On January the 18th 2018, a very moving ceremony took place in the theater of the Lauder Jewish Community School of Athens. The children worked diligently with their teachers to prepare the story of the Assimakopoulos family who saved Delia Ferro during World war II.
With great interest, the children interviewed Maria and asked her endless questions, and she patiently replied. Dignitaries among the guests were the Attaché of the German Embassy in Athens, representatives from the Israeli Embassy in Athens, the Commander of the Psichiko Police Force, Mr. Albalas representing the central Jewish board as well as Rabbi Gabriel. The theater was packed. The 6th graders with their teachers worked collectively in preparing the actual presentation, and included a Power Point display explaining the story of Delia and her family.
From 1940 until 1943, the Ferro family lived in Athens under false documentation and Delia was enrolled in a French Catholic School. After September 1943, the situation in Athens became very dangerous and Renato, Delias’ father, decided to move his family to the outskirts of Athens. There, he hid his wife Marcella and their younger son Guido. Renato and his elder son joined the resistance.
At this point Renato turned to his brother’s friend, George Assimakopoulos, a prominent businessman, for help. After George discussed with his wife Aphroditi, they decided to take in Delia under the name of Penelope, as their children’s French teacher. Their children, Maria and Niko, were then 13 and 12 years old.
Food was very scarce, but Delia had become part of the Assimakopoulos family and went with them at all times. Even when Delia’s mother Marcella and her brother Guido begun to worry that neighbors suspected that the Assimakopoulos were hiding Jews, George Assimkopoulos immediately helped find them a new hiding place, at his Mother in Law. Delia remained with the Assimakopoulos family until the Germans left Athens.
Unfortunately, both George and Aphroditi Assimakopoulos, as well as Delia Ferro, have since passed away. But their legacy lives on.
Their children, Maria from the Assimakopoulos family and Avraam Natan Cohen and Leah Peretz from Israel, Delia’s children, attended the ceremony with their families. It was very emotional when Maria stood up and spoke about her parents and Delia. She said she loved Delia more than a sister and the two of them remained close until Delia’s death in 2002.
With a broken cry, Delia’s son Avi expressed his deep gratitude to the Assimakopoulos family and thanked Maria for her parents’ act of kindness. He cited the Mishnah’s verse, “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” There was no dry eye in the audience when Mrs. Sawsan Hasson. from the Israeli Embassy, presented Maria with Yad Vashem’s Medal for the Righteous Among the Nations.
The ceremony closed with Hebrew songs sung by the children of the school. It was a memorable ceremony for all present, but even more for the Lauder Athens sixth graders, who worked hard and became so involved in preparing and presenting this moving story. The Lauder school children learned so much about human kindness, as done by the Assimakopoulos family.