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When one of the 500 thousand sold out copies of the book Dare to be Free , by a New Zealand lieutenant named WB “Sandy” Thomas (1951), found a way to fall into my welcoming hands at the right moment, I didn't have to finish it to realize that I had to put everything else I had on the back burner prepared for years and the subdued period of the Greek crisis had dictated to me that the time had come for them to come to the surface.

I had set, since my adulthood, as a primary goal, along with everything else I would do, the recording and highlighting of true stories that would have the following characteristic: to surpass the imagination, by dissolving it, so as to provide true inspiration to the modern reader. I put aside his 3rd edition Fathers & Daughters , A Fatherhood Legacy (Athos Press, NY 2013), a comprehensive rendition of CS Lewis and my own Boniface, a trilogy of rich action by a real-life Jason Bourne-type hero, and a shocking journey of a friend's great-grandmother, from the uprooting of the Pontic Genocide in exile to its heroic uprooting in Greece in 1924. I decided without further ado to follow in his footsteps New Zealand hero and to confirm (or not) the exciting adventure he experienced in the Greek space-time of 1941-'42, from Crete to Athens, to Thessaloniki, to Mount Athos, to Smyrna and Syria.

For about two years, one surprise followed another as I found true all that Sandy Thomas modestly wrote a few years after the end of Nazism, and especially when I managed to locate the hero himself living at the age of 98 somewhere in Australia and to enrich, with as much clarity as he could, his narration even more with personal details that he himself had never mentioned before. For my part, honoring its history and the obvious dimensions it had, I enriched the text with all the important people and events that emerged or were confirmed by my research, and were seeing the light of day for the first time, e.g. the unknown atrocities of the Nazis in villages near Mount Athos and the association of Thomas with prominent monks of the heavenly neighbor Athos, who were severely punished for the help and escape they offered him and hundreds of other allies or Greeks, towards Asia Minor and the Egypt. Along the way, another small book appeared, the A Visit to Mount Athos , November 1944 (Athos Press, NY, 2015) in which I separately included all the rare audiovisual material discovered in the National Library of New Zealand.
Boldly for Freedom A True Story of Resistance to the Nazi Occupation W. B. Sandy Thomas Translated by George Spanos En Plo

Today, the book Boldly for Freedom (En Plo editions, 2015), according to international critics "one of the most fascinating true stories of the Second World War" ( Observer , Sunday Times ) and according to others "a story whose quality of research and rendering perhaps even exceeds its original edition" (Thessaloniki International Book Fair, May 2016), glorifies the Greek soul and the impressive action of the Saints, as it did continuously for 75 years in various languages ​​around the world, and reminds us of the quality of our ancestors in the most difficult conditions of the Occupation...

Personally, the highlight of the effort is not the honorable reviews and positive opinions of the readers, but above all that the philhellenic Sandy Thomas declared to me with inner relief that "the publication in Greek of my story may have taken seven decades, but it is for me the most ideal completion of my life and illustrious military career, which I owe to the Greeks".

As far as I am concerned, I have chosen to present, and in writing, the present in the current era of Crisis, because I consider it the result of a chronic spiritual malnutrition that pushes today's people into an intellectual disorder and an anti-heroic spirit trying to convince us that we must once again accept a fate that is trying to be imposed by ephemeral conquerors.

Having spent a few years in the rear "headquarters", from the front line of entrepreneurship and an intense activity in transport, shipping, diplomacy, culture and, inevitably, politics (in the sense mainly of an active citizen), I started to form a rich and diverse material of experiences and knowledge.

I motivate and exhort, all who can write down for things worth saving to do so, even if they leave them in time capsules for future generations. The authorship is earned over time, whether it is published or not, by elaborating mainly on oneself, without competitive complexes against other authors, without ideological undermining against oneself, and without repetitive nuggets against one's prospective readers.

Let us all do our bit to create opportunities to indulge ourselves and bring to the surface all those forgotten or undervalued gifts that exist in our Greek genome, in all those from which we are made as a nation, in all those that can to rewire the neurons of our historical memory and cure our historical dementia so that we can revive. Even if the occasions will be taken from those, ungrateful, well-wishers, like Sandy Thomas, who will accurately remind us how inappropriate it is for us to look down on other peoples with an inferiority complex!


Boldly for freedom
A true story of resistance to the Nazi occupation
WB Sandy Thomas
Translation: Giorgos Spanos

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Eric Metaxas for Bonhoeffer

Eric Metaxas for Bonhoeffer

of Hopeful Indzebelis

Eric Metaxas was born in 1963 in Astoria, New York to a Greek father and a German mother. His books have climbed to the top of the list of New York Times and have been translated into over 20 languages. Every year tens of thousands of people in America and around the world watch his speeches. He is the founder and host of 'Socrates in the City', the discussion series on 'life, God and other small matters', which has featured well-known personalities from all over the place. We spoke with him on the occasion of the presentation of his book in Athens Bonhoeffer: The theologian who opposed Hitler (Library on board, Wednesday July 12, at 19:00).

How did the idea of ​​writing the book begin?

I first heard Boenhoffer's story in 1988 and was amazed. Why hadn't I been told anything about this amazing story? A German priest involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler? It was something impressive and inspired me deeply. Honestly, though, I never intended to write his biography. Actually, I never intended to write any biography. But in 2017 I was asked to write a book, the Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery , about an English parliamentarian who stood heroically and defiantly against the slave trade and led the English people to abolish that institution in 1807. As two centuries passed since the event, a film with starring Albert Finlay was about to be released in theaters, and a publisher thought the book should be released at the same time. It was a challenge. Wilberforce made all those efforts because of his deep faith in Christ, knowing that if England wished to be called a Christian nation she would have to oppose the sin of slavery. So I wrote the book and it went very well. And then people around me asked who would be the next one I would write about. I heard about Bonhoeffer in 1988 and he seemed like the most logical candidate for my next book. He had strong similarities with Wilberforce. Also, my mother is German. She and my Greek father met in an English class in New York in 1956. My mother grew up in Germany during the Nazi regime, and I felt that Bonhoeffer was a voice of faith and courage not only for Jews, but for the Germans, as was my mother. So I decided I had to write this book.

What appealed to you about Bonhoeffer's personality?

It is very rare to find a man of such extraordinary intelligence, of such formidable courage and unyielding faith. For that reason alone, this story is so fascinating. He was a true hero and we need such heroes especially nowadays. His story cannot help but inspire anyone who happens to come into contact with it.

Although he studied theology, he had the courage to express his opinion. Was this courage one of the reasons that got him into trouble?

I would say courage was his strongest attribute. By speaking out when others were silent he gave courage to those around him. Courage is contagious, just like cowardice. We have to choose the right attitude every time, because this choice will affect our surroundings. Most Germans did not make the right choice, and as a result the whole nation and the whole world suffered.

Through your book you emphasize the resistance in Germany. Really, why do we know so little about German resistance actions?

There are many reasons. First, after the war many Germans felt betrayed by those who resisted. Having lost a terrible war, they were angry with the resistance fighters, whom they considered traitors. Only in recent decades have they recognized Bonhoeffer, Stauffenberg and other resistance fighters as heroes. But because of the deep shame of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime, little has been said about them. They seem to feel that the sins of their nation were so great that it would not be right to speak out about the brave few who resisted. But I, as an American of Greek-German parents, feel a strong urge to speak out on this matter. The world must know the truth, that even in the darkest age the light of Christ, truth and courage shone because of a few faithful souls.

Did the bourgeoisie take kindly to the rise of Hitler?

Few had their doubts, and the pressure to conform to the Nazi regime was as overwhelming as the pressure to conform to what we Americans today call "political correctness." Only the truly courageous can stand against this mighty trend and it was the same back then.

Was there any resistance action on the part of the Bonhoeffer family?

Yes of course. In fact Bonhoeffer was led into his most serious resistance action by his family, who were fully involved in the affair. His brother-in-law Hansvon Dohnanyi was a leading member of German counter-intelligence, where the focus of the resistance against Hitler was located. It was Dohnanyi who invited Bonhoeffer to join his group in late 1939, just as war broke out. Bonhoeffer's brother and two brothers-in-law were killed by the Nazis. The family sacrificed a number of their members to do what they thought was right.

How did the Church of Germany react to Hitler's policies?

Not good! The German Church had such good and comfortable relations with the German state for many years that when it suddenly fell into the hands of the Nazis it was very difficult to react. The Germans did not have the pre-history of separation between Church and State that we have here in America. So it was difficult for them to see what Bonhoeffer saw, namely that the Church is the conscience of the nation and not such a close friend of the state that it cannot tell the truth when the circumstances call for it. The faith of the Church is first about Jesus Christ and it is supposed to defend him fiercely in every circumstance, and when the state opposes the principles of Christianity it must raise its voice showing all Christians that sometimes they have to choose between Christ and in worldly power. It is a difficult thing, but if we choose Christ we represent the only hope for the organized state to correct its errors.

What was Bonhoeffer's specific resistance action?

First of all as a priest he was the religious and moral guidance for many resistance fighters before he became officially involved in the cause. Upon joining the German military's Intelligence Service (Abwehr), he immediately became a double agent. On the surface he was working for the Nazi regime, but in reality he was working for its destruction. He knew he was risking his life. He was imprisoned for helping fourteen Jews escape abroad, but what led to his execution in 1945 was his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler.

Although he was able to escape to America, Bonhoeffer stayed in Germany. How do you explain this?

He knew that the most important thing was his faith in God, not his safety. He trusted God over the fear of his life.

His views on the role of Christianity in the world have had a significant influence on theological thought. What is his contribution to theological thought?

This is a somewhat complicated question, and for its answer you will humbly permit me to suggest that the readers read my book.

You live in New York. What are your activities?

I have a two hour radio show that is also available as a podcast where I interview lots of interesting people on a variety of topics. Anyone can listen to my show at This is what absorbs me the most at the moment, but of course the most important thing for me is the time I spend with my wife, daughter and parents. My father recently turned ninety (happy birthday!) and every day with him is precious to me. He grew up in Kefalonia, where I am now. We come to Greece every year and it is a great pleasure for me to spend my time with my family over here.

I read in your bio that you are the founder and host of 'Socrates in the City'. Can you tell us a few words about this institution?

Socrates said that the unexplored life is worthless. So I thought it would be a good idea to organize some interviews with great writers and thinkers on the "big questions" of life. Who we are; Where do we come from? Where do we go when we die? How did we get here? Is there a God, and if so, what does he look like, and can we meet him face to face? There is a conflict between science and faith, can these two coexist? These are not ordinary questions, and I was of the opinion that in order to live a life worth living, in the words of Socrates, we must explore these issues. Most of these interviews are posted at My guests include amazing people from author Malcolm Gladwell to Baroness Caroline Cox and many more. I just filmed such an interview in Paris and I hope the same will happen in Athens next year. What could be more fitting than an interview about Socrates in his own homeland?

How did you feel when En plo publications translated your book into Greek?

I got excited. I come to Greece every year and God has given me a deep love for this country. My book Miracles was published in Greek last year by Psychogios publications. In it I talk about the story of my conversion to Christianity and many other things about why reasonable people should believe in God. The thought that these books are now in Greek and can be read by Greeks is a dream come true for me. From the bottom of my soul I thank God for this.

What is your message to your readers?

In difficult times the most important thing is hope. But what is it that can give it to us? The answer to this question has to do, in my opinion, with faith. Faith in God, which Bonhoeffer served, in God who gave him courage. Like I said, it's an amazing story. Even though he was killed he did not fear death because he knew that God is the Creator of life. He didn't just believe it, he knew it. God asks all of us to know this. And if we get to know it, our lives will change completely and become lives of courage and hope.

Translated from English: Apostolos Spyrakis


The theologian who opposed Hitler
Eric Metaxas
Translation: Vasiliki Patriki-Golfinou


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Fotini Kaimaki for THE WING OF THE JOURNEY

Fotini Kaimaki for THE WING OF THE JOURNEY

I prepared bread and poppy seeds for you
the voyage of Apulia and Calabria
it is long, it can be bitter.

Tour trip, pilgrimage trip, not tourism. To discover day by day the space, the people, the monuments, to leave behind time, the frenetic reality, which without knowing redemption ruthlessly demands to go towards the timeless, after all, this is also the work of a Saint.

Saturday, November 12, 1994 , the wing of the journey hits me on the shoulder and carves long roads of silence for me. “An hour after midnight we arrived at Bivongi. The village sleeps between the mountains and next to it the river, Stilaros, is awake. Some people are waiting for us with their coats half thrown on their shoulders, sleepy and they lead us to an old half-ruined house to sleep. The first difficulty hits me in the back. I understand that I have to arm myself with a good mood, patience and adaptability. My purpose is to get to know this poor, thousands-tormented but also so rich in memories place, even with sufferings. The conditions at home are more than bad. The panes in the windows and doors are broken, the cold air comes in freely, whistling in my ear and not allowing me to remove any of my clothes. I dream of my warm evening bath. But waiting for the stranger who is waiting for me gives me courage to endure the difficult night. The owl and the owl, the animals that cry, come to accompany me and slowly I feel a strange warmth". I felt this warmth in the homeless Ai-Yiannis the Reaper, when the icy wind was blowing and the birds were singing in a sideways sound "oh my sweet ear", in the uprooted houses of Rohoudi that are collapsing into the river and in the obituary of grandmother Loukias.

I was showered with light by the sparkling Ionian Sea, the Locroes and the ancient poetess Nossides, light and the wine that the poet Agostino Siviglia treated me to in the eagle's nest of Bois. The bottle said Fengari and I felt the bright moon roll on my tongue.

Monday, October 10, 2005 . In this season of autumn, Salento lives the exquisite illusions of time. It is raining today. The wind blows in a place full of memories. A pleasant harmony between the soil and the water, the stone and the olive tree, in the set of concepts lined up around me. I would like to think, the ticking of the rain won't let me. My chance encounters and calculated ones weave the pattern of each day. I read in Professor Fonseca's book about a Madonna del Carmine (Our Lady of the Song) and from that moment it has stuck in my mind like the found leaf on the glass... "...The ground of the crypt is earthy and very uneven full of open graves. Here are the bones beyond. But my eyes race here and there in the semi-darkness on the rocky walls, looking for the Virgin of the song, she cannot but exist. I can already hear her song. The rain has picked up and comes down here like a tender, soft hum of song. A skull at my feet distracts me, tries to tell me the song of final peace, how many deaths this earth has experienced. It turns something equal to memory, not to be lost. Look there to your right on the rock, he tells me, the color and shape of eternity that redeems. Yes, it is the Virgin Mary who sings. She is standing, one hand is resting on her chest, with the other she is weighing something, certainly her spine, but the humidity ate it. The face, this rose is pure, youthful, virginal, modest, sweet. What is called truth in art, if it exists, is this face. She is small, she is a little afraid, Angel is next to her, what will he say to her. She accepts the message, humbly bows her head. Now her song reaches my ears. It transcends description, transcends sunshine and rain. The world is fake but this is as real as the sound of a cherry blossom, as the breath of the wind that stays awake at night, as the fugues of words on paper.

I'm groping my way out of the crypt and the rain is drumming in a tsingo."

"...The days, the nights, the hours, the drunken mornings, the Masseria Sant Angelo and the larks pass in a glittering line. Shaggy tarantatas flutter, the olive grove squeals, the taborello calls me. Logic is thrown aside, in the Castle of Corigliano Quarema roams and the siacuddi measures the oil and the worker's heavy breathing. The charcoal burners in Kalimera sing the Marseillaise and Ernesto comforts Patroklia. In Fotera, Salvatore with the slingshot hunts the birds and Franco Corlianò, thelo na mbriakeftò na mi' pensèfso ( I want to get drunk so I don't think ) sings. You can't help but shout "CLOHEI ZIS" ("listen, Zeus"), as the inscriptions on Roca peel off from the rocks, chasing you, terrorizing you.

"When the memory is full" says Emily Dickinson "put a tight lid on it".

The wing of the journey is broken, it gathers its pieces and follows me. "The journey is like light" he tells me "when it ends you ask for it". Remember, Lord of Your winged servant…”

A journey is this book, a journey that never ends, because in reality no journey ever ends. The journey has wings and is always running behind you.


With the wing of travel
The diaries of Apulia and Calabria 1994-2015: Persons, monuments, language, popular culture
Fotini Kaimaki

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Theodoros Zervas on LEARNING TO BE GREEK

Theodoros Zervas on LEARNING TO BE GREEK

Dr. Theodoros (Ted) Zervas is an associate professor at North Park University in Chicago. He teaches History of Education, Comparative and International Education, Intercultural Education and is director of the Undergraduate Curriculum. Born in Chicago to Greek parents, immigrants from Greece, Dr. Zervas has been interested in the formation of national identity since the early stages of his scientific career, while much of his research focuses on the history of education in both Greece and the United States . He has published academic articles on schooling and national identity in Greece, the uses of the Albanian language in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the teaching of History both in Greece and in Europe.

The first communities of people worked the land side by side. What relationships developed between them?

It's a very good question. We have some knowledge of these relationships in early human communities. We know that early humans relied on each other in order to survive. At the same time, one need only look at many present-day agricultural societies to get an idea of ​​what human relations looked like millennia ago. As today, in many of these early communities, one relied on the other: they worked together and lived together in their communities.

Skills were taught from generation to generation, from parents to children. How many centuries did this go on?

It still happens today in some communities around the world. Not by choice, but as a way of life, although these are isolated areas of Asia, Africa and some communities in the Amazon, in South America. In these cases, children continue to be out of school and learn from their families and communities. Of course, many of these communities are disappearing, but anthropologists have extracted important evidence from them.

People have always taught children. Is this so-called "informal learning"?

Exactly. I think teaching children is written in human DNA. In many ways, I don't think we're all that different from other mammals. We long to teach our little ones. Informal learning means everything that children learned outside of school. These were important skills that children acquired through learning before any national school system emerged. Today, many of these skills have been lost.

Later the institution of the school appeared. In its first steps, was the school accepted by the people? What did the school do next?

Interesting question. I'm not sure most people understood the underlying motivations and nature of general and compulsory education. Initially, families, especially in rural societies, did not really understand the long-term value that education had. We know that in Greece, after the Revolution, the habit of being absent from school was widespread among the children of rural communities. Parents preferred children to stay at home and work with them in the fields or do household chores rather than going to school. But the school system in Greece, as in other parts of Europe, provided children with significant incentives to attend. First, it was free. And the more children attended, the more popular the school became in the minds of families. In western Europe, many schools provided children with free meals and clothing. Also, the children themselves liked the school and preferred going there to working in the fields. From the late 19th and early 20th centuries, child labor laws were passed in most Western nations, prohibiting children from working in factories and requiring them to attend school. General education was now seen as a way of developing the national economy of a country and as a unifying process of the nation around a common national identity, through the strengthening of the cultural bonds that existed in the nation.

Your book refers to the decades of Greece from 1880 to 1930. What was the political and economic situation in our country?

At the time, Greece was still a relatively new nation-state. The political and economic situation could at best be described as tense. Greece was looking to expand its borders. And there were several wars in this direction, during this period. The best known are certainly the two Balkan wars, the First World War and the Greek-Turkish war, which led to the Asia Minor Disaster and the exchange of populations. As we know, wars are not a cheap affair – and they have been particularly burdensome for Greece. The Asia Minor Catastrophe brought over a million Greeks to Greece from Turkey – many of the new refugees, unfortunately, died. These young Greeks and Orthodox Christians, therefore, had to be integrated into the Greek people. This was a daunting financial commitment for the Greek state and the Greek people, which must be acknowledged.

What steps did politicians take to address this required integration?

We must remember that there was some hostility from the native Greeks towards the refugees, especially towards those from Asia Minor. They called them "turkey seeds". I also assume that there are some analogies with what is happening today with the refugee crisis in Greece. As today, the Greek government and the Greek people generally welcomed Greek refugees and Greeks from the diaspora, but imagine what planning was required, logistically and technically, in order to integrate all of them into the normal life of the country. In the case of the Greeks from the Greek diaspora, many already spoke Greek, many were already familiar with Greece. But new homes and new schools had to be built for all these children. For a time, clothing and food for these children had to be found, and more teachers trained to teach these new students. In the end, I guess it all worked out for the best.

How did they learn to be conscious of being Greek in the 1830s to 1930s?

This is a central question of my research. The national school in Greece has been a guiding force in shaping what it conceptually means to be Greek. After the Greek Revolution, education in Greece played the primary role in shaping and cultivating a Greek national identity. This continues in a way to this day in the Greek school. From 1830 to 1930, the school taught students that there was some personal connection to the ancient Greeks. Today, the Greeks themselves tend to show great interest in their ancient roots and ethnic purity. For many Greeks, the more ancient you claim to be, the more genuine or Greek you are considered. Culture, however, plays a greater role in determining cultural and ethnic purity. Does this mean that modern Greeks have no cultural connection with the ancient Greeks? No, by no means. In many ways, modern Greeks have a very strong connection with their ancestors. We could say that they have much more in common than, say, the Italians with their Roman ancestors, or the modern Egyptians with the ancient Egyptians, the modern Iranians with the ancient Persians. The teaching of Greek History in schools was important for acquiring this sense of Greekness. In the writing of the Greek History textbooks of the 19th century, the guideline of Constantinos Paparrigopoulos regarding the uninterrupted continuity of Greek History was adopted. According to her, the Greek nation is one, which, starting from antiquity, continued unchanged through the Hellenistic and Byzantine centuries, and reached the modern era. Each era was historically connected to the next: ancient Greece led to Hellenistic Greece; Hellenistic Greece led to Byzantine Greece, and Byzantine Greece led to modern Greece; the Greek nation passed through the ages with relatively few cultural changes. The issue of geography was also important. In many of the 19th century schools, maps of ancient and modern Greece were placed side by side; this placement made the current Greek territories seem small compared to their larger historical counterparts. That is, the modern Greek territories were deliberately presented as much more limited than the ancient Greek ones. This suggests that for much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the purpose of teaching geography in schools was to demonstrate to Greek students how limited areas their ancient ancestors themselves now inhabit, and how much land is left behind by the Greek state.
As you can see, I can go on and on about this issue. But I suggest readers better read my book. They will find the answers there.

Why was Karagiozis the most beloved sight in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?

Now that you ask, a funny thing comes to mind. Last summer I was in Greece with my wife and our son, who is four years old, and while visiting Skopelos, we had the opportunity to watch a Karagiozi performance. The audience seats were packed with children and there was no room to move! If Karagiozis shows are still popular with children today, despite any other forms of entertainment competing with them, I can't imagine how popular they must have been in late 19th and early 20th century Greece. It was perhaps one of the greatest sources of entertainment for children in Greece at that time. But more than that, it was a popular spectacle because it spoke the language that children were interested in hearing.

Children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not travel beyond their local area. How familiar were they with the differences between their nation and other nations?

Indeed, this was done through textbooks and other printed media, as well as what children heard from those who traveled outside their communities.

What were the readings of the children of that time?

A bunch of different kinds of books and magazines. One of the earliest stories for children in Greece was François Fénelon's Telemachus, Son of Odysseus, translated from the French (Adventures de Télémaque) in 1669. In the secret school, before the Revolution, children read mainly religious texts and stories from the bible. Popular magazines for children after the Revolution were the Children's Warehouse and Children's Appearance. A legendary humorous children's story of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Greece was The Terror of Georgios Vizyinos (1849-1896), first published in 1884. Gerostathis was another similarly popular story, as was The High Mountains (1918) of the poet and prose writer Zacharias Papantoniou (1877-1940). These are just some examples of what children were reading at the time, or what adults were reading to children.

Which politicians had vision and wanted to make cuts to change education for the better?

I think in general everyone made an effort. Venizelos and Trikoupis wanted a strong education system early on that would help Greece westernize and develop its national economy. Even today in Greece, education is important, as politicians often make reform plans for education, but also a significant part of the national budget goes to it.

What has changed in education in Greece since then?

Enough. Various researchers have already written about this issue. I don't think I can thoroughly answer this question within the context of this short interview. What I can say is that the Greek people valued education more than other nations. I think that for many Greeks being educated is a sign of success. Many families in Greece are willing even today to make great sacrifices in order to ensure that their children receive a good education. In this regard, I would recommend reading the works of Efi Abdelas, Katerina Dalakouras and Andreas Kazamias – they shed a lot of light on this particular issue.

You are a professor at North Park University. What is the subject you teach? Does the university have Greek students?

I teach History of Education, Comparative and International Education, Intercultural Education and some other courses. I am also director of the Undergraduate Teaching Program. Most of my Greek students are Greek Americans. Occasionally, I also have some students from Greece, but I wish I had more – students from Greece always provide a unique perspective.

What would you like to say to the readers who read your interview?

I believe that your readers will enjoy my book. It concerns the lives of most modern Greeks. And it also explains, from a historical perspective, how the Greek people learned to be Greeks.

Learning to be Greek
Formal and informal education during the development of Greek patriotism (1880-1930)
Theodoros G. Zervas

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of Hopeful Indzebelis

How did the idea of ​​writing the book "The Island of the Righteous " (En Plo Publications) begin?

In 1995, my wife organized an art exhibition at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. She is from Hungary and her exhibition on Victims and Victims featured works of art by Hungarian Europeans that had been discovered years after the war had ended. While visiting Yad Vashem before the opening of the exhibition, I saw a monument from Greece with the inscription "To the righteous among the nations". It was shocking to me to read the names of these heroic people, who showed such courage and compassion towards persecuted friends and neighbors. At that moment I formed the idea in my mind that I needed to learn more about the Holocaust of the Jews of Greece and when I read about Metropolitan Chrysostomos, Mayor Loukas Karrer and the only Jewish community in Greece that was saved in its entirety from extermination, I decided to write this book about Zakynthos.

What exactly happened in Zakynthos during World War II?

The island was occupied first by the Italians, who showed their cruel face, and then by the Germans, who behaved horribly. Residents were executed for trivial offences, such as breaking curfew or allegedly insulting a German officer. And as if the German brutality wasn't enough, hunger struck the island as well as the whole country. In Athens about 500 people died every day. The occupying Prime Minister Konstantinos Logothetopoulos did little to help the Greeks, Christians and Jews. In Greece, racism and anti-Semitism had little impact, which explains the inability of the Greeks to accept the inhumane behavior of the Germans. As George Ioannou wrote: "The Germans suddenly introduced into what can be described today as the idyllic atmosphere of a Balkan civilization the abysmal passions and idiocies of Gothic Europe." Metropolitan Chrysostomos was loved by all. He had studied in Munich, where he obtained degrees in philosophy, law and theology, spoke four languages ​​and believed that God had gifted him with free thinking and a purpose in life, the protection of the weakest, the Greek Jews, in that dark period.

How many Jews lived on the island?

During the war, 275 Greek Jews lived in Zakynthos. The Christians and the Jews of the island spoke the same language, had the same values, lived and worked together for centuries. The Jews of Greece served in the Greek army and later participated in the National Resistance during the Italian and German Occupation. A Jewish survivor, Malvina Messina, recalled in her testimony: “They were really good people. They knew we were Jews, but they helped us and never betrayed us. They let us live with them and gave us food and clothes. They loved us very much and we felt the same about them."

Why did the Germans ask for lists of the names of Greek Jews?

The Germans wanted lists of the names of the Jews to be loaded onto ships bound for Piraeus and from there by train to Auschwitz. The whole process was part of Hitler's planning for the "final solution", the extermination of the Jews.

What actions did the mayor Lukas Karrer and the metropolitan Chrysostomos take to save the Jews?

They provided all Greek Jews with false identity cards and baptismal certificates. They fearlessly negotiated with the Germans to rescue Jews and cooperated with resistance groups to resettle them in remote mountain villages, where they hid in Christian homes. They risked their lives to save their countrymen.

Is it true that the mayor and the metropolitan handed over a list with only two names, theirs? None of them were afraid of the Germans?

Yes, the list only contained their names. As reported in the memoirs of the metropolitan's son-in-law, Dionysios Stravolaimos, Chrysostomos said to the German commander: "According to your orders, you can arrest me and not them, and if that does not satisfy you, I can prove to you how close I am to the innocents Jewish families. I will follow them on their dramatic course and enter the gas chambers and crematoria with them." About 600 priests were imprisoned, exiled or killed because of their solidarity with the Jews of Greece. The metropolitan knew the consequences, but remained faithful to his decision.

There are testimonials that are praiseworthy from the inhabitants of Zakynthos. How did this solidarity with the Jews develop?

Over the centuries, the Jews were culturally assimilated into Greek society. In addition, the Orthodox ethos placed special emphasis on the importance of human relationships, good deeds and love towards all people. The metropolitan begged his flock: " be seen as good Christians, save a Jew". Most of the inhabitants of the remote villages of the island had never met an Israelite, but they felt it a Christian duty to rescue these people.

I was moved by one resident's response: “You have to stay. After all, my son, why should our lives be more precious than yours?'

The only Jewish community that was saved in its entirety was that of Zakynthos. When I read about the courage and humanity of these Greeks, I felt proud of my Greek ancestry. Everyone knew where the Jews were hiding, yet no one said a word – another "miracle" of Zakynthos. The inhabitants of this island have given us an example of truth and justice, which has the same value today as it did seventy years ago. Bishops, priests, nuns, many (not all) public officials and citizens of Greece risked their lives protecting the lives of their families, friends, neighbors, regardless of their religious beliefs. Archbishop Damascene was not afraid and spoke openly against the Germans, using the saying of the Apostle Paul: "...there is no longer a Jew or a Greek".

Was there any similar rescue of the Jews in other parts of Greece?

Unfortunately, no. In areas like Thessaloniki or Ioannina, the rabbis convinced people to stay in their homes wearing the yellow star, to obey the Germans to be safe. The majority of Jews from these cities were killed. Whether these rabbis were complicit or simply naive is something for History to judge.

Your book is well written and, most importantly, emotionally charged. Should a nation remember its history?

Yes, as Edmund Burke wrote: "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it." On January 22, 2014, the Greek Minister of Education and Religious Affairs issued a memorandum underlining "...the need to contribute to the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism and racism by supporting the training of teachers on issues related to the Holocaust, as well as the organization of activities to raise the population's awareness of related issues". Accordingly, the curriculum of schools in the USA includes materials related to the Holocaust, the history of human rights as well as lessons related to citizenship, tolerance, compassion for fellow human beings regardless of race, origin or religion.

What particularly impressed you during the process of finding the sources and leading up to the publication of your book?

Two things: The manifestation of evil with all that accompanies it (hate, ignorance, intolerance, violence, crime). And on the other hand, the kindness of the human spirit that fights against the domination of evil.

What would you say today to the modern Zakynthians?

Don't forget and be proud of your heritage!

Translated from English: Apostolos Spyrakis


The island of the righteous
The chronicle of the rescue of the Jews of Zakynthos from the Nazi atrocities
Deno Seder
translation: Polixeni Tsaliki-Kiosoglou

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