Rabbi Moshe Shimon Pessach.
(photo credit: THE HISTORIC CENTER OF VOLOS)
The memory of an elderly rabbi who led partisans against the Nazis in occupied Greece during the Second World War will be honored during a ceremony at Jerusalem’s Martyr’s Forest on Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday.
The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund will co-sponsor the event, which for the past 12 years has been dedicated to honoring the memory of Jews who rescued their coreligionists during the Holocaust.
In 1943 Rabbi Moshe Shimon Pessach, who served as a rabbi for more than six decades in the Greek city of Volos, managed to save nearly three quarters of his community of 1,000 by hiding them in neighboring villages with the active help of bishop of Volos Joachim Alexopoulos.
After saving the majority of his congregation, with the exception of his wife and sons, who were murdered, the septuagenarian rabbi formed his own partisan unit, rescuing Allied soldiers and bringing the fight to the Germans. He was later decorated for his efforts and raised to the position of chief rabbi.
During Thursday’s ceremony, the rabbi, as well as other Jewish members of the Greek resistance, will be posthumously honored with a “Jewish Rescuers Citation.”
“The phenomenon of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe are yet to receive appropriate public recognition and resonance,” the two groups said in a statement.
“Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that some Jews survived the Holocaust in Europe or assisted them in escaping to a safe heaven and by so doing resisted the Nazi murder machine. The organizers of the ceremony view it as especially important to expose Jewish youth to the phenomenon of Jewish rescue during the Holocaust as a model for Jewish solidarity and courage.”