"Synagonistis": The Greek Jews who Fought in the National Resistance

synagonistis-exhibitionThe exhibition “Synagonistis: The Greek Jews in the National Resistance – The Ones Who Never Wore the Yellow Star” had its official opening in Washington recently. Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias, Greek Ambassador Christos Panagopoulos, Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig and the Director of Athens’ Jewish Museum Zanet Battinou, were in attendance at the opening.

They were joined by several representatives from the diplomatic, academic, cultural, journalism arenas as well as representatives from the Greek-American and Jewish American communities.

The show, created by the Jewish Museum of Greece and presented by the Embassy of Greece, aims to honor the contribution of Greek Jewish fighters to the struggle against the Nazis in occupied Greece, as well as to dispute the theory that all Jews succumbed to the Holocaust like “lambs to the slaughter.”

Alongside from the historical events of 1941-44, the exhibition presents the personal stories of Greek Jews who participated in the National Resistance during the Second World War and collaborated with all the other Greek resistance organizations of the time.

Thorough research, which was conducted over the course of five years, resulted in the collection of personal stories of men and women from various Jewish communities of Greece who took up arms in the dark days of the Occupation.

They were given the name “Comrades in Arms,” the supreme title of honor among all Resistance fighters. Photographs, documents, letters, proclamations, resistance newspapers and other relevant material are presented for the first time in this exhibit. The show is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue, a documentary film by David Gavriilidis, as well as a specially-designed educational program for schools.

“Synagonistis” is the Greek word for “fellow fighter” — and it is exactly this notion that the exhibition is highlighting: Greek Jews fought side by side with Greek Christians against the same enemy, in defense of the same country.

It is a duty to save their memory from oblivion, and this is the ultimate goal of this exhibition. “It is also a voice against anti-Semitism and racism,” said Press Counselor Christos Failadis, the exhibition manager, who also speaks on behalf of the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The fake IDs given by the Greek authorities to Greek Jews, the official protest by Archbishop Damaskinos against the persecution of Jews and the saving of the Jewish population of the island of Zakynthos “Synagonistis” all make up another glorious page in the modern history of Greece. The Jews of Zakynthos were rescued thanks to the heroic actions of Metropolitan Chrysostomos and Mayor Lukas Karrer, and their actions are also preserved forever as part of the exhibit.

A letter from Archbishop Demetrios of America was read during the opening, in which he noted that “the contribution of the Jewish population of Greece in the fight against the Nazi-Fascist powers has been much greater than usually described due to limited first-hand information.”

“Synagonistis” was presented in Washington, D.C. by the embassy of Greece with the contribution of the Secretariat General of Communication of Greece. The exhibition was presented at the Washington Hebrew Congregation as well. A proposal has also been made for the exhibition to travel to several U.S. states.