On September 9 1943, the head of the Nazi German occupation forces of the Greek island of Zakynthos, following orders from Berlin as part of Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution, summoned the mayor, Loukas Karrer, to his office.
He demanded a list of all Jews on the island in order for their ultimate round up and deportation. He asked him to return with the list in 24 hours.
The mayor left the meeting and immediately consulted with Metropolitan Chrysostomos, the island’s Greek Orthodox leader and together, they devised a plan that would ultimately go down in history as one of the most positive moments of one of mankind’s most darkest periods.
Within 24 hours a plan was devised and implemented that would hide every single member of the island’s Jewish community— all 275 people— in homes and villages throughout the island.
According to local legend and stories from survivors, not a single resident objected and everyone worked secretly to ensure the safety of their Jewish compatriots, whose families had lived on the island for more than 500 years.
Chrysostomos and Karrer showed up at Nazi headquarters the next day to present the list. Chrysostomos explained that the Jews of his island were Greeks just like all the other Greeks, and asked why they were being singled out. On his part, the mayor took responsibility for the Jews, explaining that they made no distinction between groups of people based on their religion and that all of the island’s residents were treated equally.
The Nazi persisted that the list be handed over.
The Mayor and the Metropolitan then handed him a piece of paper containing only two names: their own.
In the meantime, every single one of the island’s Jews— elderly, women, men, children— everyone was saved and lived amongst the other residents of the island until the Nazis surrendered a year later.
The story is unique in all of Nazi occupied Europe. No where else on the European continent did a Jewish community survive The Holocaust, completely intact, without losing a single soul.
Both the Mayor and Metropolitan of Zakynthos were honored by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel for their actions.