Not so long ago, while presenting the Epirus Programme on community radio, I happened to make mention of the passing of Isaac Mizan, who was the last Auschwitz survivor of the Epirote city of Arta. I also highlighted the fact that the 25th of March, celebrated as the day of our national regeneration, has a bleaker significance for Greek Jews as it was on that day in 1944 that the ancient Jewish community of Ioannina was rounded up in the main square of that city by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz. As most were murdered upon arrival and very few survived, I ventured the opinion that it is a testament to their suffering that the late mayor of Ioannina Moses Elisaf, was elected as the first ever Jewish mayor of a Greek city. Seeing the switchboard light up, I threw to a music break. The vast majority of callers were sympathetic and sensitive, displaying an acute interest in the topic, wanting to know more, or recounting stories of the Jewish communities of their own home towns. Intermixed with these, however, were some interesting exchanges:

One caller was a rather irate elderly listener:

– Are you Jewish? he shouted.

– Why?

– You must be Jewish. That is why you are sprouting all that filth and lies.

– I do not believe that it a lie that the last survivor of Auschwitz from Arta is dead, I replied. The gentleman did die, you know. The reason why we know this is because he is no longer with us.

– Who cares? Καλά έκανε και ψόφησε.

At this point I was about to bid him a good night and go to the next caller, when he stated:

– Jews are the catastrophe of the Greek people. They have spread death and destruction wherever they have gone.

– And where is that exactly? I enquired.

– Everywhere. Μέσα σε όλα έχουν το χεράκι τους. They need to apologize for everything they have done to us.

– Including the massacre of Tripolitsa when the Greek freedom fighters massacred the innocent Jewish population after giving guarantees about their safety?

– Ehh..

– Or how about when Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated the Temple of Solomon?

– What temple?

– The Temple of Solomon. The seat of the Holy of Holies.

– I knew it! I knew it, he crowed triumphantly. You are a Jew and in the pay of the Rothschilds. They are your true masters.

– Assuming that I am a Jew, I responded, shouldn’t you apologize on behalf of the Greek people for desecrating the Temple?

– Είσαι πούστης εβραϊομασώνος σαν τους παπάδες, he screamed. He then went on to tell me that I am a Judeo-Bolshevik in league with George Soros, Jeff Bezos, a number of prominent Greek-Australian institutions and Neos Kosmos, all of whom are secretly Jews tasked with retarding the Greek-Australian community’s social development and that I perform unmentionable acts with farm animals in assorted Masonic lodges all around Melbourne.

– By all indications, we have done a brilliant job, I responded and to my regret he terminated the conversation, which was a pity, since I wished to discover how he came to knowledge of my alleged tectonic activities and reassure him that I lean towards Menshevism instead.

Another caller took issue with the fact that I had discussed the role Athens Police Chief Angelos Evert played in saving Jewish families during the Holocaust. As Police Chief, he ordered the forging of thousands of identity cards to Athenian Jews under which described them as Greek Orthodox Gentiles, an act for which in 1969 he was proclaimed “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Yad Vashem Institute.

Angelos Evert later testified that he drew his inspiration from the actions, words, and deeds of Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens, who had urged the Greek people to save the remaining Jews of Greece.

– He was a fascist and a collaborator, my interlocutor snapped. You shouldn’t even be talking about him.

– Yes, a flawed individual indeed, I agreed. What is significant however, I ventured to opine, is that although he was of German origin and thus a Volksdeutscher, he did not adopt the prevailing attitudes of his people but rather, did whatever he could to save these most vulnerable people.

– He was probably a crypto-Jew, so that doesn’t count. You should be talking about how the only Greeks that helped Jews during the War were EAM. And even after the war, the British-controlled fascist government did nothing for the Jews.

– You mean how in 1943 Chief Rabbi of Athens Elias Barzilai negotiated a deal with EAM, whereby in exchange for them sheltering Jews in guerilla-controlled areas, he paid to them the Jewish community’s entire cash reserve? I asked. Hardly a selfless act.

By the way, did you know that post-war Greece was the first country in Europe after the war to give back to its Jewish community possessions of Jews, that were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust and the war as resistance fighters?

– You are a degenerate bourgeois capitalist whose opinion has no validity, he barked and I went to another caller.

“Check your Messenger,” the voice, which was known to me, on the other end snarled, and glancing at my phone, I saw a picture of young, uniformed men, their arms raised in fascist salute. A caption, written in Greek but using angular “Ancient Greek” style Roman letters, proclaimed: “This is how the Greeks saluted before the Jews conquered the world.” Those pictured appear to have been in Ioannis Metaxas’ youth organisation EON 1936-1941, so obviously it was after 1941 that the Jews, according to the meme, commenced their conquering of the globe.

– So how is it that the Jews were able to conquer the world at the same time that they were being herded into concentration camps? I asked my interlocutor. Talk about multitasking.

– Just remember, he warned. Stop defending Jews at the expense of your own people. Jews are on a mission to destroy Hellenic civilisation. They will never forgive our brilliance. That is why they always act against the interests of Greece.

– Does that include Mordechai Frizis, the Greek military officer, who fought for Greece in World War I, distinguished himself in World War II, and was killed on 5 December 1940, fighting against the Julia Division? The same Frizis who was born in Chalcis, on the island of Euboea, to a Romaniote-Jewish family? I enquired.

– It’s evident there is no further point talking to you. But I know why you are supporting the Jews. You are a lawyer so you want to impress your Jewish lawyer mates so you can get more cases. But just remember, there is a price to pay for being a filthy race traitor and selling out your people. I’ll say it one last time: Μακριά από τους Εβραίους.

On the next line, a reedy Cypriot-inflected voice congratulated me on my chosen topic.

– It’s good to learn about all these things,” he pronounced. But just remember, if there is an Israel today is because of us.

– How do you figure? Greece voted against the creation of Israel in the United Nations.

– Well they got the idea of a homeland from us, didn’t they? After the Greek Revolution. They saw that it could be done so they gave it a go as well. Did you know that the Karaolos internment camp, set up by the British in Cyprus, was used in 1946 to incarcerate Jews wishing to settle in Palestine, so as to stop their entry into the region? I’m telling you, our role was pivotal.

My next caller was an elderly person who identified himself as a Jew formerly resident in Constantinople. He told me how much he enjoyed Greek films and listening to Greek music. In particular, he confided, he very much liked the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” on account of the fine Jewish actors who appear in it, such as Lanie Kazan, Arielle Sugarman, Mark Margolis and Bess Meisler. I in turn, advised him that before “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” there was the 1972 Israeli film “Salamonico” about a bouzouki-loving larger than life kind-hearted Greek Jew whose daughter marries into an uptight European Ashkenazi family who gawk as the Greek Jews drink ouzo and dance tsifteteli. He asks me where in Melbourne he could venture to dance tsifteteli and I learn that he is ninety-six years old.

– Ε, βλάκας! Δεν βαρέθηκε να μιλάς βλακείες στον ράδιο; came the gravelly voice of the final caller. I recognised that voice. This was a Jewish friend who taught himself Modern Greek in order to amuse himself (at least that is what he maintains against my suspicions that it was to impress a long, lost love-interest) and who has taken a lively interest in all things Greek ever since. I described to him the tenor of the responses I received from my listeners and he sighed:

– The problem boychik, is that none of us have read Hobsbawn properly. Nu, and what does the great Hobsbawn say? He says: “A history which is designed only for Jews (or African Americans, or Greeks, or women, or proletariat or homosexuals) cannot be a good history, though it may be comforting to those who practice it.” Now go forth and broadcast no more.