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King George VI (1936-1952)
‘Please Respect our Traditions’ (1) : Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens took his wartime protest straight to the top.
‘Please Respect our Traditions’
Part one

Based on ‘Damaskinos, Archbishop Theophilos (Papandreou Dimitrios)’ on the website of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Jerusalem, and ‘Archbishop Damaskinos, the Greek Clergyman Who Stared Down the Nazis’ at the Foundation for Economic Education.

In 1941, the Germans invaded Greece, plunging the country into a four-year nightmare of fear, persecution and famine. As elsewhere in Europe, Jews were targeted, but even in the midst of starvation and suspicion the Greeks hid them, found them food, and tried to frustrate the deportations to the camps of Germany and Poland.

DIMITRIS Papandreou was elected Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens in 1938. At that time, Greece was under a state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas, whose Fascist sympathies Damaskinos emphatically did not share. The appointment was blocked, and Damaskinos was kept under house arrest in Salamina until the Germans came in 1941.

Two years later, he was ill in bed when representatives of Jewish communities in Greece came to him looking for help. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he listened to their tale of harassment and deportation to the concentration camps of Germany and Poland, and at once began organising formal letters of protest to the authorities, signed by leading Athens dignitaries, which asserted the equal rights of all Greeks regardless of religion, appealing to the Constitution and to Scripture.

Later he picked up a copy of his letter, and burst into the Athens offices of SS General Jürgen Stroop, the man who had masterminded the Nazis’ atrocities in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Based on ‘Damaskinos, Archbishop Theophilos (Papandreou Dimitrios)’ on the website of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Jerusalem, and ‘Archbishop Damaskinos, the Greek Clergyman Who Stared Down the Nazis’ at the Foundation for Economic Education.

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Picture: Photo by Captain Tanner, from the Imperial War Museums via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens and All Greece, while acting as Regent in February 1945. On the table is the daughter of John Georgakis, the Archbishop’s political adviser.

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