Month: May 2015

Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance

“Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance,” a traveling exhibit presented in partnership by the Jewish Museum of Greece and the Greek Secretariat General for Communication, “Synagonistis” tells the story of Greek-Jewish resistance during World War II.

The exhibit opened April 1st, 2015 at the Washington Hebrew Congregation and is on display until May 26. On April 21, the synagogue hosted a reception celebrating the opening of “Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance” and welcomed Zanet Battinou, the director of the Jewish Museum of Greece. Also present were Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Greek Ambassador to the U.S. Christos P. Panagopoulos and local Jewish and Greek-American community leaders.

Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance at the Jewish Mueum of Greece

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After the six-month war on the Albanian front, in April 1941 Greece succumbed to the forces of the Wehrmacht and for the next three-and-a-half years experienced the darkest period of its modern history. Despite the unbearable terror, executions and the famine during the first winter of 1941–42 that decimated the population, especially in urban centres, Greeks by the thousands were won over to the idea of resistance. In 1943, Athens was gripped by strikes and demonstrations which were steeped in the blood of its residents, while from 1941 insurgent groups appeared in the countryside and in 1943–1944 they became real partisan armies that engaged in regular battles with the occupiers.The victims of struggle against the occupiers were many: more than 30,000 died in combat, were murdered or executed; more than 800 villages were burned in retaliation and the country’s infrastructure destroyed.

Greek Jews were not absent from this struggle, which embraced the whole country and its people. In the general patriotic upsurge during the occupation, the survival instinct blended with the desire for revenge. The deportations of thousands of co-religionists, relatives and friends – and the terrorism, humiliation and executions which preceded them – sparked the emergence of a dynamic resistance on the part of the Jews.

Although the available data is limited and fragmentary, it is estimated that about 650 Jewish men and women, from almost all the Jewish communities in the country, enlisted in the various resistance groups from the beginning of the occupation to the liberation or joined the partisans to escape the grasp of the Nazis. The exhibition “Synagonistis: Greek Jews in the National Resistance” aims to highlight this heroic, but also torn-out page of modern Greek history. To narrate the tale of Greek Jewish resistance during World War II. To pay tribute to all those who refused to bear the Yellow Star, by naming them and presenting personal documents, photos, testimonies that underline their courage and self-sacrifice during the darkest times. Identifying the fallen resisters, one by one, is the minimum debt owed to those who chose the glorious death of a warrior mixed their blood with the ashes of the thousands of their coreligionists who were murdered by the Nazis.