For a long time, Redondo Beach resident Stella Leontsini has given talks at the library on opera and travel, but on Tuesday, she spoke about how her Jewish family survived the Greek holocaust during World War II.
“The reason I decided to talk about it is in talking with people around here about Greece during the Holocaust, people said, ‘You mean to tell me Greece had a holocaust?’” Leontsini said. “I think people need to understand that the Holocaust had an incredible expanse. As a matter of fact, Greece lost 85 percent of its Jewish population.”
Leontsini also found that people have no idea how long Jews have been in Greece. The Jews settled in Corfu in 586 B.C., she said, and a synagogue on the island of Delos found by archeologists dates from 150 to 128 B.C.
“There was a Jewish presence in Greece before Christianity,” she said.
Leontsini spoke about her past over herbal tea and cookies at her Redondo Beach home, where she has lived since 1971. Her sister, Rena-Marcella Mitilineos, was visiting from Greece. The two recounted their early years, at times becoming tearful.