|Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens|
|Monday, 03 November 2008 19:13|
Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou
Born: March 3, 1891, Dorvitsa, Greece
Died: May 20, 1949, Athens
Notable because: Was archbishop of Athens during the Nazi occupation. When threatened with the firing squad by the German commander he replied "According to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, our prelates are hanged, not shot. Please respect our traditions!" Was possibly the only Spiritual leader to formally condemn German rounding up of Jews at the time. Personally saved thousands of Jews from deportation by issuing Christian baptismal certificates to Jews.
Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou was the archbishop of Athens and All Greece from 1941 until his death. He was also the regent of Greece between the pull-out of the German occupation force in 1944 and the return of King Georgios II to Greece in 1946. His rule marked the reconstruction of Greece after German occupation during World War II and the unrest spanning the beginning of the shooting phase of the Greek Civil War.
He was born Dimitrios Papandreou in Dorvitsa, Greece (no relationship to politician Georgios Papandreou). He enlisted in the Greek army during the Balkan Wars. He was ordained a priest of the Greek Orthodox Church in 1917. In 1922, he was made bishop of Corinth. He spent the early 1930s as an ambassador of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the United States, where he labored to help organize the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
In 1938 he was elected archbishop of Athens, taking the name Damaskinos. Ioannis Metaxas, dictator of Greece at the time, objected to Damaskinos and forced the cancellation of his election, and the appointment of Metropolitan Chrisanthos to the post. After the 1941 German invasion of Greece and the fall of the Greek government, the Metropolitans who had elected Damaskinos seized the opportunity to eject Chrisanthos from the throne (with German agreement, as the latter had refused to be present at the oath-taking ceremony of the Quisling Prime Minister Georgios Tsolakoglu), and Damaskinos was reinstalled.
The Archbishop of Athens was the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox people of Athens and All Greece, and Damaskinos worked very hard to live up to his position during those hard times. He frequently clashed with the German authorities and the quisling government. In 1943, the Germans began the persecution of the Jews of Greece, and their deportations to Nazi concentration camps. Damaskinos formally protested the actions of the occupational authorities.
According to the The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation the appeal of Damaskinos and his fellow Greeks is unique as no document similar to the protest against the Nazis during World War II has come to light in any other European country.
The letter in part reads:
'The Greek Orthodox Church and the Academic World of Greek People Protest against the Persecution... The Greek people were... deeply grieved to learn that the German Occupation Authorities have already started to put into effect a program of gradual deportation of the Greek Jewish community... and that the first groups of deportees are already on their way to Poland...'
According to the terms of the armistice, all Greek citizens, without distinction of race or religion, were to be treated equally by the Occupation Authorities. The Greek Jews have proven themselves... valuable contributors to the economic growth of the country [and] law-abiding citizens who fully understand their duties as Greeks. They have made sacrifices for the Greek country, and were always on the front lines of the struggle of the Greek nation to defend its inalienable historical rights...
In our national consciousness, all the children of Mother Greece are an inseparable unity: they are equal members of the national body irrespective of religion... Our holy religion does not recognize superior or inferior qualities based on race or religion, as it is stated: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek' and thus condemns any attempt to discriminate or create racial or religious differences. Our common fate both in days of glory and in periods of national misfortune forged inseparable bonds between all Greek citizens, without exemption, irrespective of race...
Today we are... deeply concerned with the fate of 60,000 of our fellow citizens who are Jews... we have lived together in both slavery and freedom, and we have come to appreciate their feelings, their brotherly attitude, their economic activity, and most important, their indefectible patriotism...
Damaskinos went on to publish the letter, even though the local Schutzstaffel commander, Jürgen Stroop, threatened to execute him by firing squad. Damaskinos's famous response to him was:
'According to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, our prelates are hanged, not shot. Please respect our traditions!'
The Archbishop was being boldly sarcastic, as he was referring to the lynching and hanging of Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople by a Turkish mob in 1821, the point being made that the SS commander would act in a similarly barbaric fashion if he were to carry out his threat.
The churches under his jurisdiction were also ordered quietly by Damaskinos to distribute Christian baptismal certificates to Jews fleeing the Nazis, thus saving thousands of Romaniote Jews in and around Athens.
After the occupation ended, Damaskinos was proclaimed regent of Greece until the return of the king from exile. During this time, fighting broke out between pro-royalist Greek soldiers and communist partisans. He took control of the situation in his early term, appointing himself Prime Minister during late 1945. Though he wielded little power in his latter term, Damaskinos continued to call for peace and order in the country. He relinquished his position after fighting began to die down and recalled the king formally on September 28, 1946. He died in Athens in 1949.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 09 April 2009 17:27|