OXI Day Foundation
in Washington

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Many know that Greece created Democracy,
but few know that she also saved it!

Modern history's most consequential, yet forgotten, David vs. Goliath story -- Greece's role in the defeat of Adolph Hitler and preservation of freedom and democracy -- took a major step into public consciousness this past October in the nation’s capital. The Washington Oxi Day Foundation's first annual celebration, October 27-28, 2011, taught hundreds of high-level national and international policy makers and opinion leaders this relatively recent epic page in Greece’s history. It did so through the words of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt and through the vocal advocacy of current day national and international leaders, such as: Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House and current House Minority Leader, Chris Matthews, leading television personality and Republican Presidential nominee Carl Gershman, President, National Endowment for Democracy.

Dozens of Washington policy makers and opinion leaders participated in Foundation events that included a National WWII Memorial ceremony, Four Seasons Hotel black tie dinner, American University lecture and Tomb of the Unknowns wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery.

Hundreds more opinion leaders learned the Oxi Day story as they nominated people for the cash prizes that accompanied the Foundation's Awards. Jewish community leaders learned of the unique courage of Greek Orthodox hierarchs during the Holocaust through their nominations for the Metropolitan Chrysostomos Award.

Early in the morning of October 28, 1940, the Italian ambassador to Athens visited Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas, requesting that Greece allows free passage of Italian forces through her territory. Without hesitation or further consultation, Metaxas responded “no” (oxi, in Greek) on the spot, opening another glorious page in the history of Greece and the free world. It took only four days for the outnumbered and ill equipped Greek forces to repel the massive Italian attack and to start an epic chain of victories – THE FIRST AGAINST THE AXIS ARMIES DURING WWII – that culminated with the liberation of a big swath of Greek-inhabited territory within Albania. Seeing his ally facing total defeat, Hitler decided to invade Greece as well, with the help of Bulgaria. While, it took less than two weeks for mighty France to fall, the Axis powers spent more than six months to succumb Greece, disrupting Hitler’s war timetable, since he was forced into the debilitating Russian winter where he met defeat. Leaders like Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, America’s Sumner Welles and even Adolph Hitler’s Chief of Staff, Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, credit Greece with bringing about Hitler’s defeat. Keitel said: “The Greeks delayed by two or more vital months the German attack against Russia; if we did not have this long delay, the outcome of the war would have been different.”

In 1940, Greece’s Defeat of the Seemingly Undefeatable Axis Forces Inspired the World.

President Franklin Roosevelt said “When the entire world had lost all hope, the Greek people dared to question the invincibility of the German monster raising against it the proud spirit of freedom.”

The first recipient of the annual Oxi Day Award was Tunisian activist Jamel Bettaieb, who received this recognition on behalf of the people in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, the birthplace of the historic Arab Spring, which led to the overthrow of Tunisian dictator Zine Ben Ali and began a wave of revolutions that swept through the Arab world. He was recently invited to the Oval Office to meet with President Barack Obama and was honored with the Democracy Award by the National Endowment for Democracy. Bettaieb was nominated for the Oxi Day Award by the National Democratic Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy.

The first recipient of the annual Oxi Day Battle of Crete Award, honoring a woman for courageous action for freedom and democracy, in memory of the role women played against the Axis Forces in the Battle of Crete in World War II, was Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Despite being under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years, Suu Kyi has remained a symbol of hope, defiance and moral strength for the 55 million people of Burma and is recognized as one of the world’s most renowned freedom fighters. She has received numerous honors for her work including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian award in the United States — by a unanimous vote, in 2008. Because of political constraints, Suu Kyi was not allowed to leave her country and therefore she wasn’t able to accept the award in person.

The Oxi Day Battle of Crete Award is inspired by the women of Crete, Greece, who showed tremendous courage in joining the fight against the invading Axis forces during WWII. In reprisal for their bravery in battle, in hiding and caring for wounded fighters, in smuggling arms and messages when they knew that discovery meant certain death, nearly 1,000 Cretan women were killed and an additional 500 women were deported to Germany for taking part in the defense of their island.

Panagiotis M. Sakellaris, a Greek WWII veteran, received the Oxi Day Greatest Generation Award on behalf of all Greek soldiers who served courageously during World War II.

Former Senate Majority Leader and nominee for President of the United States, Bob Dole, received the Oxi Day Greatest Generation Award, honoring an American veteran on behalf of all American WWII soldiers.

Sakellaris, who is 97-years-old, joined the Greek military at the age of 21. Following the Axis invasion of Greece in October 1940, Sakellaris was called to active duty and deployed to the Albanian front where he played a key role in the successful counter offensive against the invading forces.

The first recipient of the annual Metropolitan Chrysostomos Award – recognizing action to stop anti-Semitism or discrimination — was received by Ms. Photini Tomai, director of the Greek Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic and Historical Archives. Tomai has devoted much of her professional life to researching, documenting and publicizing the fate of Greece’s Jewish population during World War II and has published several volumes of work on the subject.

This award is named after Metropolitan Chrysostomos, the Greek Orthodox Church leader on the island of Zakinthos during the German occupation of Greece, who is credited with saving hundreds of Jewish lives. German forces, preparing to deport Jewish citizens of Zakinthos to camps in Poland, ordered Metropolitan Chrysostomos to prepare a list of all of the Jewish people on the island. The Metropolitan told the Mayor of Zakinthos to burn the list of Jewish names and implored the German commander to not deport these citizens, as they were Greek citizens and had done no harm. When the Germans would not listen and ordered him to produce the list, Chrysostomos took a piece of paper, wrote his own name on it and handed it over, saying “here is the list of Jews you required.” In addition, he told the Jewish residents on the island to leave their homes and go into hiding in the mountains, promising them that Christian islanders would provide them with food and shelter. Those that followed his instructions were saved.

In 1978 Chrysostomos was awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel’s Yad Vashem organization for risking his life to save the lives of Jewish people during the Holocaust. According to Yad Vashem, upon receiving this award, “Metropolitan Chrysostomos declared that he was following the example of Archbishop Damaskinos of Greece, who on 23 March 1943, after the first trains left Thessaloniki for Auschwitz, published an outspoken condemnation of the deportation of Greece’s Jews. Damaskinos was known to have said: “I have taken up my cross. I spoke to the Lord, and made up my mind to save as many Jewish souls as possible."

Only the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Damaskinos, among ALL top religious leaders in occupied countries publicly challenged in writing the occupying Nazis’ Holocaust plans, according to the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. The Archbishop showed great courage in his response to the threat of death by Nazi firing squad. He told the Nazis that Greek clerics are not shot, but hanged, and he requested that they respect the custom. Time Magazine featured him on its cover.

The Washington based OXI Foundation efforts featured Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America, Demetrios, and Foreign Minister of Greece Stavros Lambrinidis as well as Greek Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis and Cyprus Ambassador Pavlos Anastasiades. History's highest ranking Greek-American officials also participated in these events, including: the first US Director of National Intelligence and former Undersecretary of State, John Negroponte; former Senator Paul Sarbanes; former US Ambassador to Belgium Tom Korologos; former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios; former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Assistant Secretary of State, Barbara Spyridon Pope; Vice-Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Congressman Gus Bilirakis; Congressman John Sarbanes; and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Hercules Priebus.

Washington Oxi Day Foundation President and founder Andy Manatos and Executive Director Mike Manatos welcomed the involvement in these activities of the national leaders of: the Order of St. Andrew, Leadership 100, AHEPA, AHI, SAE, the Pancretan, Pan-Macedonian, Pancyprian, Cyprus, Pan-Epirotic and Pan-Icarian Associations and Federations of America, PSEKA, American Hellenic Council of California, National Hellenic Society, Next Generation Initiative, Hellenic-American National Council, and Hellenic American Women's Council, among others.

For more information about the event and the Washington Oxi Day Foundation, visit www.OxiDayFoundation.org.


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