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We Merely Fulfilled Our Responsibility As People: A private Holocaust Story Gone Global

Stone Island Crewneck Sweater TurquoiseAs a teenager, I would sit and take heed to my immigrant father’s “conflict stories” from the darkish years of the German occupation of his native Crete. Despite the horrors he experienced when he was solely a teenager, I did not really care to pay attention much. In spite of everything, sitting still for this could lead to the identical rolling-eye-reaction from most children my age.

Years later, I studied abroad for a yr at the American School of Greece in Athens. There, I discovered about Greece’s function throughout World Battle II and how instrumental the Greek resistance was in delaying Hitler’s advances into Russia and in the end changing the course of the complete battle. Humorous how it works about mother and father changing into a lot wiser within the eyes of their kids as we grow older, but my dad’s battle tales of yesteryear instantly grew to become necessary to me. Soon, the history I had been instructed about my ancestors grew to become an obsession and i began recalling them, one after one other, in search of corroboration or some type of validation from history.

One of many stories Dad had informed me repeatedly was about a “brave priest and a brave mayor” who saved a whole group of their island’s Jews who have been being hunted by Hitler’s SS. My father knew lots in regards to the Greek-Jewish group because he grew up within the Jewish neighborhood of Hania, close to the Venetian harbor, literally around the nook from a then-lively 15th century synagogue known as Etz Hayim, that still stands immediately.

Quick ahead to my Fashionable Greek history class on the American School of Greece in the early 90s, where I read in regards to the “brave priest and brave mayor” my father spoke of years earlier who had been really the island’s Greek Orthodox Archbishop, Metropolitan Chrysostomos; and its mayor, Loukas Karrer.

There, in a textbook, I read a corroborated model of my father’s story about the one community of Jews below Nazi occupation that survived the Holocaust intact. Whereas entire populations were wiped out, I learn of the humanity of the Zakynthian people and the notion that among the many hundreds of individuals on the island, not one collaborated to turn in even a single Jew. Because of the collective-but-singular dedication of the inhabitants of this island, each single member of the Jewish community survived. Like Schindler’s List, but simply as exceptional, this was the story of a whole island of people that refused to satisfy Nazi hate.

I loved the story and started sharing it wherever and however I could. Surprisingly sufficient, reactions by no means appeared to go beyond a “wow, what a great story” until January of this previous 12 months when, as soon as once more, I took the chance to share it on my Huffington Put up weblog. On Worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2013, folks have been writing and paying tribute to those that had perished during one of many ugliest intervals in human historical past. I, then again, determined to put in writing about those who tried to stop the Holocaust — and included the story of the mayor and archbishop from Zakynthos in my piece.

The day the article was printed on the Huffington Put up, I happened to be driving with Steven Priovolos, who was a volunteer for the 2013 Gabby Awards and provided to assist create a video tribute in honor of Sid Ganis, our Lifetime Achievement Award recipient (a Greek Jew himself). And now the story will get better…

My Huffpost blog publish went viral due to Arianna Huffington’s re-tweeting it to 1000’s of her personal followers. Add that to hundreds of Facebookers and Tweeters sharing and reposting it, and also you might get some thought of the cyber-undercurrent going on that day. And if you know something about iPhones and social media, you already know that if you do not change off your “notifications” when you are re-tweeted, talked about, tagged or re-posted, your telephone vibrates each time and notifications simply keep popping up.

This was all taking place throughout my conversation and automobile trip with Steven down Hollywood Boulevard on our approach to a meeting. Being the eye Deficit Disorder-stricken individual that I’m, I saved taking a look at my iPhone. Bothered, Steven remarks, “That’s fairly annoying.” It was then that I obtained my first lecture from him about “being current” whereas I am around folks. After profusely apologizing for my social faux pas, I tried to clarify the viral re-tweeting phenomenon that was going down — to a is stone island good quality man who does not even have Twitter or Facebook on his personal telephone. I then proceeded to inform him the story– about Chrysostomos, Karrer, Zakynthos and the again-tales I knew about this superb time in Greek history.

Steven remained silent as he drove down the boulevard lined with Hollywood Stars and palm bushes. I truly thought he was offended. However on the contrary — he was enthralled. And by the point I used to be knee-deep into the story, he really pulled the automotive off to the facet of the highway and stopped and asked, “Greg, did this actually happen “

I laughed. “It is not simply my dad’s story; The state of Israel itself checked out its authenticity.” Certainly, each the Archbishop and the Mayor (the protagonists of the Zakynthos survival story) had been honored by the Yad Vashem Memorial following a rigorous coverage of painstaking analysis earlier than recognizing non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

Steven then regarded me as if the clouds had simply parted and the solar was shining on the Hollywood signal atop a distant hill. “Greg, we need to share this story. We need to make a film about this.”

As you possibly can guess, the remaining is already changing into history. This very personal story of my father’s that I held in my reminiscence for many years has now taken a snowball’s trip down the facet of a mountain, thanks to Steven’s determination and abiding enthusiasm.

In the present day this true tale is nicely on its option to turning into a short movie, produced by the Greek America Basis with Steven as its cinematographer, a British screenwriter named Mia Christou and well-known manufacturing designer/artwork director Giles Masters, recognized for his work on movies like Angels and Demons, The DaVinci Code, Tomorrow Never Dies and plenty of extra.

By February of 2013, just a month after Steven embraced my ardour for this story and endorsed my efforts, we had been on a aircraft to Athens, thanks to the generosity of George Bourkoulas and Atlas Travel of Detroit as well as Olympic Airways, who offered flights to Zakynthos. We had been determined to satisfy the individuals and see the place the place this amazing story unfolded.

Upon our arrival in Athens, we met with Mr. Nikos Lalotis, an angel of a man who outlined the whole landscape of pre and postwar Zakynthos, at a downtown coffee shop. Laliotis was in his 90s but his reminiscence was sharp, enabling him to offer us with names of people on the island we’d in the end go and visit in the days to come.

A quick flight later led us to fulfill our Zakynthos host, Dimitris Skalistiris, who’s a local photographer and man of many passions — just one of which was hugging folks with great gusto. His motivation was to help us share this essential story of both the Zakynthian individuals as nicely elaborate on the compassionate heartbeat of the Greek people basically. “We are not a hateful individuals,” Dimitris informed us. “Greeks love humanity.”

Soon we had embarked on a non-stop three-day journey to learn all we could about Zakynthos, its individuals and the story itself. We met locals who were present during the 1940s and visited relevant historic sites. Our jaws dropped as we got here to realize simply how far back this community of Jews went on this island after we visited the Jewish cemetery whose permanent residents dated back to the 1200s.

As we strolled by tombstones, we learn names etched in the stone in each Greek and Hebrew, together with stars of David and other Jewish markings. Several of the tombs we seen bore the last identify “Ganis.” Although we have been instructed that this was a standard Jewish name and a big household, it was still ironic that the man we were honoring at the forthcoming Gabby Awards and the only Greek Jew that we had told about our project was named Sid Ganis. I snapped photos with my iPhone and texted just a few to Sid.

We met men like Nikolaos Lountzis — a ninety-year previous who broke down in tears whereas pulling out a cross he wore round his neck that was given to him by the Jewish boy that was hidden in his home who he stated was “like his personal flesh and blood”.

We additionally met Ioannis Rapsomanikis, whose mom ordered her youngsters to allow their Jewish company to eat first as a result of “…you by no means know when they might have to flee,” citing that she would not want them doing this on an empty stomach.

We got here to be taught that the Jews of Zakynthos survived by hiding in plain sight, because their protectors — the ethnic Zakynthian Christians — didn’t consider them any totally different. Because the almost-deaf, Rapsomanikis instructed us, “They have been our family. While they were in our homes, we performed with them, fought with them, called them our sisters and brothers, and shared meals with them. It wasn’t even a matter of complicated the Germans, because they hadn’t a clue on this planet.”

Rapsomanikis also shared the story of a pregnant Jewish lady who had been hiding in his village and went into labor in the course of the occupation. “It was the Nazi himself who we turned to fetch the midwife because she didn’t have transportation to come back to our village. Imagine the irony,” he chuckled and continued. “The very individuals who have been looking the Jews really helped the perpetuation of the race!”

The contemporary Greek Orthodox hierarch of the island, also named Chrysostomos corroborated this, as did everybody we spoke to on Zakynthos. “They were equal residents,” famous the Archbishop. “We did not see them any completely different, any much less, or any inferior to us as a result of they had been Jews and we had been Christians. They had been Greeks, like we had been,” he stated whereas sipping on his Greek espresso within the courtyard of the massive Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Dionysios, which was partially rebuilt after the large earthquake of 1954 with the financial help and guide labor of the Jewish families of Zakynthos, a lot of whom had way back settled in Israel but remained linked to their island.

As I used to be leaving the church, I stumbled throughout a rally of the Neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn” political party that was making headlines throughout Greece and the world. I used to be overcome with the superior accountability to tell this story — as quickly as attainable — not just for historical past’s sake, but in addition for the sake of contemporary Greece.

It was a shocking display of irony to hear them chanting their hatred straight in entrance of the Cathedral the place only some many years earlier the decision was made by the resident Christian Archbishop to avoid wasting every Jew on the island.

Before leaving the island, we had been in a position to fulfill the stately Marlen Karrer, the niece of the famous mayor. She advised us of the mayor’s wife, her “Thea” Lilly, who was solely 28 when the Nazis invaded Zakynthos. We had been to be taught that Lilly was now dwelling in Athens and although almost a hundred years previous and “had her wits about her.” One introduction continued to lead to another, as Marlen arranged for us to fulfill Lena (Karrer) Kriezi — the daughter of the mayor with whom her mom was pregnant the 12 months the Nazis invaded the island and demanded the Jews be turned over.

Lena was warm and welcoming in her Athenian dwelling. She showed us pictures of her father and newspaper clippings from the Yad Vashem ceremony that came about on the Israeli Embassy in Athens within the 1970s. Still, the go to along with her was exceptional. Then she asked, “Would you want to satisfy my mother “

Steven and that i checked out one another in disbelief as we had been directed into the bedroom of one of the crucial angelic ladies I have ever met in my life. Lilly welcomed us into her room and requested what our business in her dwelling was within the calmest and gentlest of how. We defined to her that we wished to inform the story of her courageous mayor husband, the Archbishop, and all of the other heroic residents of Zakynthos.

She checked out us serenely and stated, “Emeis den kaname tipota. Den ipirhan iroes” (“We did nothing. There have been no heroes.”)

Steven and i looked at one another — pondering that perhaps she did not remember or that maybe her superior age had clouded her psychological recollection. The translation of the next thing Lilly mentioned is, “No. There have been no heroes. We merely fulfilled our obligation as people.”

And so we must be truthful. The real cause we are making this movie springs from this highly effective but touching dialogue with Lilly Karrer. Our film is not meant to peacock about Greek heroes — even if we have now good purpose to take action — because, as Mrs. Karrer put it, there were no heroes.

It was pure goodness and humanity that motivated a whole island inhabitants to guard its personal residents no matter what the associated fee or potential danger. We feel we have now a duty to remind the world of that goodness and that humanity — one thing we consider the world as effectively as the Greek persons are thirsting to listen to about during such troubled times.

As of December, 2013, our movie mission was halfway funded, having introduced in greater than $60,000 from 300+ donors throughout the world. The movie trailer on the 2013 Gabby Awards in Hollywood evoked roaring applause, after which we began lively fundraising and haven’t stopped since, with generous donations coming from folks like Canadians Frank and Roula Kakouros with a short be aware connected that learn, “You have to tell this story.”

Our first crowd-funding marketing campaign brought in almost $15,000 beginning with a contribution by Eleni Kourouklis of Pittsburgh. More donations began pouring in. $5 from New York City, $a thousand from London, $500 from Salt Lake City… and so forth.

The story has unfold like wildfire. We’ve obtained notable newspaper coverage in Greece and Canada as well because the U.S. And we’ve even located and recognized Jewish survivors originally from Zakynthos who now live in Tel Aviv.

During an October 2013 visit to Israel, the Greek Prime Minister was greeted by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with the story of the Zakynthos as an example of the widespread bond shared by the two international locations. In subsequent remarks after the official speeches, Netanyahu mentioned that he was proud that a team of Greek-People was making a movie about this story.

We expect to wrap up funding by the start of the new 12 months and begin pre-manufacturing by early 2014. Plans embody capturing the movie on the island of Zakynthos in addition to in Hania, Crete, where a completely preserved Venetian town and a fifteenth century synagogue still stand, sharing architecture with what World War II-era Zakynthos appeared like. (Keep in thoughts that most of Zakynthos was destroyed by an earthquake in 1954 and solely three buildings stay from the pre-earthquake period, making exterior shots unattainable.)

Now we have a spherical of new key supporters as well: the renown photographer Roy Schweiger from Tel Aviv has been an enormous help on the ground there, serving to to identify and arrange meetings with the Zakynthos survivors. Inspired by the project, he has also graciously offered to function our set photographer.

So to add the sweetest icing of all to the cake, the one and solely Sid Ganis — the previous president of the Academy of Movement Picture Arts & Sciences and probably the most respected and prolific executives in Hollywood is formally on board as the movie’s executive producer. We’ve additionally secured Aegean Airlines as the official airline carrier of the film undertaking, including a beneficial connection between Greece and Israel when our production truly begins.

Our remaining crowd-funding campaign is in full-swing as new donors and supporters come on board by the day.

In Greece and throughout the world — Golden Daybreak continue to make headlines. Due to that, the time is now to make this film a actuality. Its impact will be extra powerful than indignant online posts or even commentaries decrying the Neo Nazi movement in Greece during debates on television. No.

We will not respond with politics and anti-Neo Nazi rhetoric; instead we will respond with a lesson from history that demonstrates the purest kinds of love and humanity during a time throughout which the world puzzled what the future would hold if Hitler had succeeded. The time is now as an instance the victory of humanity over hatred. The time is now to share the story with the world when every single resident of the Greek island of Zakynthos stared Hitler’s army of terror in the face and stated…

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