Bishop Chrysostomos, the spiritual leader of the Greek island of Zakynthos, stuck his neck out to save all 275 of the island’s Jews during the Nazi occupation of Greece.
On September 9, 1943, Germany occupied the Italian territories, including Greece. Immediately, the German commander ordered all Greek Jews to be assembled for deportation to Poland. The mayor of Zakynthos, Lucas Carrer, was ordered to prepare a list of Jews on the island.
Mayor Carrer made the list but before handing it over to the Nazis he went to the local church leader, Bishop Chrysostomos, for counsel.
The bishop told the mayor to burn the list. He then went to the German commander and begged him not to deport the Jews. They were law-abiding citizens with the same rights as all other Greeks. The officer was unmoved and insisted on receiving the list of all Jews on the island.
Bishop Chrysostomos took out a slip of paper, wrote his own name on it, and handed it to the German officer. “Here is the list of Jews you required,” he said.
This action confused the Nazi, and gained the bishop and mayor the time they needed.
Together, they warned all the Jews of Zakynthos that their lives were in danger. They urged their Jewish brethren to hide in the mountains, and promised that Greek islanders would provide them with food and shelter.
The people of Zakynthos, led by their brave bishop and mayor, kept their hidden Jews alive until the island was liberated by the Soviet army in late 1944.
In 1978 Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Carrer were honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
For their great leadership and courage in saving the lives of 275 Jews, we honor Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Carrer of Zakynthos, Greece as this week’s Thursday Heroes atAccidental Talmudist.
With thanks to Jason VanBorssum
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