Israeli Ambassador to Greece, Noam Katz, on Monday during a moving ceremony in Corfu posthumously awarded the medal and the title of “Righteous among the Nations” to Greek nationals Thomas and Antonis Kyriakis for rescuing the Jewish family of Shemo Cohen during the Holocaust.

Israeli Ambassador

After the German Nazis entered Corfu in 1943, Thomas and his son Antonis Kyriakis from the village of Valanio in the mountainous part of the island. provided shelter and protection to the family of Shemo Cohen, his wife Beatrice and their four children Diamantina, Dora, Moishe and Etty. They did so with altruism and self-sacrifice, risking their lives in a true expression of solidarity and humanity.

The award was given in the presence of members of the Kyriakis and Cohen families. The medal was received by the granddaughter of Thomas Kyriakis and daughter of Antonis, Spyridoula Kyriakis, and the certificate was received by Marina and Eleni Kyriakis, the two daughters of Dimitris Kyriakis, the other son of Thomas.

The title of Righteous among the Nations is awarded by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Remembrance Center and Museum established by the State of Israel after World War II in memory of the six million victims of the Shoah. The award is given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The award requires a thorough investigation by Yad Vashem and approval by Israel’s Supreme Court. It is considered the highest honor that can be bestowed by the State of Israel.

Awardees receive a special medal and diploma. Furthermore, their names are inscribed on the “Wall of the Righteous” and a tree is planted in their memory in the “Garden of the Righteous” in Yad Vashem.

In his speech, the Israeli Ambassador said among other things that: “Today We remember the six million souls lost in the Holocaust, including 67,000 Greek Jews who perished in the Nazi camps, an astounding 87% of Greek Jewry. We remember the 1,600 members of the historic Jewish Community of Corfu sent to Auschwitz where they met a tragic fate. But today we also remember those brave individuals who defied the barbarity of the Nazis to do what is right. We pay homage to their courage. Their virtue and bravery shined like a beacon of light during the darkest of times.”

He mentioned that the Jews are an ancient nation with a long memory and never forget the people who helped them. As he stated, Israel and Yad Vashem institutionalized our duty to remember those who saved the Jews.

Mr. Katz stated that the bravery of the Righteous should serve as role model for all of us “By highlighting their courageous actions, we not only honor their bravery, but also promote the values of empathy, understanding and moral integrity. Their stories demonstrate the profound impact that individuals can have in standing against hatred and prejudice. A Jewish proverb says that “whoever who saves one life is like saving the world”.

The actions of the Righteous really changed history, as evidenced by all the members of the Cohen family who are with us today, thanks to Thomas and Antonis Kyriakis,” the Israeli ambassador said.

Specifically, 369 courageous Greeks have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations to date. Among them are the late Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Damaskinos, the former Mayor of Zakynthos, Loukas Karrer, the late Metropolitans of Zakynthos and Dimitrias, Chrysostomos and Joakim respectively, the late chief of the Greek Police, Angelos Evert, the heroine of the National Resistance, Lela Karagianni, as well as many other resistance heroes of World War II.

“Today they are joined by Thomas and Antonis Kyriakis. May their memory be immortal,” he said.