THE GREEK JEWS AND THE HOLOCAUST - Part 2
The Gospels teach that the Jews are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. Although I always loved the teachings of Jesus, for the sake of a philosophical discussion, I decided to admit that I am a direct descendent of his murderers! The next thought that came to my mind was the realization that no legal court anywhere and at any time would condemn to death and execute the children and grandchildren of a murderer.
Yet, the Christian Church for almost 2000 years, not through its words, but through its actions, did not practice the beautiful and sublime teachings of Jesus – about love, compassion, and forgiveness. Instead, the Church persecuted and killed directly and indirectly countless Jews for a murder that they did not commit. I think that this great injustice can become obvious if we imagine that the millions of admirers of Socrates, persecuted and killed for 2000 years the Athenians or Greeks wherever they found them to vindicate his murder.
In 1965 a just and honest man, Pope John XXIII came a little too late to the defense of the Jews. He declared, “Not all the Jews at the time of Jesus were responsible for his crucifixion and certainly the Jews of today are not responsible for his crucifixion.” But this is considered as his personal interpretation of the Gospel.
In 2000 Pope Paul II said, “We cannot possibly not recognize the betrayal of the Gospels which brothers of ours committed especially in the second millennium.” But his declaration will not bring back to life even one of my relatives who were sent to the gas chambers.
For many centuries the church taught hate toward the Jews. In 1543 the greatest German theologian Martin Luther gave this advice: “Set fire to their synagogues, confiscate their assets, give them tools and let them earn their bread with the sweat of their brow. And if any Christian shows pity for a Jew, he will burn in Hell!” I told this to two brothers-German Jews who survived three years of German concentration camps. They both exclaimed – “This is exactly what they did to us!”
This kind of teaching paved the road to the Holocaust. Hitler took advantage of this pre-existing anti-Semitism. Early in his career Hitler wrote, "Anti-Semitism is a useful expedient. It is the most powerful weapon in my propaganda and of deadly efficiency."
During the Second World War the churches of Europe remained silent and silent also remained all the churches of the United States of America. Pope Pius XII not only remained silent, but in a new book, “The Battle for Rome,” he is presented as a “moral coward with deep Fascist tendencies. In spite of his white robes he had a black soul. This man will soon become a saint by the Catholic Church! In the book “Hitler’s Pope,” by John Cornwell, Pope Pius XII gave his message of indifference not only by his silence, but also especially by his “Reich Concordat,” a treaty with Hitler, which insured that the Nazis would rise unopposed to power. This treaty, by Hitler’s own admission, sealed the fate of the Jews in Europe.
In the great list of important personalities of the Western World for whom I don’t have any respect, there are two worthy exceptions: Archbishop Damaskinos of Greece and the Archbishop of Bulgaria.
In 1941 the Germans conquered Greece and they divided it into three zones of occupation: German, Bulgarian, and Italian. The Italians refused to cooperate with the Germans in their persecution of the Jews and they actually helped the Greek Jews. However, the final losses were 87%.
This outcome is totally unjustifiable. Conditions in Greece were unique and unusually favorable for Jewish survival. Until February 1943, when most of the Jews of Europe were already dead, any Jew could freely and legally leave the German and Bulgarian zones and go to the Italian zone, where the Italians welcomed the Jews. Some 3000 Salonica Jews did exactly that. In September 1943, after Italy had capitulated, the Jews could have moved to the free partisan-controlled areas in the mountains where there were thousands of villages and no roads that could facilitate the movement of the German Army.
The Jews could have taken with them the tons of gold and other supplies that the Germans would later loot from them and then they would have had the means to survive. All of this, of course, would have taken place if the Jews of Greece knew that the Germans planned to kill them. The Greek Jews had no idea of the German plans, while the British and American leaders who knew everything, preferred to safeguard the German secret of the “final solution” and not warn the Jews, although they had the means to do so. There were British military missions in the mountains assisting the resistance. There were secret British and American agents operating in the German-occupied cities. There were even leaflets thrown by Allied planes with political messages.
Rudolph Vrba, who escaped from Auschwitz, expressed his fury by saying, “Could anyone send me alive to Auschwitz, if I knew what was going on there?” This would also be true for the Greek Jews.
In February 1943 the Greek resistance organization of EAM proposed that “they should disperse, separately, or by families in areas where they would be safe and they should entrust their children to trustworthy families outside of Salonica.” This humanitarian proposal was rejected by the uninformed or naive Jewish leaders of Salonica. And yet, whoever did not want to see again any German could do it.
For example, when we heard in Agrinion that the Jews of Athens had gone into hiding, all the 40 Jews of Agrinion went to the mountains. My family left with a taxi! In Patras, the half-Jewish interpreter of the Germans Wolfson warned the president of the Jewish Community, Isaac Matsas, that the Germans were about to ask him for a list of the Jews of Patras. This alone and not mortal danger was enough to impel many Jews of the city of Patras to go to the mountains. Only the poor people remained in the city. They could not afford to leave their jobs. The losses in Patras were 33%. In contrast, the losses in loannina were 91%. In Patras there was a good leader and a trustworthy source of information. In loannina, there was a weak leader and a questionable source of information.
This is what happened in Ioannina. Dr. Moissis Coffinas was imprisoned as a hostage in the Zosimea School. A German guard told him that the Jews were going to be deported. On that day he did not eat his bread. He wrote a note with the news, asking Mr. Kabelli to send all the young people to the free mountains. He put the little paper inside the bread. His daughter, who lives now in Sweden, went, as usual, to bring him new food and take the dirty dishes. She became suspicious when she saw that the bread was not eaten. She found the note, gave it to Mr. Kabelli, who persuaded everyone to remain in the city. They were all arrested by the Germans
Two first cousins of my father, Moissis and Yeshua, were outside of the city on a business trip for their wine and cheese shop. They surrendered to the Germans, so they would be with their families in “exile.” They were killed by the Germans.
Ioannina was the city where I was born and this is how I lost almost all of my relatives. That is why I am so furious against those whom I consider responsible for this tragedy. If the Allies had sounded the “alarm,” almost all the Jews could have saved themselves, without any further help from the British or Americans. This was Greece on March 25, 1944. The war was almost over. It was easy for a Jew to save himself in Greece, Even an old man, Aaron Romano, who pretended initially to be deaf and dumb because he spoke in French and did not know Greek, managed to survive. Romano, an owner of merchant vessels, was able to find us during a German raid in a cave in the mountains of Trichonidos.