This dissertation examines the response of the Church of Greece to enemy occupation during the Second World War. Historically, in periods of crisis, especially during Ottoman rule (1453-1821) and the Greek War of Independence (1821-1830), the Greek people looked to the church to help them preserve faith and culture. In some cases, church policy played an important role in the very physical survival of the Greek nation. In the period under consideration, the leadership of Archbishop Damaskinos helped the Greek church rise to the occasion once more. Education, training, ability, perseverance, and political acumen made Damaskinos the ideal prelate to lead the nation. In essence he became an ethnarch, a phenomenon with which Greek society was thoroughly familiar.
Drawing upon contemporary official sources from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the British Foreign Office, the US State Department, and the Archive of the Greek Holy Synod, as well as pertinent published primary and secondary literature, the dissertation explores attempts by the church leadership to maintain a precarious balance between capitalizing on opportunistic moments to gain concessions from the enemy occupiers and opposing the latter's policies deemed detrimental to the wellbeing of state and society. For example, Damaskinos and his colleagues used skillful diplomacy with the Axis and Greek political power groups ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right to wrench important concessions for the benefit of the beleaguered population ravaged by a nationwide famine. Church leadership also utilized more imaginative forms of passive or active resistance against Axis policies on vital issues such as the Holocaust and ethnic policies in the Bulgarian-occupied territories of the country. Despite significant differences between the Greek case and those of other territories in Axis-occupied Europe, the response of Damaskinos and his colleagues is instructive in helping us understand how and why traditional institutions such as the church provide indispensible service, guidance, and protection in moments of social upheaval and distress.