Throughout much of World War II, Greece was occupied by the Axis powers. Italy invaded in the fall of 1940, and in the spring of 1941, German troops drove the Greek government out of Athens. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum explains:
The country was divided into three zones of occupation: Bulgaria annexed Thrace and Yugoslav Macedonia; Germany occupied Greek Macedonia, including Thessaloniki, Piraeus, and western Crete; and Italy occupied the remainder of the mainland and the islands. Where Jews resided determined not only their subsequent fate but also their ultimate possibility of escape. . . . Even though deportations did not start until March 1943, Greece lost at least 81 percent of its Jewish population during the Holocaust. Between 60,000 and 70,000 Greek Jews perished, most of them at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Damaskinos, the archbishop of Athens, sent a letter of protest to the Germans and then promised that the Greek Church would issue false baptismal papers for any Jews. The archbishop’s bold declaration spoke to a sense of solidarity with Greek Jews that was often reflected by partisans and resisters.