Monday, 16 May 2022 - 15 of Iyyar, 5782

A clergyman and mayor put their own lives at risk to save the Jewish population on a Greek island during WWII,

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While more than 80% of Greek Jews were killed during the Holocaust, the entire Jewish community of Zakynthos was saved. Loukas Karrer and Dimitrios Chrysostomos were honored with the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1977 for saving their island’s Jewish community.

The heroism of two Greek “Righteous Among the Nations” was celebrated at an online event watched by over 20,000 people from around the world, and hosted by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) along with B’nai B’rith International, the National Hellenic Society, the Hellenic American Women’s Council, and the European March of the Living.

On the island of Zakynthos off the coast of mainland Greece, 275 Jews lived prior to the outbreak of WWII. Nazi forces arrived in Zakynthos in 1943 and demanded a complete list of the island’s Jews from Mayor Loukas Karrer. Unsure of how to proceed, Karrer turned to the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church on the island, Metropolitan Dimitrios Chrysostomos, for assistance. Metropolitan Chrysostomos assured Karrer that he would negotiate with the Nazis and ensure the protection of the Jewish community.

Hesitating for months, by 1944, the Nazis confronted Mayor Karrer at gunpoint to forfeit the names and locations of Zakynthos’ Jews. At this, Metropolitan Chrysostomos handed the island’s Nazi leadership a list of the island’s Jews with two names on it: Loukas Karrer and Dimitrios Chrysostomos. The two leaders then mobilized the island’s citizens to hide all of the town’s Jewish people in rural villages, allowing them to escape deportation.

While more than 80% of Greek Jews were killed during the Holocaust, the entire Jewish community of Zakynthos was saved. Loukas Karrer and Dimitrios Chrysostomos were honored with the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1977 for saving their island’s Jewish community.

“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  Joel Zisenwine, Head of Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations Department at the event, titled “There Is Neither Greek Nor Jew”: The Heroic Duo Who Saved an Entire Island From the Holocaust.”

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