Chicago, IL.- Reflecting on the devastating impact of the Holocaust in Greece, Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias toured on Feb. 8 a groundbreaking exhibition on young survivors at the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center in Chicago.
Giannoulias toured the exhibit, “Hidden Children in Occupied Greece,” with members of the American Jewish Committee and Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the Chancellor of the Metropolis of Chicago.
The traveling exhibition from the Jewish Museum of Greece features 16 stories of children who survived the Nazi occupation of Greece during World War II. One of the children hid near the hometown of Giannouliasʼ mother, Anna, who immigrated to the United States in 1962.
“It was inspiring to learn that people risked everything to protect these children,” Giannoulias said.
More than 100,000 Jews lived in Greece as recently as the 1920s. But the German occupation during World War II eradicated most of their communities.
Approximately 10,000 people were saved, due primarily to the work of the Greek Orthodox Church, which distributed falsified Christian baptismal certificates to Jews, and ordinary citizens who refused to cooperate with the Nazi regime. Many of the Holocaust survivors were children who were forced to leave their homes, go into hiding, constantly change their hiding places and use false names or identities, so much so that they lost their own identities, sometimes permanently.
“This is a story I was not familiar with before,” said John Thomason, associate director of the AJC. “It is thrilling to know thereʼs a community out there who can bring this important and moving story to the public.”
University of Illinois at Chicago professor Mimis Cohen gave a lecture titled “The Holocaust and the Jews of Greece” on Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center.