Shalom Life | August 06, 2015

Looking at the Holocaust through a Different Lens

Shalom Life speaks to Gregory Pappas & Steven Priovolos, producers of No Man Is An Island - a story of a Greek Jewish Community who didn't lose a single soul during the Holocaust

By: Sandra Mergulhão

Published: August 23rd, 2013 in News » World

Looking at the Holocaust through a Different Lens

In a time where movies (largely Hollywood movies) tend to focus on violence, the end of the world or romance, it’s a refreshing change of pace when a storyline aims to tell the reality of our past.

No Man is an Island, produced by Gregory Pappas and Steven Priovolos, is one such movie, telling the story of a Jewish community that existed on a remote Greek island, and the hardships that community endured during the Second World War.

Although most films that focus around such subjects concentrate on resistance, slaughter, bombs and bullets, No Man is an Island aims to be a unique account of the only Jewish community, the Zakynthos Jews, that didn't lose a single soul during the Holocaust.


(The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St Dionisios, patron saint of the island of Zakynthos)

As a kid, Pappas was told this story by his father. “My father grew up in Nazi-occupied Crete where there was a small, but ancient Jewish community,” he explains to Shalom Life. “In fact, he actually grew up in the Jewish neighborhood so he was very familiar with the once-thriving communities of Greek Jews,” he adds.

Pappas carried this story for years and shared it with many people, but one day, after telling a friend and LA-based cinematographer, Steven Priovolos, he immediately suggested transforming the story to film. “Steven believed the story is as important today as ever before and he helped me take this from a ‘personal story’ to a real project,” says Pappas.

It’s a survival story like no other, a story of soft power, of the victory of humanity over hatred, and, of compassion over cruelty. As it is fairly unknown, and at this point, untold, Pappas and Priovolos look to share this raw tale of how two men and 35,000 citizens of a Greek Island stood on the side of goodness and humanity and stared evil in the face.

“This story is unique in Europe. The Zakynthos Jewish community is the only one in all of Europe that didn't lose a single soul during the Holocaust,” says Pappas. “We aim to share a timeless story of how humanity wins over hatred in difficult times. They were trying times then - just like we are experiencing a wave of intolerance in the world today with anti-Semitism, the rise of Neo-Nazis in Greece, and anti-gay laws in Russia,” he adds.

Today, Greece’s ultra right-wing neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, continues to grow throughout the country, to the fear and dismay of European Jews everywhere. With the country facing an economic crisis reminiscent of Germany post-WWI, many worry that this fascist trend, coming at the height of European anti-Israel boycotts, can have severe consequences if not taken seriously.


(Priovolos (left) and Pappas with Lilly Carrer, now 96, wife of Mayor Lucas Carrer who was one of the two saviors of the Jewish community and was later honored by Yad Vashem)

With Greece’s once lavish image damaged beyond repair, No man is an Island aims to resurrect the positive common Greek ideals that have long since become forgotten.

“This is a story of courage, bravery and immense beauty of the human soul,” Pirovolos tells Shalom Life. “As a filmmaker, especially one so much inspired by Schindler's List, this story needs to be out there - to remind us of what we can do united.”

Pappas and Priovolos are passionate and determined to change the image of the “modern-day Greek.” “The young generation in Greece wasn't alive to experience Nazi rule and don’t know of these stories,” Pappas says. “Hundreds of thousands died in Greece during WWII because of Nazi persecution. The Nazis were brutal in Greece because of an active resistance movement. Nazism is a foreign concept and not part of the real 'Greek spirit' which celebrates humanity.”

“It's ironic that this story is taught to Israeli schoolchildren but not in Greece, to Greek kids,” Pappas adds. “Golden Dawn is a pariah of Greek society that is preying on the elderly, the weak and the poor during difficult economic conditions. Stories like these will remind Greeks who they are. Stories like this will also show the world that most Greeks are not a bunch of Neo-Nazi thugs.”

Priovolos also believes that today’s Greeks need to be reminded of their true identity and spirit. “Their spirit is not one of hatred & segregation. But one of unification, love and compassion. Of courage and a true sense of community,” he says. “The reality is that in the whole of our history as Greeks, in moments of trouble, we always show our true, beautiful spirit. And this film should be out there to remind us of who we truly are. We need it now more than ever before in our modern history.”

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