Harbor Style Harbor Style March 2018 : Page 65

from Houston, Texas, was born and raised in Athens, Greece. As a young child, she and her parents escaped the Nazis and went into hiding in the mountains above their city. Under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman, the family came to Houston in 1951, where Port was educated, worked as a teacher, married and raised a family. Now in her early 80s, Port is active in her community, synagogue and beyond. Last April, during a Yom HaShoah Holocaust Memorial Day observance in Evans, Ga., Port served as the keynote speaker. She talked about her experiences during World War II and how her family managed to survive thanks to some very righteous Greek people, including partisans, the Greek Orthodox clergy and public officials such as law enforcement and rabbis who risked their own lives so that others could live. In January, she sat down to tell her story to HARBOR STYLE. Port was barely 5 when the war came to Greece. Athens had “a smaller Jewish population that was more assimilated,” she said as she began her story. Her father, Moses Sarfati, had a thriving business exporting raw furs and hides and was well-connected, she said. Port’s paternal grandfather, Solomon Sarfati, was also an exporter of raw hides, and he and his wife, Oro, were the second richest Jewish family in Athens and had the second largest family – 11 children, according to The Jewish Chronicle of the Community in Athens. Odette Port, a retired teacher Jews have lived in Athens since the third century BCE; the remains of an ancient synagogue can be found at the foot of the Acropolis. The Jewish community is Romaniote and Sephardic; its members speak Greek and have assimilated into the city’s culture... ~United States Holocaust Memorial Museum However, the Sarfati family’s lifestyle was about to change forever with the advent of war. “When I was 7, in 1943, my father decided to leave Athens,” Port continued. Some in her community had radios and got advance notice of what was going on. They learned the Germans were putting Jews on trains for Poland or Germany. However, “None of the information hinted at death camps,” she said. The Sarfatis prepared to leave the city for an alleged vacation, and “A couple of my father’s employees said that they would watch the business for my father until he returned.” The business, however, dissipated during the war and subsequent civil war, Port added. The family left “as though we were going to our usual vacation spot, Loutraki, just 50 miles from Athens,” Port continued. The town was where her family had gone on summer vacation since she was three months old. threatened with deportation. As a result, thousands of Greek Jews were spared. In Athens and the port city of Piraeus, Christians hid Jews in their homes. ~United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Port’s uncle – her father’s brother – Abraham Sarfati, was one of the first to learn of Archbishop Damaskinos’s warning to the Rabbi Elias Barzelai that the Jews should go into hiding. His family was among the first to be issued forged Christian identity cards by Chief Evert. In all, 18,500 such false identity papers were issued. The Abraham Sarfati family escaped into the mountains*, and Odette’s family followed. Port’s father now had the name Michael and his paperwork showed him to be Greek Orthodox, she remembered. Fake IDs Saved Lives In Athens, the head rabbi, Elias Barzelai, had strong connections with the municipal government and the EAM (National Liberation Front). Along with the support of the Archbishop of Athens, Damaskinos, this contributed to the rescue of 66 percent of Athens’s Jews. Athens Police Chief Angelos Evert issued false identification cards and Archbishop Damaskinos ordered the church to issue false baptismal certificates to those *The reference to Abraham Sarfati and his family comes from the book, A Hidden Child in Greece, rescue in the Holocaust by Yolanda Avram Willis, published by AuthorHouse May 30, 2017. Feeling that the family needed a better place to hide other than Loutraki, the son of their vacation landlady, Vangelis Stergiopoulos, who was involved in the resistance movement, arranged to relocate the family to a village in the mountains. “We went from Loutraki by horse and cart. Arriving at the Corinth Canal, we needed to cross over the water, but it was a German checkpoint. When my father saw the Germans, he froze and then started to shake, but Vangelis, who was going with us, said to him: ‘You must go through with this – think of your daughter and your wife.’” Then British planes came overhead while the Germans were looking at the Sarfati family documents. The German soldiers, who “wanted us out of the way so that they could take cover, said ‘Go, go,’” and the family rushed on to the other side of the checkpoint. They stopped at Stergiopoulos’ aunt’s house and that night the horse and cart took then to a village called Stimanga at the top of the mountain. The journey ³ HARBOR STYLE | 65

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