"Women of Valor"

Stories of Women Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

A little over half of the Righteous Among the Nations recognized by Yad Vashem are women. While many of them acted in cooperation with other family members, some of these courageous women were the initiators of the rescue and acted independently to save Jews. Here are some of their stories.

Sofia Kritikou (Kritikoy)

(Greece)

Sofia Kritikou

Ceremony in honor of Sofia Kritikou. Yad Vashem, July 18, 1999

Ceremony in honor of Sofia Kritikou. Yad Vashem, July 18, 1999

Sofia Kritikou, a single mother, worked as a house cleaner in Athens while residing in Peristeri, near Athens with her daughter Agapi. In September 1943, with the German occupation of Athens, the persecution of the Jews in the capital began.

One day in March, following a rumor that rations for food would be distributed at the central synagogue, Herman (Tsvi) Kazansky’s mother, Taube, and two of his aunts went there and did not return. The family learned subsequently that they were deported to Auschwitz, where they perished. Following their disappearance, Tsvi’s father, David, took the family, which included 18-year-old Tsvi, 16-year-old Liana, and eight-year-old Jeny (Gina), into hiding. They had false identity cards bearing Greek Orthodox names that had been issued by the police commander of their residential quarter.

At first they found temporary shelter with various friends and acquaintances, with David paying for their keep, but he wanted a more permanent solution. His Greek partner in his sewing workshop mentioned the name of Sofia Kritikou. The partner was Sofia’s eight-year-old daughter Agapi's godfather. Sofia was a hard-working, poor woman. Every day she would walk to work to Athens, even though it was quite far. Nevertheless, in spite of her own personal difficulties, she did not hesitate to extend her help to the family. At first, Sofia did not know that the family under her roof was Jewish, but even when she discovered their true identity, she did not expel them from her home, despite the death punishment for sheltering Jews. The Kazanskys found shelter in Sofia’s home until the end of the war. Tsvi had joined the resistance forces, but he came to visit the family on his vacations.

After the war, David Kazansky and Liana (later Vasiliadou) remained in Greece, Tsvi and Gina (later Banchik) immigrated to Eretz Israel. Tsvi went back to Athens to visit his rescuer in 1964. Once again he met Agapi, Sofia’s daughter, and he fell in love with her. She converted to Judaism, and they married and moved to Israel. Agapi was now Ruth, and Sofia Kritikou came to live in Israel with her daughter and son-in-law. Sophia died in 1995, at the age of 100.

On August 23, 1998, Yad Vashem recognized Sofia Kritikou as Righteous Among the Nations.