Barzilai met with Wisliceny and was given the following list of demands:

  • The names, addresses and professions, of all the members of the Athenian Jewish community

  • The names of all foreign Jews, with details about their origin and nationality

  • The names and addresses of all Italian Jews living in Athens

  • The names of all Salonica Jews living in Athens

  • The names of all people who had assisted Jews to escape to Palestine

  • The names of the members of a new council to be formed under Barzilai’s presidency

  • The new council was to create a Jewish police force for carrying out the Nazi demands

  • Create new identity cards for all of the Jews of Athens

Barzilai left Wisliceny’s office, shaken and in a state of great anxiety and fear. All through the day appeals were made to Greek authorities, but most of them fell on deaf ears.

On the 22nd of September, the Jewish community leaders made a desperate appeal to Prime Minister Constantine Rallis. The Prime Minister tried to alleviate their fears by saying that the Jews of Salonica had been guilty of subversive activities. He also implied that the Salonica Jews had been a foreign element in Greek life, referring to the nationalistic distinction between Old Greece - south of Thessaly and liberated from the Turks shortly after 1821 - and Northern Greece which was under Turkish and Bulgarian occupation until 1913.

So basically what the Greek Prime Minister said was that the Jews of the north had gotten what they deserved.

The Rabbi asked Wisliceny for extended time to compose a list and form a council. After convening with the community leaders, he destroyed the community records and he advised people to flee or go into hiding. A few days later, the Rabbi himself fled the capital and joined the resistance in Thessaly, north of Athens. Wisliceny's list of demands never came to pass.

In Thessaly, in a village close to the Greek partisan headquarters, Rabbi Barzilai encouraged Greek Jews who could do so to join the resistance. He worked with the Greek partisans to arrange for more than 600 Greek Jews to be smuggled across the Aegean sea to the safety of neutral Turkey. In return, the Jewish Labour Federation in Palestine smuggled boots and money, by sea, to the Greek resistance.

Archbishop Damaskinos also showed courage and compassion. Damaskinos suspected what had taken place in the north. His advice was that the Jewish community of Athens should dissolve itself and flee, because there was no way it could be protected adequately. He instructed the Greek clergy to issue false baptismal papers to anyone who needed them in the Jewish community.

And in another gesture of righteousness, Athens chief of police, Apostolos Evert, had his forces issue fake papers to Jews, giving them Christian identities. Evert and Archbishop Damaskinos saved 1,200 Jewish lives.

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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In 1943 Athens had approximately 4,000 Jewish residents as well as 5,000 Jewish refugees from Salonica, Macedonia and Thrace. During the Italian occupation, Jews were relatively safe, or at least as safe as the rest of the population since the Italians had not imposed any racial measures. But in September 1943 Italy surrendered to the Allies.

The Germans, considering this an act of betrayal, immediately arrested the Italians who were in Greece and at the same time the last stage of the 'action' against the Jews of Greece was set in motion. The largest Jewish communities outside of Salonica and Athens were in Halkis, Patra, Ioannina, Preveza, Volos, Larissa and Trikala in the mainland, and in the islands of Corfu, Zakynthos, Rhodes, Kos, and Crete. Orders were sent to every town and district to identify its Jewish citizens and put their names on a list.

Most of the Jewish quarters in the islands and the mainland were congregated around the synagogue, not as a consequence of a ghetto policy, but because people throughout the centuries tended to build their houses and their lives near a synagogue or a church. But that also meant that Jews in most Greek towns lived in small proximity to the synagogue and were easy to identify.

Athenian Jews were more integrated in the Greek community and more hellenised. They did not speak Ladino, like the Salonica community did, they had no differences in dress or speech that would distinguish them from their Christian neighbours and they did not live in a specific area. The general impression in the Athenian Jewish community was that the Jews of Salonica had been deported and were living somewhere in Poland. No one knew about the death camps yet.

Athenians considered themselves Old Greeks, part of Greece that was liberated from the Turks in the 1821 Greek War of Independence. They perceived their neighbours up north as having entered the the process of hellenisation more recently since Salonica wasn't incorporated into Greece until 1913. The general feeling in Athens was that the German racial laws had been applied to remove the "Judeo-Spanish bloc" in Salonica, which would lead to full hellenisation of the city. So in this view, the Salonica Jews were the last reminder of the hated Ottoman presence in Greece. The Athenian Jews didn't think they were in any danger at all.

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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Revolutionary Pope
This article in Time magazine points out that contrary to the received wisdom that the Pope was a hidebound conservative, he was actually a true revolutionary churchman.
This may be what you think: John Paul II was the conservative Pope. His pontificate was marked by a resurgent Roman Catholic traditionalism, setting the church against liberalizing forces of all kinds. John Paul II is remembered above all for shoring up structures of the past.

This is wrong. John Paul II boldly presided over the maturing of political and theological revolutions in Catholicism. Perhaps despite himself, he was a Pope of change, accomplishing two radical shifts—one in the church's attitude toward war and the other in its relationship to the Jewish people. Taken together, those represent the most significant change in church history, and they lay the groundwork for future changes that could well go beyond what this Pope foresaw or even wanted. In each case, John Paul II brought to completion a movement that was begun by his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI, the Popes of the Second Vatican Council.
The Pope's True Revolution
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We Were From A Different Level
He won't allow me to tell you his name. We'll use his initials, I. H. Mr. I.H. is a Jewish shop-owner in Salonica, Greece. He is a Bergen-Belsen survivor, one of the lucky ones, he wasn't sent to the death camps.

I spoke with Mr. H. one April evening, in his beautiful apartment overlooking the Gulf of Thermaikos. He speaks seven languages, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish, English, German. He was 19 years old when he was deported to Bergen-Belsen, where he stayed for two and a half years. Before the war he was a scout in the Maccabees, he's very proud of this. He learned German in the camp.

He said Salonica had a lively and dynamic atmosphere which was lost after the decimation of the Jewish community. His father was in the moving business before the war. I.H. helped in the business because he was good with foreign languages, Hebrew among them.

"Abahushi came from Israel, before the war, and chose the best port workers, and took them to Israel. In Haifa, a special Jewish company took them, found them housing and they took charge of the port of Haifa."

There are still Salonica Jews in Haifa, port workers who recognised him on his last trip there. The children of their children still work on the docks there.

I.H. said that anti-semitism had risen in Greece, before the war. The far-right organisation, EEE, characteristically anti-semitic and aided by the general rise of fascism in Europe, regularly attacked and burned Jewish homes and businesses.

He did not like the German language before the war. His father told him to learn German, "necessary for commerce." I.H. thought it had too many syllables, it was "a heavy language," and he didn't learn it. After the camp he speaks German "better than the Germans." He learned it by ear.

"No one can describe what we saw. We woke at five in the morning. The 'good morning' was 'Sweinrei auchten!' - pigs get up! Where will they take us?

"We wait in line, in lines of five. Five hundred people, two barracks, from 250 each. we were wondering, what happened to the first ones? We were kids, 19-20 years old. Five-by-five, they go in and they don't come out. This is it, we thought, the end, it's over. And we hear nothing.

"They brought two young soldiers, Germans, they had dogs, they watched from right and left that we don't get out of the line. Then I hear this young German, whom I did not know, of course, he tells me 'You, come here!' I thought that meant he was going to kill me in front of the others. This man had me carry stones from one sidewalk to the other, where there was a mountain of rocks. Right-left. And I had to carry them from one sidewalk to the other.

"All 500 died except me. Who was this soldier? Why did he want to do this to me, why?

"Let me tell you why. Because he knew that as an example, he had to make me suffer in front of the others. So the others could see that I had to do this. And this minute I'm alive.

"In my shop, I have dried flowers from the camp. A German came into my shop and was asking something in German. If you want to speak English I answer to you, I told him. I know German but I will not speak it. And you know why? Because I was two and a half years in concentration camp. And the German, what, what, what, auf wiedersen, auf wiedersen, he leaves. He got scared now, he thinks this guy is from concentration camp, maybe he'll kill me."

"Were there many Greeks in Bergen-Belsen with you?"

"We were about 250."

"All from Salonica?"

"All from Salonica."

"How many survived?"


(A long silence.)

"That's all."

"It's a miracle that we are alive. You cannot describe it to anyone. It's very difficult to describe what we went through.

"When we were liberated by the Russians, a Russian officer pointed to the Germans who were tied up and gave the prisoners his gun. He told them "kill him." But no one took the gun to kill him. Even after we had suffered so much and hated Germans so much, no one could kill a human being.

"We were from a different level."

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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Background - The Deportations
Immediately after they occupied Greece, Germans shut down the Ladino newspapers in Salonica, confiscated the Jewish community's financial assets and records and persecution of Jews began. Jews were evicted from their homes, forced to wear the yellow star, humiliated, beaten, arrested and taken as hostages. In July of 1942, Jews were made liable for forced labour and about 10,000 were rounded up for forced-labour battalions. The terrible conditions in malaria-infested swamps, which caused the death of 12% of the internees, prompted the Jewish community to offer to exempt the Jews for ransom. After lenghty negotiations Merten agreed to accept a large amount of money yet at the same time Jewish property and Jewish businesses were being confiscated.

In December of 1942 the Germans appointed Rabbi Zvi Koretz as head of the Jewish Community. In February 1943, Dieter Wisliceny, Eichmann's deputy, arrived in Salonica to set the machinery for deportation. Jews were ordered to wear Star of David badges and to move into ghettos and were subjected to a wide variety of other restrictions.

Deportations began in March 1943 from Macedonia and Thrace while at the same time Bulgarians were assisting the Germans in deporting the Greek Jews from the territory they had annexed. "The German Reich is ready to accept these Jews in its eastern regions," said the agreement signed by Bulgaria on February 22. A month after this agreement was signed, "these Jews" were dead.

Ten thousand Jews had been deported by the end of March 1943, a further 25,000 in April and another 25,000 in May. They had no idea of their destination having been told that it was a "resettlement" area in Poland.

A notable exception to the deportation of the Macedonian Jews was the town of Katerini. The local director of police gave Jews three hours to flee after he received the deportation orders. Thirty-three Jews fled and were hidden by Greek villagers. Three who were unable to leave, were shot by the Germans when they discovered that almost all the community had escaped.

Each deportee was allowed to take a food parcel for the journey and up to 15 kilos of clothing for the "resettlement" area. It was in fact Treblinka or Birkenau. The Germans allocated 20 special trains for these deportations starting from six collection points. At the railway stations of Demi-Hisar and Simitli, where there was a change of trains, the Germans gave priority to "invalids on strectchers" and women who were "ready for childbirth." Conditions inside the trains were horrific: no room to sit or lie down, virtually no food and no water.

Each morning on their journey north the trains would stop in the open countryside and the bodies of those who died in the night were thrown out. There was no form of burial allowed. Several hundred sick and old people died during the six day journey.

Shortly after the deportations, all Jewish property and belongings in Thrace and Macedonia were confiscated and sold. The money raised was first to go towards the cost of the rail fare to the death camps. The rest was then deposited in bank accounts and to give those still in Greece a sense of normalcy, the deposit statements were sent to their Jewish owners. These statements reached their owners long after they were dead in Treblinka and Auschwitz.

On April 5, 1943, the last train bringing Jews from Macedonia for "resettlement" reached Treblinka. All were gassed.

In September 1943, when all of Greece came under German control, general anti-Jewish regulations were issued, defining who is a Jew and ordering Jews to register. Jews who did not report to the Germans within five days would be shot, and any Greek providing shelter to Jews would be shot as well. Within six months the deportations of Jews from Athens began and the Germans began to round up Jews on the islands.

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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The Occupation
A short background:

Following the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 in which Greece was defeated, overt anti-semitism in Greece increased and propaganda and violence became commonplace. But still, on the eve of World War II, Salonica had the largest Sephardic community in the world.

Greece remained neutral when the Second World War broke out. In October 1940, Italy attacked Greece but the Greeks managed to force the Italians back to Albania. Thirteen thousand Jews fought in the Greek army and six hundred and thirteen Jews from Salonica were killed in action. In January 1941 the Governor-General of Salonica wrote to the president of the city's Jewish community: "In the name of the Greek state, I congratulate you on the heroism displayed by the Jews on the field of battle."

The Germans brought troops to help the Italians. Though the Greeks were helped by a British expeditionary force in March of 1941, German forces successfully invaded in April.

The British force was evacuated and the Greek King and his government fled. Italy occupied most of Greek territory, while the Germans occupied Macedonia and Eastern Thrace. Bulgaria, a German ally that provided the transports for the German troops into Greece was rewarded with Western Thrace. Finally, in 1941 the Germans invaded Crete and drove the British out of there as well.

The Germans installed a puppet Prime Minister in Athens whose jurisdiction included both the German and the Italian zones. Germany itself maintained a military government in Greece, with Max Merten, councelor to the military governor, in charge of civilian affairs. Soon, conditions of famine intensified in the Greek cities and resistance activities became more widespread. In Thessaly, where partisans were trying to deprive the Germans of the harvest, Leon Sakkis was among several Jewish resistance fighters in action against German military units. On the night of June 14, 1944 he was killed by machine gun fire as he was trying to help a wounded colleague.

In September 1943, after the Badoglio government in Italy surrendered to the Allies, German forces occupied Italian-held Greece and extended their military rule over all of Greece.

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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The Exodus from Spain
The Holy Inquisition was raging in Spain and Portugal in 1492. Jews and heretics were persecuted and burned. Jews were forcibly converted but even then persecuted. They were called New Christians and were constantly watched and spied on for any signs that they were holding on to their old religion. For example, New Christians bathing on Friday was a suspicious thing since that meant they were preparing for Sabbath. The New Christians (or Marranos, meaning "swine," as sometimes they were called) were constantly subjected to mass killings and burnings with the blessing of the King and the Catholic Church. At the same time, on the other side of Europe, the Ottoman Empire was enjoying prosperity and peace after having conquered the old Byzantium. Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire and enslaved to the Turks.

The Sultan opened the door of the Empire to the refugees from Iberia. Even though Christians were persecuted by the Ottomans, Jews were respected and left alone to practice their faith in relative peace. Thousands of Jews converged to Salonica, a sea port in the Northern Aegean.

Salonica's indigenous Jewish community dated back to 315 BCE, during the reign of Alexander the Great. The influx of Sephardic Jews increased Salonica's Jewish population from 2,000 Romaniote Jews (Greek speaking Jews) to eleven times that amount (22,000). In time, the Romaniote Jews became assimilated into the Sephardic community. By the 16th Century, Jews made up half of Salonica's multi-ethnic population, which included Greeks, Turks, Vlachs, and other groups.

Over the next few hundred years, the Jews, merchants and craftsmen in a land of peasants and soldiers, made Salonica a great city of trade, commerce and industry. There were 40 synagogues, named after once-famous Jewish communities in Spain. Jews supported their own social-welfare insitutitions and two daily newspapers were published in Ladino, an old mixture of Spanish and Hebrew.

View an online exhibition about Salonica and the Holocaust and listen to David Saltiel sing La alegría de Jaco

Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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Loving God and Hating Jews
In Greece, a massive scandal has rocked the Orthodox Church. Several Bishops have been accused of trial-fixing, embezzlement, sex escapades and drug dealing. The head of the church, Archbishop Christodoulos, has lost the confidence of the public, with Greek society evenly split on whether he should resign. Polls show that for the first time ever there's wide support for the separation of church and state, unheard of in a country that is 97% Greek Orthodox and where the church has traditionally been credited with helping Greeks maintain their ethnic identity through five hundred years of Ottoman occupation.

I don't want to bore you with the details of the scandal, you can read all about it here, but here's what's troubling me: Vavilis, a key figure in this scandal and a man with murky connections to the Greek state and Archbishop Christodoulos, has told the press he had the Archbishop's backing when he conducted a dirty tricks election campaign for the current Jerusalem Patriarch Irineos. Archbichop Christodoulos denies this, but Irineos confirms that Vavilis was sent to him by Archbishop Christodoulos.

The Greek Orthodox Church is the oldest, richest and most powerful church in Jerusalem. As head of the Greek Orthodox Church, Irineos is responsible for its extensive land holdings, including the land on which the Knesset was built, the Prime Minister's and the President's official residences, parts of Jerusalem's wealthiest neighborhoods and many locations in the Old City.

(On a parenthetical note - isn't it funny how Jews manage to control the world but don't seem to have a very good handle on their own real estate?)

Irineos originally was appointed as the Jerusalem patriarch in September 2001 but Israel withheld approval because of his suspected support for Arafat. Israel had good reason. Here's an excerpt from a letter sent by Patriarch Irineos to Arafat:
"You are finally aware of the sentiments of disgust and disrespect that all the Holy Sepulcher Fathers are feeling for the descendants of the crucifiers of our Lord Jesus Christ, actual crucifiers of your people, Sionists (sic) Jewish conquerors of the Holy Land of Palestine.
Patriarch Irineos denied that he wrote this and he sued Ma'ariv, the newspaper that originally published the letter, but withdrew his lawsuit soon after and paid the newspaper's legal expenses. As Caroline Glick wrote in her January 30, 2004 column (from Frontpage Magazine - The Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and Terror):
"Irineos has claimed that the letter is a forgery, but a police investigation, which was closed two weeks ago, substantiated its authenticity. Sources close to the investigation say that three people were with Irineos when he penned the letter and all provided testimony to the police that the letter was authentic."
And who can forget his former spokesman Attallah Hanna who was urging Arab Christians to join forces with Muslims and take part in suicide attacks against Israel? The Patriarch supposedly distanced himself from Hanna, but during the 2003 Easter celebration, Irineos "greeted Hanna with kisses and hugs, seated him to his right and had him translate his Greek remarks into Arabic for the audience."1

It has also been widely reported that Irineos promised to give Arafat church property in Jerusalem as a gift. Patriarch Irineos has denied that he's pro-Palestinian, saying "I'm not pro-anything, I'm only pro-God."

On Monday, the 28th of February, I watched a talk show on Antenna TV about the church scandal. Archbishop Christodoulos was represented by his lawyer, Mr. Dimitrakopoulos. The Archbishop was being accused of having closer ties with Vavilis than he was willing to admit, and there was evidence to back up that assertion by several journalists on the panel. Mr Dimitrakopoulos poo-pooed the accusations that Archbishop Christodoulos had sent Vavilis to Jerusalem with fake passports and identity papers, by saying "Yes, the Archbishop would make midnight trips to his basement where he keeps all the equipment for making fake passports and ids and he made a fake passport for this person. Come on, people, let's get serious here..."

At that point, a well-respected journalist, Spyros Karatzaferis, brought to the lawyer's attention that Vavilis had close ties with people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who in turn had close ties with Archbishop Christodoulos; the fake passports and papers Vavilis was given before his Jerusalem trip, were provided through a collaboration between Christodoulos and people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they were not fake, they may have had fake names but all the rest was authentic and perfectly proper.

The lawyer was taken aback a bit at the journalists' insistence I guess, because that's when he brought out the big guns: "I will tell you, I wasn't going to tell you yet, but I will tell you - the Archbishop told me this. You know who's behind this? A very powerful religious group - not a Christian religion - the same group who threatened the Archbishop back then about the identity cards. They are the most powerful group on earth."

Here's what the lawyer is talking about: In 2001, Archbishop Christodoulos blamed the Jews for being behind the government's decision to abide by European Union rules opposed to stating one's religion on the new state identity cards, which have a standard format for EU member countries.2 His claims were publicised in the media and expounded on by various commentators in newspapers and television channels.

So I guess this is a personal vendetta by the world's organized Jewry against the good Archbishop. I guess Jews just have it in for him. I'm sure it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism at all or
... the traditional attitude of the Greek Orthodox Church, which unlike the Roman Catholic Church, has not yet absolved the Jews for their alleged responsibility for the death of Jesus or removed such references from its liturgy. During Easter Holy Week, for example, the Jews are repeatedly called Theoktoni (God killers) and “an impious and illegitimate people."
Here's how life is for a rabbi in Greece3:
Rabbi Mordechai Frisis' calling in life: "to save the remnant of Salonika's once-vibrant Jewish community from extinction… Living in Greek society is no easy task for a religious Jew, as anti-Semitism is rampant. I walk around with a cap because there have really been some problems. There is antisemitism in Greece," the rabbi notes. More than a year ago, while visiting the community, Frisis was attacked and physically beaten at the city's train station… "Greece is a very traditional Christian society, and they blame the Jews for killing Jesus. There are still people who believe that Jews drink the blood of Christians on Pessah."
Anti-Semitic Cartoons in the Greek Press
(Eleftherotypia daily newspaper)
Someone in the background: "Do you think that the Lord may be related to Hamas? Every time he is resuscitated they kill him again". (the killers walking away are an Israeli and a US soldier)
(In Eleftherotypia, after the assassination of Sheikh Yassin)
The woman asks: “Why did the Jewish Government kill a religious leader?" The man answers, “They are practicing for Easter."

Anti-Semitism is still rampant in Greece, a country that voted against the creation of Israel - the only European country to do so. It's fed by the media, by the politicians, by various government officials. One would expect the religious leaders to set a good example, to enlighten the people instead of propagating ancient blood libels. Shame on them.


1. A thimbleful of good cognac to Jefe for contributing this link. [back to article]

2. Anti-Semitism in Greece - Embedded in Society [back to article]

3. Twenty-five months of anti-Semitic invective in Greece [back to article]
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Liliane Fernandes
This is also our featured post this week over at Winds of Change.NET.

Liliane Fernandes was the first person to save baby Reina Gilberta's life. Liliane was Reina's mother's best friend, and entrusted her to a convent. (Click on Reina Gilberta's name to read her story if you missed it last week).

The Fernandes family was one of the most prominent in pre-WWII Salonica, one of the familias excelentes. They were originally from Italy and had kept their Italian citizenship. The house they built, Casa Bianca, was one of the most beautiful in the city, large and sunny, decorated with rare works of art. Bianca and Dino Fernandes had two children, Pierre and Aline. Aline had married Spyros Aliberti, an officer in the Greek army, despite her parents' dismay about converting to Christianity in order to marry him. Pierre was married to Liliane, a beautiful girl, also from one of the oldest Jewish families in the city.

Their Italian citizenship afforded them a modicum of freedom in German-occupied Salonica. They were exempt from racial measures and they didn't have to move to the ghetto but as time passed they felt the danger growing and decided to escape to Italy while they still could. Pierre Fernandes was able to procure fake papers and passports through the Italian Consulate in Salonica and the family left.

Bianca, Dino, Pierre, Liliane and their three children rented rooms in a hotel in Meina, a small village resort on Lago Maggiore. Hotel “Meina? belonged to an Istanbul Jew by the name of Alberto Behar, who felt safe because of his Turkish citizenship. In Meina, they met with two other Jewish families from Salonica, the Torres family and the Mosseri family, and Daniel Modiano, also from Salonica but living in Milan.

Here's what happened next:
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Reina Gilberta
Albert and Eda Sciaky got married in the spring of 1939 in Beth-El, the largest synagogue in Salonica, Greece. Their daughter, Reina, was born on the 3rd of April, 1942. By that time Salonica was under German occupation and racial measures were already in effect: Jewish agencies, Jewish newspapers and Jewish shops were closed. The Jewish population was forcibly moved to ghettos, and wearing the yellow star was mandatory. Ten thousand Jewish men were rounded up for forced labour battalions where over a thousand of them died in malaria-infested swamps.

A few months after the birth of his daughter, Albert was able to escape from the city and to join the resistance in the mountains. Eda was left with the baby and no resources. She turned for help to her old classmate, Liliane Fernandes. Liliane and Eda had been friends since they were both students at Saint Joseph, the French lycée in Salonica. The Fernandes family were Jews with Italian citizenship which meant they were exempt from racial measures-for the time being. Liliane had access to transportation, money, and food and was often able to bribe the guards and enter the ghetto. Hundreds of children had died that year from hunger and malnourishment, and there were rumours of upcoming deportations to Poland.

As the German occupation measures became stricter, the Fernandes family decided to leave for Italy, while they still could. Liliane went to see Eda one last time. Realising that once she left Eda would have no one to help her, she asked her to give her the baby. She couldn't take Reina to Italy, she was going to leave her at the convent at St.Joseph's. Eda immediately said no, she would never give her child to the Catholics but Liliane convinced her it was the only way for the baby to survive.

It was Reina's first birthday. After many tears, Eda attached a note to the baby's shirt: "Her name is Reina. May God protect her." She handed the little girl to her best friend. They left, and Eda lost her whole world.
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