Last Sunday the inhabitants of Glossa and Klima, represented by mayor George Michelis and surviving descendants of the Korfiatis family, were honoured at a ceremony in Volos to mark the annual National Day of Remembrance for the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust. They were among representatives of other regional communities, including Nea Ionia, South Pelion, Volos, Zagora and elsewhere, also honoured. As we pointed out last week, due to the attentions of the Holocaust Foundation in California and the Yad Vashem museum in Israel, two Skopelitan families, the Mitzeliotis and Korfiatis families, were highlighted and named as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1981.
Perhaps the most surreal in a number of surreal moments was the sound of the name of Auschwitz (at least twice) in a speech given by Elias Sabethai, the rabbi of Larissa, in a ceremony at the Volos Holocaust memorial, in the small park surrounding the town hall and theatre by the fishermen’s quay west of the city centre. While most of the dozens of attendees and the hundreds of onlookers will have picked up on it, it was a strange word to hear echoing amplified around a Greek municipal park on a sunny Sunday morning in 2013. Auschwitz was, of course, the ultimate destination of most of the 60-70,000 Greek Jews deported under the Nazis, the vast majority of them being killed there.
Six different groups and individuals were each asked to light a candle at the monument, representing the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Among those lighting the candles were Auschwitz survivor Ntinos Matsas, rabbi Sabethai, Arye Mekel, Israeli ambassador to Greece, Konstantinos Agorastos, the governor of Thessalia, Marsel Solomon, president of the Jewish Community of Volos, and representatives of the Pan-Hellenic Union of the National Resistance Fighters and the Victims of the War.
The ceremony then moved to the Volos Technical Chamber, across the street from the memorial, and the awards to representatives from the various towns and regions being thanked for their bravery in helping their Jewish neighbours during the Nazi occupation of 1941-44. We only discovered later that Skopelos mayor George Michelis was presented with an award by none other than Moris Leon (we are following preferred spelling here), one of the in fact two families, the Leons and the Molhos, as we mentioned last week, fifteen of whom were hidden in and around Glossa and Klima during the occupation.
Mayor Michelis gave a short acceptance speech in which he revealed that in 2000 the Holocaust Foundation founder, Steven Spielberg, had written to Magdalini Mitzelioti thanking her for her contribution to the Foundation’s testimony collection. We are hoping to find out more about this fascinating connection between Spielberg and Glossa. We were, alas, unable to secure images of the award ceremony due to technical reasons.