The Wisdom of our Ancestors


It boggles my mind how, as a people, as a civilization, we are taking so many steps backward instead of steps forward.

More people appear hungry than ever before despite so much knowledge and insight about agriculture, farming. Even a growing global network and a smaller world could result in programs where waste or surplus in one place can be efficiently transferred to a place of poverty. This is the case in our own country.

This is the case in my own city, where I see people eating out of garbage cans regularly.

But my post today isn’t about hunger. It’s about tolerance.

I read recently that anti-semitism was reportedly up by 30 percent in 2012 over the previous year, according to a study.

After so many examples from history– specifically, six million souls who perished as a result of a single man’s hatred. I’m dumbfounded how something like this can actually happen in our society.

I’m reminded of a simple photo I took while visiting Zakynthos last week doing research for a film.

Outside the Church of St. Dionysios the Wonderworker, there is a bust of Metropolitan Chrysostomos, the Greek Orthodox Christian archbishop during World War II who was instrumental in helping save the island’s Jews.

The bust was placed there by the Greek Jewish Community, now residing mostly in Israel. Ironically, the bust stands in front of the island’s most important church– simply called “O Agios” by the locals, or “the Saint”, whose windows were funded and installed by the descendants of the Zakynthos Jews who were saved during WWII.

One doesn’t need look too far, but in the simple lives of our ancestors, for love and tolerance for fellow man and a time and place when the same differences we share today– religion, culture, language– actually brought us closer– at least on the Greek Isle of Zakynthos.



  1. Greg,

    You seem to be very focused on the situation of the Jews in Greece during WWII. Perhaps you should spend more energy on the plight of Greek citizens (non-jews) during WWII who were obliterated, at least 10% of the population starved to death or died during the Katohi. Afterwards, an even more dismal fate occurred, the Greek Civil War, where countless others perished and which set into motion the turbulence we see in Greece today and the factionalism. I believe your narrow focus on the Jews is confusing. What is your motivation? Are you a Greek Jew? I don’t mean this in a negative way but very confused by your constant posting.

    To be perfectly honest with you, the history of Greek-Jewish relations has never been good. One of Greece’s biggest enemies in the world is the Jewish state. The Jewish state has supported Turkey since its inception against Greece and has always done everything to undermine the interests of Greece geopoliticaly. Are you aware of this, or don’t you care? Do you recall the comments that Henry Kissinger made about Greeks, which are well known and believed to be the attitude of world Jewry to the Greek state. If not let me remind you:

    “The Greek people are anarchic and difficult to tame. For this reason we must strike deep into their cultural roots: Perhaps then we can force them to conform. I mean, of course, to strike at their language, their religion, their cultural and historical reserves, so that we can neutralize their ability to develop, to distinguish themselves, or to prevail; thereby removing them as an obstacle to our strategically vital plans in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

    (As reported in the popular Greek magazine, Oikonomikos Tachydromos on 14 Aug. l997, Henry Kissinger, while addressing a group of Washington, D.C. businessmen in Sept.1974)”

    This sums up the attitude of world Jewry, including many American Jews concerning the plight of Greece and the Greek people.

    I am very much against anti-Semitism and horrified by what happened in the Shoah. But since you profess to be a champion of Greek America, you should look out for the interests of the Greek community in the broader global arena. If that is so then you will find that the track record of Greece and Israeli (jewish) politics are mutually incompatible and Israel and the global Jewry have never been a friend of the Greek state. I say this as I feel you are living in the past, not living in the present and that is very dangerous. Worse, you may be some sort of sycophant to the Jewish-American community for your own personal goals. I feel you offend the intelligence of all Greek-Americans and mainland Greeks by continuing on this discourse of bringing the plight of WWII Greek Jewry to the forefront constantly. Their situation was sad, there is no disputing that, but by comparison what happened to ethnic Greeks and the track record of Greek-Jewish relations since WWII should be a greater concern to you if you claim to be a champion of Greece.

    • Hi there– I have just spent a week in Athens and Zakynthos researching a Greek Jewish film project. My blog posts are an indication, chronologically, of where I am and what I am doing these days– not some conspiratorial agenda as you suggest. BTW, the Kissinger comment is a fake. He never said it. It was a concoction of some hypernationalist journalists. Do some research and see for yourself. As for writing about the plight of Greece and Greeks, I have dedicated my life to this and have often written about these things… And will continue to do so. Follow along and you shall see. Thx for the comment. GP

  2. I have done my research and the comment was made. This is also the generally accepted view of the Greek government. Kissinger was vehemently anti-Hellenic, that is an established fact. It was Kissinger who gave the Turks the green light to invade Cyprus, without which Turkey would have never invaded the island. You should stop drinking the koolaid of the Jewish lobby and do your own fact-checking.

    I don’t really care what you spend your time on. I was just commenting that you seem to focus on a slice of Greek history that is a footnote for Greeks. The treatment of Greek Jews was horrible, but it was not perpetrated by the Greeks. Greece was under occupation by the Italians, Germans and Bulgarians. What happened to the Jews was beyond the control of the Greeks. But by bringing this issue to the forefront, whatever your motives may be, it conjures a lot of images in the minds of people of Greek complicity in this matter. That never happened.

    I think people like you live in the past. I prefer to live in the present and support Greece against those who wish she were destroyed. You don’t seem to understand who the natural allies and enemies of Greece are. Or maybe you do but your own self-interests are clouding your view. The Jewish state has never been a friend of Greece, if you have evidence to the contrary by all means present it. It would be a shock to millions of Greeks worldwide who understand the relationship.

    • Hi again. So the comment was made since you found it on the Internet. OK. You’ve proven your research savvy. I’m just curious– was it google? Or Bing maybe? It’s ironic that my project and my post was about Greek Orthodox Christians saving Jews, as was my previous one the other day… Not some pro-Jewish rant as you suggest… Your own personal bigotry has now come to light more clearly, which I have no further response to.

      • Mr Pappas,

        You may be right that Mr Kissinger never made the comment – let’s pretend he didn’t – but given what is happening in Greece today in real-time some could make an argument that there are forces (I’m not saying Jewish) who are taking what was allegedly said to heart and working very feverishly to implement it! We are witnessing after all the wholesale dismantling, capitulation, stigmatisation and downright destruction for at least the next generation of a once proud and ancient people. I think maybe you should think about that for a moment before you dismiss the true message of what some are trying to say.

        • The true message of those you refer to is one of bigotry and Intolerance. My original post was NOT about the situation in Greece today, the financial crisis or the cause of it. Read my original post, please. And let’s stick to the point. Now if you want to talk about the current situation in Greece, before we point fingers to the Goldmans, the Seimans and the big bad Jewish bankers, can we talk about people like Tsohadzopoulos, Voulgarakis, Lavrentiades, Kyriakides… Ephraim… and countless other Greeks who systematically raped their country and brought her people to their knees, before we start looking outside to others.

  3. Naive person. Smyrna burned to the ground and 100,000 Greeks and Armenians either died or drowned in the water while the Turks watched and laughed. Do you know Mr Pappas that the Jewish community was untouched in Smyrna. That is because they were the ones who conspired with the Turks to ethnically-cleanse the city of all Greeks and Armenians. You are a foolish naive man. May the memory of all those dead haunt you.

  4. Pompous ass

    “The fire completely destroyed the Greek and Armenian quarters of the city; the Muslim and Jewish quarters escaped damage.[11] There are different claims about who was responsible for the fire, however there were numerous eyewitness accounts of uniformed Turkish soldiers setting fire to Greek and Armenian homes and businesses.[12]”

    Who do you think set the fires. Disgusting person, I hope you go to hell

  5. Sounds like a Mossad agent. Last thing Greek people want to hear about is Jewish issues from 70 years ago. Only parties interested there are the Holocaust fanatics always looking to blame the world for what happened in the past. Greg doesn’t understand economics either and what the chosen people at Goldman Sachs did to Greece in the current crisis. Naive and narcissistic sycophant and tool of the Jewish lobby. Without any doubt. Why not speak to Jerusalem Patriarch Greg, sure he can tell you about how great the Jewish state is to the Church in Jerusalem.

  6. Greg,

    If you have doubt about Kissinger comment, think about what Goldman people did. They succeeded in destroying Greece and bringing it to her knees. Hope Greek people are smart enough to see what is going on.

    • yes true and what have Jewish people done to help Greek people I ask Mr. Pappas. nothing. why focus on jewish people and their problems. greek people helped many groups in the many wars. my grandmother used to tell me stories of how they helped turkish people during the xchange from being murdered and i hear same stories of how greeks help roma or italian soldiers during ww2. many stories never told that die with people. but jewish lobby very powerful with hollywood so i think they find gullible people to push agenda. i think mr pappas doesn’t understand greek politics well. he should go to exarchia or even kifissia and tell both parties what he thinks about jewish sentiments, i think they laugh in his face.

      • Mr. Pappas and similar, don’t really feel Greek inside. They use their Greek heritage as a passport to the large Greek American community, just to have access and make money. Mr. Pappas must know that corrupted Siemens (and many more) have been working closely with our corrupted Greek politicians for many years now. Our Greek corrupted politicians could not have done it without their help.
        It would also be nice to know, what philanthropic causes in Greece, has the “Project Hope for Greece” supported so far?

        • You are right on! Blame it on Siemens and the big bad foreigners! As for Project Hope for Greece, I encourage you to spend a bit of time and visit the website and read up on our effort, timeline and yes– the causes we will support when phase one of fundraising is completed. It’s just a few clicks away… But I know, you want it handed to you, right? Well I won’t.

  7. Greg, thank you for teaching ignorant and racist Greeks a little history. It disturbs me greatly that people like Paul have a voice and believe they both know history and are open minded. Or that people like Popi get their history lessons from their grandmother. Paul, part of that 10% was Jewish Greek you ignorant man! And one of the biggest lovers of Greece who has taught the world (and Greece) about Smyrni is Mr.Mazower…a Jew. And not all Jews are happy with Israel. In fact a lot of them hate their government and what they are doing. But ultimately, because you are small minded racists who probably would vote for Golden Dawn if you could you are completely missing the point. Greg is talking about a Greek Orthodox community that saved a Greek Jewish community. He is talking about humanity. And all of you are showing the complete opposite. You should be ashamed of yourselves and how dare you call yourselves Greek! Well done Greg and well done to our grandparents who still had a little care on their hearts.

  8. Xenia Tombrou on

    Hi Greg,

    I admire your work and the enthusiasm with share your experiences.

    I see that everyone is always looking for someone to blame. Usually it will be someone you think you cannot associate yourself with, like people from another race or religion you are not a part of. In Netherland they blamed Greece for the crisis, in Greece they blame Jews, Turks, illegal immigrants and Germany for the crisis.

    Never do we people blame ourselves, our ignorance, our passiveness, our lack of enthusiasm, team work and good faith.

    I understand that wealthy jewish families like the Rothchilds bring envy and sometimes hatred that they buy and sell Greek properties for millions of euro profit. But they also have given good and stable jobs to locals who work permanently or in the tourist season on their estates. And yes, they did finance various businesses, kings and queens, governments that did things history does not recall upon with pride.

    I still cannot believe that there are Greeks who will associate everything wrong with Jews….. I could not and will not get into the argument about the truth or not of their arguments. Most Jews are just like everyone else, going on with their daily life with family and friends, loving, hating, arguing, working, living like all human beings.

    The Holocaust is a story that at the time was propagandised as a tale and not until pictures and stories of survivors were documented did people believe it. So inhuman was it that nobody could believe it. The new generation of young does not know what racism is capable of and tend to see racist groups as an ideal group to be in……

    Are there people who think the Holocaust is a story that only interests Jews and Holocaust fanatics?! No, it also interests people who were different. In the camps homo’s and Communists were also gathered and killed.

    What my point is, Gregory Pappas, you are doing a great job and I hope you will make those people see that compassion, love and tolerance of others will get us a long way when hatred,racism and anger will not change anything but rather sour our life experiences.

  9. Hi Greg.
    I will write in English, even though my mother tongue is Greek, so forgive any misuse of the language.
    I read a lot of blogs but I rarely feel the need to write myself. This is an exception, but I felt the need to do it because a lot of the comments focused in the wrong element of your article. There are a hundred ways to read history depending on where you stand as a starting point, so I will not go the historical parts which clearly state that indeed greeks helped a lot of Jews to escape during World War 2.
    I feel that the essence of your article was the last part of it and you did a great job stating that ” the same differences we share today– religion, culture, language– actually brought us closer– at least on the Greek Isle of Zakinthos.”
    Not only in Zakinthos but in Thessaloniki, in Ioannina and other cities all over Greece, I would add. Let’s not confuse politics with friendship, love, and relations that are built upon kindness and tolerance.
    Let us ask ourselves. Do we instantly love every person that identifies himself/herself as Greek?
    I, for myself being a Greek living in Greece, would answer “no”.
    Do I hate everyone because he is different than I am, because he is Jewish, Turkish, perhaps German?
    The answer is again “No”.
    I have long ago decided that I like every person, regardless of its country, religion or sex, who shares the same values that I do.
    After all it is us, Greeks, who invented the word “philoxenia” which means to befriend the Xenon, the unknown, the different.
    I would add that this article, applies very much to all ethnicities , not only the Jews. After all, the world would have been a nicest place to live if all individuals started to focus on the attributes we share with other people than those that promote hate and xenophobia.

  10. Touching article that reminds us that while the past is past, we should still be able to learn from it in order to be better…humans.

    I can never comprehend the hatred that some Greeks have towards Jewish people.
    I can never comprehend how some Greeks will always blame another race, or religion for their woes.

    But from the looks of things, this is one aspect of the Greek culture that does not change.

    I’m talking about the woe is me…but to hell with everyone else attitude.

    Show a little tolerance people and compassion…it really is not hard to do.

    Greg, I always enjoy reading your articles and such! Keep up the good work!

  11. Mr. Pappas,

    Historically, the Greek and the Jewish nations were not that close and practically we competing each other. This was due to the fact that both races have hard working and clever members and they were competing more or less in the same georgraphical area. Relegion did not help that much either. It is a fact that during the Greek war of independence, the Jews sided with the Ottomans and in retalation for this Greeks were very harsh on them (for example the massacre of Tripolitsa).

    In this context, in the modern days Greece was always suportive of the Arab causes in the Middle East (do you know that the Israeli state was recognised by Greece in 1981?).

    Having said all the above, today the ordinary Greek has nothing to devide with fellow Greeks of Jewish religion.

    What puzzles me though is why, in todays environment with people dying form famine and loosing everything in Greece, a prominent Greek – American like yourself chooses to deal with such a theme.

    • Sir– I deal with many “themes”… Not just one. This is a film I am working on. I am also working on three other films as well. I also launched “Project Hope for Greece” which has already helped raise more than $80,000 for charities in Greece. I am also working on a project to bring the life of Spyros Skouras to the forefront. A blogpost is but a simple thought, a photo from a specific moment of my day, from my travels… I encourage you to read my other posts… Visit my foundation’s website and see that there are two dozen projects I am currently working on– one of them being a short film about the epic days when Greek Orthodox residents on the island of Zakynthos sacrificed everything to save their fellow Greeks, who happened to be hunted Jews.

  12. Mr Greg,
    Your dismissive and seemingly ill-tempered response to some of your commenters on this issue surprises me. You are more Greek (and Cretan) than I could have imagined. LOL
    I think though maybe you are not listening to what is being said and insulting the intelligence of your commenters whose comments made are very worthy of consideration and reflect widely-held views in Greece vis-a-vis the Jewish relationship, historically has never been a strong one. It might be painful for someone like you with your American-centric point of view to hear but you should listen to the message of some people. We may not agree with all we hear, but listening is important. Jews have lived Greek lands for millenia, even before the expulsion by the Romans from Judea and have always managed to live and coexist with the Greek host community. That relationship has never been reciprocated. As someone pointed out correctly, Jews (whether Greek or non-Greek) have never supported Greeks during Ottoman period and in War of Independence and 20th century to current. Even today, Greece receives more humanitarian assistance from its Muslim neighbors like Iran than from Israel which is a wealthy nation today. You can research this for yourself since you are in charitable industry yourself. The numbers don’t lie. This, of course, doesn’t mean that commenters can dismiss what happened in WW2 and efforts to save Greek Jews and your interest in this topic. That is commendable of you. But I think some people are confused by your passion for this topic versus the history of Greek-Jewish relationship for millenia, which again has never been positive one. During Ottoman times and War of 1821 Jews were always aligned with rich Turks who raped Greek peasants and stole their lands and other unspeakable atrocities. These memories while long ago still live in consciousness of Greek people and Armenian and other people. This may explain the animosity some feel towards Jews. I am not condoning this but just saying you need to put things in context. To gentleman who commented on Tripolis massacre, the Greeks did not target the Jews. In fact the Jews were hiding in the city with the rich Turks who controlled the Morea and when the slaughter began they were in the wrong place. No historian has ever said that the Greek fighters ever targeted Jews specifically. Despite what some Greeks may think of Jews in history, Greeks have never shown violence against Jews, not once in history.

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