Memoir chronicles Jewish survival and Greeks that hid family from the Nazis
In an interview with i24NEWS, author explains writing grandmother's story after hate crime struck her family
On the Greek island of Erikoussa, a Jewish tailor and his daughters were kept hidden by a Greek family as the Nazis swept through, leaving death and destruction in their wake.
Yvette Manessis Corporon, an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer, grew up listening to her grandmother's story and embarked on a journey to find the Jewish descendants of the family her grandmother saved.
As she set out to uncover her family’s story of bravery in the face of hatred, Corporon received the news that would change her life forever — her nephew Reat and his grandfather Bill had been killed by a white nationalist as they were leaving a Jewish community center in Kansas, although they were not Jewish.
In an interview with i24NEWS, Corporon described the challenges she faced in penning her memoir while documenting her grandmother’s heroic story, some 70 years after the fact, while trying to overcome grief and facing acts of hatred plaguing the modern US.
"One thing that is not in the book and that you will never hear from my lips is the name of the man who murdered my nephew and his grandfather," Corporon told i24NEWS, noting that the killer is often referred to as 'the shooter' or 'white supremacist.' This editorial choice emphasizes the goal of the book: to immortalize the good deeds of the brave and diminish violent acts of hatred.
"We feel very strongly about that as a family,” Corporon said. “History should remember the names of the righteous and those who stood up and did good things, not those who perpetrated the evil. So why should we make this man and his evil deeds known to history? Let's remember those who were catalysts for good," Corporon said.
Setting the scene of Corfu on the eve of the Nazi occupation, Corporon’s memoir "Something Beautiful Happens" also offers a window into the lives of the Jews of Greece, a community forgotten.
"The fact that this entire community feels forgotten by history is devastating,” said Corporon. "The fact that I've played even just a small role in bringing this lost historic story to light and finally giving a voice to the Jewish Greeks, makes me very very proud."
As the Nazis occupied Greece, a Jewish family was saved by Corporon’s grandmother, Avgerini Manessis, fondly referred to as Yia-yia in the memoir, while the remainder of the 800-year-old Jewish community faced annihilation.
The memoir parallels Corporon’s journey to locate the descendants of the Jewish survivors while exposing the horrific pain and grief that came with losing loved ones to hate crime.
From her grandmother’s tale, Corporon hopes readers will learn to “stand up and do the right thing regardless of what is being said all around you. If you know in your heart and your gut that something is wrong you stand up and you do the right thing, use your voice, use your words, use your wisdom, do whatever you have to do."
The TV producer and author confessed that current events in the United States deeply concern her, and she stressed the importance of taking action against hate.
“Especially now,” Corpron told i24NEWS, “we have to use our voices. The fact that there are Nazis marching in the streets in the United States sickens me.”
“When my nephew was murdered just three years ago,” Corporon recalled, ”they were still hiding in the shadows and now they are marching in the streets of the United States with torches and swastikas. We have to stand up and make sure everyone understands that this is not ok.”
In light of the recent uptick in anti-Semitic attacks and white-nationalist sentiment sweeping through the United States, Corporon also had to face the challenge of explaining to her children how such hatred could still wreak havoc in the world as it did in her grandmother’s time.
Corporon hopes that the memoir will encourage others to share their stories as she sees the documentation of this history as a race against the clock.
“For those of us who are left,” said Corpron, “the children, the grandchildren and the survivors, I would hope that this story becomes a catalyst for other people to seek out these stories, to share these stories.”
“It’s this race against time,” said Corporon, “it’s this generation that we’re losing.”
Corporon is hopeful that her grandmother’s story will resonate with readers, proving that good prevails.
“When people hear the word Holocaust, what comes to mind? Death, devastation, and destruction, but there were also so many beautiful incredible things that happened and we need to know more of those stories,” Corporon told i24NEWS. “Why should history only remember the perpetrators of evil?”
Emily Rose is an webdesk editor at i24NEWS
Follow at @emilyarielrose
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