‘There Is Neither Greek Nor Jew’: Special Event Honors Greek ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ Who Saved Jews of Zakynthos During Holocaust
January 26, 2022
Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Combat Antisemitism Movement — along with B’nai B’rith International, the National Hellenic Society, the Hellenic American Women’s Council, and the European March of the Living — co-hosted on Tuesday a special virtual event, “There Is Neither Greek Nor Jew”: The Heroic Duo Who Saved an Entire Island From the Holocaust, honoring two late Greek “Righteous Among the Nations,” Zakynthos Mayor Loukas Karrer and Metropolitan Dimitrios Chrysostomos.
A distinguished lineup of speakers reflected on the story of the courageous — and ultimately successful — efforts of Karrer and Chrysostomos to protect the Jewish residents of the Greek island of Zakynthos after the Nazis arrived in September 1943, and applied its lessons to the contemporary fight against resurgent antisemitism worldwide.
“This is a unique case in which both a clergyman and a mayor put their own lives at risk to save the Jewish population,” said Dr. Joel Zisenwine, Head of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations Department.
Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to the United States Alexandra Papadopoulou said, “When it comes to antisemitism, we do not have the luxury of standing silently by. Individual acts do make a difference.”
Mimica Tsezana Hyman — Board Member for the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece — remarked, “My father and his family were among the 275 Jews saved by Metropolitan Chrysostomos and Mayor Karrer. You save one life, you save the world. The people of Zakynthos saved the world, and our hearts.”
Professor John Chrysoulakis — Greece’s Secretary-General for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy — said, “Today, we honor Loukas Karrer and Dimitrios Chrysostomos. In them, we honor all the Christian Greek ‘Righteous.’ Let their actions be a shining beacon of moral values.”
Ambassador Chris J. Lazaris — Chair of the Greek International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Presidency — commented, “The mayor and the metropolitan are not the only heroes to celebrate for this courageous action. Until the departure of the German troops, no one betrayed the Jews in hiding. Those people protecting the Jews risked their lives to save others. Without them, Zakynthos would not be known as the ‘Island of the Just,’ as they call it in Israel.”
U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) said, “I’ve worked to nourish the special bond between the U.S., Greece, Israel and Cyprus. Our darkest moments have come at times when those who knew better stood silently. America must remain a beacon of principled courage, promoting basic human rights around the globe.”
Deputy Head of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Athens Zach Saar said, “The story of Loukas Karrer and Metropolitan Chrysostomos and those of all the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ are part of our common history — Jews and Christians, Israelis and Greeks — tying us together in a deep bond of friendship and solidarity…[and] commemorating the heroism of the ‘Righteous’ is even more relevant today, as antisemitism is experiencing a resurgence around the world, particularly in Europe.”
Other speakers included: Drake Behrakis, Chair, National Hellenic Society; Daniel Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai Brith International; Dr. Leon Saltiel, Historian and Member of the Greek IHRA Delegation; Spinos Nikitas, Deputy Mayor of Zakynthos; Benjamin Albalas, Chairman of the European March of the Living; Dr. Ekaterini Malliou, Vice President of Hellenic American Women’s Council; Robert Singer, Chairman of the Center for Jewish Impact; Moses Elisaf, Mayor of Ioannina; Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, Museum Director of Kehila Kedosha Janina; and Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists 4 Israel.
A full recording of the event can be viewed here:
Co-sponsors of Tuesday’s event included: the American Sephardic Federation, Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America, Center for Jewish Impact, Artists 4 Israel, National Museum of American Jewish History, World Jewish Congress: North America, JCRC of Greater Washington, Interorthodox Centre of the Church of Greece, Muslims Against Antisemitism, March of the Living: Australia, American Hellenic Institute, Interfaith Paths to Peace, Adopt-A-Safta, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and Athens Centre.