Greek actor receives neo-nazi threats because of tv series
Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 01/08/2008
I always keep hearing that Jews «always appear in the television» and «why the heck we’re constantly dealing with them«. This stuff makes me wonder if I live in a parallel universe; while indeed US series or movies often include a jewish character (extremely natural given the demographics of US population and their concentration in big urban centers) Jewish presence in greek television is virtually non-existent. Of course one could wonder why the heck should one expect it to be any more frequent given that Jewish Greeks are only 0.05% of the population. Well the answer to that is that greek jewish history is disproportionate to their number after WW2 – especially Thessaloniki hosted the most important shefardic community in the world. Also it puzzles me to have seen hundreds of documentaries on Dalai Lama or Tahiti but only a handful on an (interesting I hope) part of our society. In any case while one can hope for more information, there have been a couple of television shows (small TV stations like ΣΚΑΙ and ET3) who have dealt with the subject. Impressively a mainstream tv comedy series included a Jew among the roles and this shall be the object of this post…
The name of the series is «Deligiannio Parthenagogio/Δεληγιάννειο παρθεναγωγείο» and it’s a comedy based on the adventures that take place in an all girls’ school during the 1930’s soft-core fascist dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas. Among the girls we have the young jewish student named Rosa Levi. I must admit that the script doesn’t excel for originality when it comes to her adventures: the young jewish girl faces some soft-core antisemitism from the local shrew while other girls support her – of course the main characters fancy her and oppose antisemitism. When the Germans occupy Greece everyone, even the shrew, help her to hide out while her parents are hidden by the local orthodox priest. In other words a simple, feel-good television series with drama like the deportations, youth love, messages against straightforward racism, while the viewers can identify themselves with the good greeks who are emblematic of the greek people who in their totality struggled heroically and saved the jews.
[An excerpt of the series where the protagonists express themselves against the deportations.] Check 00:15, 04:25, 05:45 until the end,
There isn’t of course any historical perspective and frankly it would be rather difficult to have it in a comic television series. This isn’t a documentary and I don’t think that the historical peculiarities of the era, (eg fascist Metaxas was far less antisemitic than the democratic pro-Venizelos politicians), would be well received from the public. In any case the series conveys messages against racism, at least against the blatant kind and Jews are portrayed in a favorite way – there is even a ladino song in the soundtrack, (click to hear a preview). Heck even the fact that the series treats clearly the Jewish Greeks as real Greeks is a novelty which initially it was hard to believe! In other words a television series which I was glad that was being transmitted in greek television.
So all good? Well not exactly… The novelty of seeing Jews facing antisemitism, getting help by greeks and even worse, appearing as greeks who speak greek and are human beings was apparently too much for some neo-nazis in Greece. The protagonist of the series, who also was the co-author of the series, Charis Romas, received a package full of love: a note full of threats accusing him of being «a friend of the jews» and «enemy of the nazi», accompanied by two raw steaks of meat symbolizing what will happen to him, ie slice him up.
The actor pressed charges and the local police confirmed that it is rather typical that neo-nazi threat letters be accompanied by raw meat. In an interview he declared that he «considers all this a great silliness although highly threatening» and he does not intend to change his script which represents also his ideas. The Central Jewish Board issued a statement where it expressed it’s solidarity to the actor and congratulated him for his anti-racist messages.
I must admit that it’s very awkward that a comic actor, Charis Romas, appears in the forefront of the struggle against antisemitism but I must admit he has shown courage. Showing Jews in greek television (despite using feel-good stereotypes) is an audacious enterprise and I am not sure how much it has cost in ratings. Still it is a sign of how much road we still have to make to reach normalcy when coming to Jewish Greeks in the public life; if a silly, feel-good, harmless tv series which does not touch any real historical problem can cause such a response then much worse cases like the Rozakis affair appear much less extraordinary.