Abravanel, the Blog

Jewish life and not only in Greece / Εβραϊκή ζωή και όχι μόνο στην Ελλάδα

Burning jews…with a vengeance!

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 23/04/2008

at KinoyriaA year ago we had dealt with the evergreen folk custom of «The Burning of Judas/Jew» – «Το Κάψιμo του Ιούδα/Οβριού».

Anyway a year passed, yet again nothing changed and yet again the only time anyone took notice was only when the State Department published it’s yearly report on religious freedom which reported the protests of the Greek Jewish Community. So I thought it would be rude not to re-propose the same article also this year. :)

Let’s go again though the salient points of last year:

  1. The custom was an occasion for antisemitic outbursts during Easter.
  2. These outbursts happened in all of Greece, including Asia Minor greek communities, Thessaloniki, Crete and the islands of the Aegean like Hydra or of Ionio like Corfu.
  3. This is according to the Metropolite Anthimos a pagan custom and not a christian one and should stop.
  4. The Catholic Church at Syros banished it because of the violence it procured, despite the people wanting it to continue.
  5. University professors like F.Abatzopoulou agree that the «Burning of Judas» is the «most familiar and widespread manifestation of traditional anti-Semitism in Greece.»
  6. The National Tourism Organization is proud of the custom and continues to promote it in various web sites.
  7. Various elementary schools are proud to teach small children how one can burn Judas/Jew.
  8. The Regional Directorship of the Primary Education in Thessaly, is happy to offer easter carols that tell the children how to «burn the Jew» and talk about «damned jews». (By the way in the meantime let’s also talk about how the gipsies supplied the nails with which Jesus was crucified).
  9. The Holy Synod of the Greek Church considers this custom to «incite to religious hatred» and «foster fanatism» and condemned it inqequivoabilly in encyclicals in 1891, 1910 and 1918. (Strangely it has failed to do so recently but that’s another story).
  10. The Jewish Community has officially Metropolites like the one of Hydra to voice their dissent, (and they have refused to).

So unless the Greek Church was taken over by zionists that wanted Greece to appear evil, it has asked that Greek Orthodox Christians should refrain from the Burning of Judas/ Jew/ Niger because it is contrary to the religion and an antisemitic act of fanatism. If someone sees an american conspiracy of the State Department please check with the Holy Synod of the Church and ask if it was erroded by zionists back in 1891, (the year of the pogrom and the blood libel in Corfu), when not even zionism was even founded!

link to the original article

«Burning jews, niggers and gipsies «

_ Here’s a video of how to burn Judas /Jew (or even nigger as in Gastouni choose to name the doll).

_ Greek writer Kazantzakis has no doubt about the nature of this custom and in his novel includes a scene where small children set fire to the rabbi’s house. He also describes the religious frenzy and the fear that produces for the Jews who would stay inside during the Holy Week.

Κόντευε πια να ξετελέψει ο Απρίλης, μπήκαν οι χριστιανοί με τρόμο στη Μεγάλη Βδομάδα…

…Σιγά σιγά, όσο προχωρούσαν, μέρα με την μέρα, τα Πάθη του Χριστού, οι χριστιανοί της Κρήτης, ξαναμμένοι από την αγρυπνία, από την νηστεία κι από τον πόνο του Θεού, ένοιωθαν το παράπονο ν΄ανεβαίνουν και να ραιζουν την καρδιά τους. Βλεφάριζαν με άγριο μάτι τους Τούρκους και με βιας κρατιόνταν να μην περάσουν απο μαχαίρι τους λιγοστούς Οβραίους – τενεκετζίδες και σαράφηδες – που, στριμωγμένοι στην Οβριακή, κοντά στο λιμάνι, κλειδαμπαρώνονταν απο νωρίς στις άγιες επικίνδυνες βραδιές του Μεγαλοβδόμαδου.

Μα το Θρασάκι ήθελε να δει, να συδαυλίσει την φωτιά, να τη βοηθήσει να κάμει στάχτη το οβραίικο σπίτι. <<Τι πάει να πει, έλεγε με το νου του, να φκιάνεις οβραίους με κουρέλια κι άχυρα και να τους καις. Να καις ζωντανούς Οβραίους, αν θες να΄χεις την ευκη του Χριστου>>. Ζύγισε να χύσει στην αναμένη πόρτα και το επίλοιπο πετρέλαιο…

Ν. Καζαντζάκης / Ο Καπετάν Μιχάλης

_ Theriomorph in her comments includes Christian and Jewish reactions in postwar Greece:

In the Jewish families, what was described was more an inter-generational argument, where some older family members would be concerned about attacks and insist their kids (some of them adult now) didn’t go out, while the others would find this either ridiculous (not agreeing there was an increased risk of hate crimes on Easter), or offensive (more a ‘I will not let my life be circumscribed by fear’ response). Sometimes this arguing was intense.

The Xtian families described the ‘sensible’ Jews staying indoors on the holiday, and did so with what seemed to me to be a mixture of embarrassment (they knew what I was writing about, after all) and Nationalistic, angry pride.

1. Greek bloggers who have posted on this custom:

2. Greek newspaper articles on the background of the Burning of Judas:

3. How this custom is extended throughout Greece:

3. Elementary schools on Burning of Judas:

4. The Burning of Judas is an occasion of antisemitic violence:

10 Σχόλια προς “Burning jews…with a vengeance!”

  1. omadeon said

    The passage by Kazantzakis succeeded to anger me, somewhat. I had read most of his books when I was a teenager, but not Kapetan Michalis (although everyone recommended it, somehow the recommendations made me… avoid it).

    Of course, the wide variety of racist phenomena include much more than just antisemitism, throughout the world.

    Perhaps the «atom» of the «molecule» we call racism and antisemitism is demonisation.
    And this can happen at any time, any place. E.g. the blogger from whose post and discussion you felt inspired, admitted that it «was one of the best discussions in the Greek blogosphere». This didn’t prevent him from… demonizing me, in particular, a few weeks later, presenting a false picture of my participation in the discussions as if I was a trouble-maker, a parasite and a «pig-sty-blog owner», etc.
    It is a very good thing this attitude is now mostly buried in the past, but while it lasted, it did make me feel like a… burning Judas and a Jew, as well, actually.

    The point I am making is that we ought to reduce demonisation, otherwise reducing antisemitism will be hypocritical.

  2. vvvv said


  3. Abravanel said

    Hello omadeon, nice to see you. :)

    I was not inspired by the discussion, I just felt that it was an interesting discussion and should have been included here as a resource. I would like only to repeat something: I do not believe that the people that participate in the Burning are blood-thirsty antisemites; the blame falls to the ones who are aware of the nature of the custom but do nothing to either stop it, or relieve it from it’s symbolism.

    @ vvv. Thank you for confirming my view of the low level of IQ of your average nationalist; each post your kind makes bolsters my determination so thanks!

  4. zalmoxis said

    Συμφωνώ και επαυξάνω για το «βάρβαρο» σε γενικές γραμμές (και όχι μόνο ρατσιστικό) αυτό έθιμο, παραθέτοντας εν προκειμένω απόσπασμα από κείμενο που ανήρτισα στις 25.04.08:

    Πάσχα Ελλήνων: Γιορτή της βαρβαρότητας (ή “τα 7 θανάσιμα αμαρτήματα της Λαμπρής”)

    “…Το Πάσχα, ειδικά με τον τρόπο που γιορτάζεται στην Ελλάδα, πρέπει είναι –πιστεύω- η πιο βάρβαρη γιορτή στον κόσμο.
    Την περίοδο του Πάσχα, ο Έλληνας εκδηλώνει τα απωθημένα του, τις μικρότητές του, τις κακίες του, τα συμπλέγματά του και –κυρίως- την υποκρισία του, καθώς όλες αυτές τις εκδηλώσεις τις αποκαλεί, με τον χαρακτηριστικό φαρισαϊσμό που τον διακρίνει, «θεία κατάνυξη», «θρησκευτική ευλαβικότητα», «ιερή μέθεξη» και άλλα τέτοια ωραία και βαρύγδουπα…
    Μπορώ να επικαλεστώ πλείστους όσους λόγους οι οποίοι να αποδεικνύουν τη βαρβαρότητα του Πάσχα των Ελλήνων, όμως θα απαριθμήσω αυτούς που θεωρώ ως πιο χαρακτηριστικούς:…

    … Τρίτον, το «κάψιμο του Ιούδα». Το γραφικό αυτό θέαμα όπου οι «πιστοί» εκτονώνονται… με ντουφεκιές, καψίματα, βρισιές και όλα αυτά τα «κατανυκτικά» είναι όντως μέσα στο «Πνεύμα της Αγάπης» συνάδοντας αν μη τι άλλο και με το βαθύτερο νόημα του Πάσχα (και τον υφέρποντα ρατσισμόν βεβαίως)…

  5. Abravanel said

    Πάσχα Ελλήνων: Γιορτή της βαρβαρότητας (ή “τα 7 θανάσιμα αμαρτήματα της Λαμπρής”)

    Δεν συμφωνώ με τον χαρακτηρισμό του Πάσχα ως γιορτή της βαρβαρότητας αφού σέβομαι το θρησκευτικό συναίσθημα πολλών που πιστεύουν πραγματικά. Ο καθένας διαλέγει το τι θα «ακολουθήσει» και το τι νοημα θα δώσει στις θρησκευτικές γιορτές του, είτε είναι το Πάσχα ή το Χανουκά ή το Ραμαζάνι. Ακριβώς γι’αυτό οι ακρότητες που μπορεί να συνοδεύουν ορισμένες εκδηλώσεις κρίνονται, όχι σαν εκδήλωση του θρησκευτικού συναισθήματος, αλλά σαν εκδήλωση του ανθρώπινου πάθους, (ή μίσους).

  6. zalmoxis said

    Δυστυχώς, το θρησκευτικό συναίσθημα για πολλούς πάει περίπατο και το Πάσχα στην Ελλάδα εκβαρβασίσθηκε. Δεν λέω να γυρίσουμε στις εποχές που περιέγραφε στα «Πασχαλινά Διηγήματα» ο Παπαδιαμάντης, όμως απομένουν πια μόνο κάποιες γαστροραγίες από υπερβολικό φαγοπότι, ακρωτηριασμοί από κροτίδες, δεκάδες δυστυχήματα στους δρόμους, κοπάνα από την αναστάσιμη ακολουθία για…μαγειρίτσα, καταναλωτισμός, ρεπορτάζ των καναλιών για το αρνί που πέταξε (όπως πετάει κάθε Χρισυούγεννα η γαλοπούλα) κ.λπ. Αυτά όλα δεν τα θεωρώ και πολύ «πολιτισμένα»…


    Isn’t this whole thing a little overreaction, to what is widely believed in Greece as just a custom? I agree, it’s not one of the most civilised ones, but then foreigners look with awe at Greeks cooking over an open fire lams during Easter Day. You write Judas/ Jew. It’s more than unfortunate that the Christian religion had to find a «bad guy» in the story of Jesus Christ, but Judas was Jewish, as was Jesus.

    Greeks share a common bond with the Jewish people. The fact that their religion is what kept their culture, their unity as a people through the years of Ottoman rule. In the same way, it was the Jewish faith that kept the Jewish people as one for over 2000 years of «διασπορά». It would be fair to say therefore, that some «barbarian» customs will remain through the centuries, but only as customs and nothing more.

    Όσο αφορά για το τι σημαίνει πραγματικά το Πάσχα για τον νέο-Έλληνα;;; Άδεια από την δουλειά, φαί, επιστροφή στο χωριό. Πολύ φοβάμαι ότι ή οποιαδήποτε κατάνυξη έχει χαθεί χρόνια τώρα.

  8. Abravanel said

    I agree partly on the custom lacking it’s marked anti-jewish character today. It is not like the past where it was always a chance for the occasional throwing of stones towards the jewish houses or the beating of a stray jew, (there are hundreds of oral testimonies like the one theriomorph mentioned / incidents in greek literature like the one of Kazantzakis). Still it is a custom that the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece admitted in three different encyclicals over diverse years that it is violent and antisemitic. Still today Metropolite Anthimos ask for it’s removal although on the grounds that it is pagan.

    Today it is in fact just a custom. Still the fact that in several places of Greece it is described as the Burning of the Jew/Κάψιμο του Οβριού remains a deeply offensive move that inherits the violence that has carried during centuries. Calling someone obsessed with money a «jew» is only a simple folk term but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a sign of prejudice.

    I agree that both the christian and the jewish faith have «barbarian» characteristics; it is only natural since the faith was evolved in other times. But customs do change and they do not remain immutable in time. It is a fallacy to believe that we have inherited the customs of our fathers and that we haven’t adjusted them to the present day.

    Since this act the Burning of the Jew is an act that has been specifically and consistently in the recent past been an opportunity for racist violence, since the Greek Church is of the same opinion, since today we have a different conscience to the one of our forefathers, it is the only choice to seize official support of a custom which has proven in the centuries to promote hate. :)


    I stand corrected as to whether certain parts of Greece refer to it as the burning of the Jew. The only part I have witnessed it was at Monemvasia and it was called the burning of Judas.

    I agree with all you wrote, but there is one thing you fail to take into consideration. The word custom. You cannot stop a custom. It has survived through the centuries and to ask for it to be stopped is like when the EU said that «μαγειρίτσα» should be banned, therefore knowing the Greeks, you will probably see it resurrected as a custom even at places where it has died out (Greek idiosyncrasy). If the church wants it to stop, they should teach the reasons why in their ceremony. Only through education will these thing seize to exist.

  10. Abravanel said

    There are tenths and tenths of places where the burning of judas takes places and tenths that it is known specifically as the Burning of the Jew. Google: «κάψιμο ιούδα» and «κάψιμο οβριού»

    Just as an example we have find Κάψιμο Οβριού/ Burning of the Jew in:
    Thrace: http://www.europos.gr/index.php?option=com_content&task=category&sectionid=32&id=29&Itemid=87
    In greek tradition by a prof of Folk Tradition: http://www.kathimerini.gr/4dcgi/_w_articles_kathglobal_2_28/09/2003_1282439 and
    In the Dodecanesse islands: http://alex.eled.duth.gr/dromena/tzamala/art8.html

    We have the burning of Judas but the carols/songs that accompany it talk about «Burning the jew»:
    The Directoriship of Elementary Scools in Thessaly: http://4grpe.kar.sch.gr/To_Pasxa.htm
    Κεράτσα, Κεράτσα, Κεράτσα Κληματσίδα,
    Να κάψουμε τον Οβριό, που πουλεί τα μήλα,
    Επάνω στη γκαμήλα.
    …Για του γέρου τα μιστά, που πελέκα τα καρφιά.
    Οβριός πουλεί μαχαίρια, να κοπούν τα δυό του χέρια.
    Οβριός πουλεί μετάξι, σαν τον διάολο να πετάξει.

    Bonus: The Burning of the Nigger in Gastouni http://www.fotoartmagazine.gr/articles/laogafia/tokapsimotouarapi/index.htm

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