Although the Jews of Zakynthos share a similar history with the Jews of the Ionian islands, all 275 Zakynthos Jews survived the Holocaust. The courageous actions of Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Loukas Karrer in helping save Zakynthos Jews led Yad Vashem to recognize them as “Righteous Among the Nations.”
In 1944 Mayor Loukas Karrer was ordered at gunpoint to hand over a list of Jews residing on the island. The list, presented to the Germans by Bishop Chrysostomos, contained only two names: Mayor Karrer and Bishop Chrysostomos. The bishop bravely told the Germans, “Here are your Jews. If you choose to deport the Jews of Zakynthos, you must also take me, and I will share their fate.”
In the interim, all the Jews of the island were safely hidden in the mountainous villages. Though the whole island knew what was happening, not one person revealed their whereabouts.
There is evidence that Chrysostomos actually communicated with Hitler himself to beg for the lives of the Jews on the island. Unfortunately, a devastating earthquake in 1953 destroyed all archives on the island, making proof of the correspondence impossible. Historians do know that a boat was never sent to deport the Jews of Zakynthos and that all 275 of the island’s Jews survived the Holocaust.
The first boat to arrive with aid to the victims of the 1953 earthquake was from Israel, with a message that read, “The Jews of Zakynthos have never forgotten their mayor or their beloved bishop and what they did for us.”