At the beginning of 1943, the cordon began to tighten dangerously for the Jews of Thessaloniki. The Nazis had already forced them to wear the Star of David on their chests and remain in their ghettos, confiscating their shops and forbidding them to sell their personal possessions. When the first trains started to leave for Auschwitz, Poland, it became clear that innocent people would be led to their deaths, just because of their particular religion.

In this tragic situation, a Jew from Thessaloniki, Maurice Leon, realized in time the great evil that was coming. He had a soap-making workshop in the area of ​​Vardari and brought oil from the settlement of Glossa, on the island of Skopelos, in order to make soaps.

He sent a telegram to the leader of the community of Glossa, Giorgos Mitzeliotis, in which he wrote "send me mercy". He spelled the word "mercy" with an e instead of an ai to emphasize his need for help, and the community leader understood immediately.

It was the beginning of the salvation of 14 Jews of Thessaloniki, members of three families (Leon, Molcho and Kamhi), which they found in Glossa of Skopelos, where they were embraced and hidden for about 1,5 years by Christians of the settlement. And in fact, the Nazi garrison stationed in Loutraki, the port on the north side of the island, did not receive any news from them during this entire period.

The effort to save these 14 Jews of Thessaloniki is described on by Apostolos Tzaros, doctor of law at the University of Strasbourg, who gathered information by looking at the relevant literature and talking to the only one of the 14 who is still alive, Nina Kamhi. which was transferred to Skopelos at the age of 2,5 years.

Mr. Tzaros will present the story as part of an event organized in Zakynthos, from February 1st to 4th, by the Directorate of Primary Education of the island, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and the Central Israeli Council.

He took them in the boat

As soon as George Mitzeliotis understood Maurice Leon's message, he immediately chartered a boat and set off for Thessaloniki, under the pretense of going to buy wheat.

"The boat landed in Epanomi and immediately the community leader of Glossa went to Thessaloniki, where he started looking for Maurice Leon. He also had with him at least one fake identity card with a Christian name. He went to Leon's shop but it was closed. Finally he found him and took the other 13 Jews with him. He took them all to the boat and from there to Skopelos", emphasizes Mr. Tzaros.

In Glossa, Giorgos Mitzeliotis had reached an agreement with Giorgos Korfiatis, who was his wife's brother. The two men, along with their wives (both named Magdalene), undertook to hide the Jews.

"For 1,5 years they were hidden in three different houses. The German garrison in Loutraki received no news of the event. Glossa is a small settlement and obviously the other inhabitants would have known about the presence of the Jews but no one said anything to the Germans. They all helped them with their silence and without anyone asking for anything in return. Not even the Christian families who hid them. When the Germans left, a Christian and a Jew went up to the belfry of Glossa and started ringing the bell until they died. They hugged and sat down to relax. For their self-sacrifice, Mitzeliotis and Korfiatis were inscribed in 1980 in the Book of the Rights of Nations. This is a list, which includes those Europeans who helped save Jews from the Holocaust", says Mr. Tzaros.

According to him, the help of Mitzeliotis and Korfiatis was recognized by the descendants of the 14 rescued Jews, who hold a memorial service in their memory and very often spend part of their vacations in Skopelos.

"Today we find it difficult to understand the difficulty of rescuing the Jews. If the Germans found out, they would execute them all. However, although they all knew they were in great danger, they did not back down, having put saving innocent human lives above all else. The fact that they were aware of the risk also shows the value of their act", says the Doctor of Law of the University of Strasbourg.

Accommodation in a hut and in a chapel

During this 1,5 year, due to various events and for their safety, the 14 Jews were forced to change their place of residence. As Mr. Tzaros says, they were forced to live in a hut for some time, in the fields of the wider area of ​​Skopelos, when there was an incident with Nazis in neighboring Skiathos. The three Jewish families were moved to the hut, since the residents of Glossa were expecting raids by the German garrison.

Also, at another time, some of the Jews lived in the chapel of Panagia Eliotissa. They were guarded by a priest, who was belted with a revolver.

SOURCE: NATION, 22.01.2024