When World War II broke out, there were about 275 Jews living on the Greek island of Zakinthos. Until 1943, the island was under Italian control and the Jews remained unharmed. After Mussolini’s fall, German forces occupied the Italian territories and on September 9, 1943 Nazis arrived on the island.
Their Commander ordered all Jews to be assembled so that they could be deported to camps in Poland.
To prepare for the deportation, the German officer summoned the Greek mayor, Loukas Carrer, and ordered him to prepare a list of all the Jews on the island. The Mayor went to Bishop Chrysostomos for assistance. The Bishop told the Mayor to burn the list of Jewish names.
They then approached the Commander together and implored him not to deport the Jews. The Jews were Greek citizens, said the Bishop. They had done no harm to their neighbors and did not deserve to be punished. When the Nazi would not listen and insisted on receiving the list of all local Jews, he was handed a list containing two names: Mayor Carrer and Bishop Chrysostomos.
“Here is the list of Jews you required,” they said.
Confused by this action, the Commander consulted with Berlin. Meanwhile, the Bishop and the Mayor told the Jews to leave their homes and go into hiding in the mountains. The Bishop promised that the Greek islanders would provide them with food and shelter.
In August-September 1944 three German boats came to deport the Jews, but they were nowhere to be found. The Jewish community of Zakinthos survived.
In 1978 Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Carrer were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
With thanks to Jason VanBorssum.
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