Thirty years or so ago, my father told me a story… It was a story about a courageous “priest” and mayor on a faraway Greek island who stood up to Hitler and saved the entire Jewish population of the island. This was one of many “war stories” I heard growing up.
My dad was 13 when the Nazis invaded his native Crete in 1941– the epic Battle of Crete that would go on to change the course of the entire war and all of world history. As a result, war stories were common dinner table talk. He reminded my brother and I how easy we had it in America and how his days would often include sneaking by german checkpoints with secret messages scribbled on pages of school textbooks that he was instructed to pass to members of the resistance.
He grew up in Hania– specifically, in the quarter of the old town known as “Ovreaki” or Hebrew-town in the Cretan dialect. My dad’s family were Christians, but for some unknown to me reason, his family home was in the Jewish neighborhood. The Cretan Jews were one of Europe’s oldest communities– living on the island since before Alexander the Great’s time three hundred years before St. Paul the Apostle came to preach Christianity to the local population.
Back to the courageous priest and mayor.
Years later, after researching and learning the real history– and not the folk tales as learned by my father, passed from one person to the next, I learned that the so-called “priest” was actually the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Zakynthos named Chrysostomos and the mayor was a man named Lucas Carrer.
It was September 1943 and the Nazis arrived on the island– then part of Italian control and free from the brutality thus far of what the remainder of Greece had experienced. Shortly after the Nazi take-over, the SS arrived to round up the island’s Jews– just as they had done elsewhere in Greece, including from the neighboring islands of Corfu and Kefalonia.
The story that unfolds is one of epic proportions which I will not go into here– but the end result: The ancient Jewish community of Zakynthos survived intact, without a single loss– a unique occurrence in all of Europe. Two hundred and seventy five Jews were alive on the island when the Nazis arrived to take them and two hundred and seventy five were there when the last Nazi retreated at the end of the war.
Today, we have embarked on an ambitious project to make a short film about this story, to share with the world the amazing act of humanity that took place on that island seventy years ago. Today, this story is more important and more relevant, then ever before since that time.
Greece is suffering from the disease of Neo-Nazism with the rise of a disgusting political movement with its roots in the very hatred that led to the rise of Adolph Hitler in the 1930s. This disease is called Golden Dawn and their cowardly acts against people they deem “unworthy” in Greece: immigrants, Jews, homosexuals and other “undesirables” have made international headlines.
Golden Dawn is NOT my Greece. Golden Dawn is not Greece, period. This story of humanity winning over hatred is my Greece.
Help us make this short film about a time when two men and 35,000 citizens of an island (without a single traitor) stood on the side of humanity and offered to sacrifice themselves, their families and their communities– for a tiny group of 275 fellow citizens… Simply because, “it was the right thing to do.”
Please consider joining our movement– we are using crowd-funding to get a community of people behind our effort with small donations. $25, $50, $100… anything and everything helps.