NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Raoul Wallenberg Foundation honored heroes who fought the Nazis in a place some might never imagine — a small island in Greece — and they did it, with nothing but courage.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennen reports, some of those honorees are from the Tri-State area.
This a story of a reunion, born out of suffering, but ending in triumph, of good over evil, by simple people who said enough was enough.
People like Theordora Catechis now of Fort Lee, N.J. were at the ceremony. Her family weapon to fight the Nazis was human kindness.
The story begins in 1944, as the Germans were soon on their way to losing the war but they hadn’t given up on their final solution.
That was to find and kill all of the Jewish people. But the people on the Greek Island of Erichoosa had other ideas, and decided to save all the Jews they could.
Including Savass Israel, a tailor, along with his daughters Nina, Spera and Julia.
And little Rosa, an orphan who’s entire family parents had been hauled away to death camps.
Rosa never told the full story of her survival, until her granddaughter Maayan Hasid in Israel had a school history assignment.
“That was the only time my grandma spoke about the subject and she never spoke about it again,” said 7th grader Mayeen Hassid as she spoke through tears at a salute to the heroes of Ericousa.
The island was honored by the Rauol Wallenberg Foundation and the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry.
Yvette Manessis-Corporon, author of “When the Cypress Whispers” has grandparents among the heroes.
“The Nazis warned everyone, anyone who found hiding or helping Jews would be murdered along with their entire family, despite this, not one person was opened their mouth and gave them up,” Manessis-Corporon said.
The New Yorker discovered this when she went to write a book about her Greek family, “When the Cypress Whispers”.
Through Yad VAshem and Israel’s My Heritage she researched the lives of those who beat the Nazi death sentence — and some of them spent decades of silence.
“There were a lot of close calls, my father who was seven remembers the Nazis in house ransacking it looking for valuables, and there were none, and looking for hidden Jews,” Manessis-Corporon said.
“My feeling is that we should be teaching the next generation, is not the names of the perpetrators, may they rot in hell, we should teaching our children to emulate those who had the moral courage to make a difference,” said Assn of Friends of Greek Jewry Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos.
And from one life saved, comes a family tree, and a new generation, who can tell their children, a story of bravery, Young reported.
The Wallenberg Award is part of an international effort to salute the people who reached out to the victims of Nazi persecution.