Meet Deno Seder, author of Miracle at Zakynthos. He is a producer of media and films and is passionate about politics and art. Discover this interesting account of The history of Greek Jews through his work.
Meet Deno Seder
If you like history, especially topics related to World War II, read Miracle at Zakynthos: The Only Greek Jewish Community Saved in its Entirety from Annihilation. Author Deno Seder writes a non-fictionalized account of the only Jewish community in Greece saved in its entirety from annihilation during the Holocaust, with direct quotes from many of the survivors of that era.
Deno Seder is not only a writer, but a media producer as well. He has a degree in business and marketing, however, over the years has become passionate about film, video, and politics. Deno also advocates for various clients in health, education, and the arts. The production company, Deno Seder Productions, came about as his wife, art director, Anita Semjen, was also in nonprofit filmmaking. They currently reside in Washington, D.C.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Deno Seder. He’s a very gracious and engaging author, who spoke passionately about the book and the compelling reasons to write it. We also spoke about some pretty exciting future developments on bringing more recognition and education about the period of World War II in Greek-Jewish history.
Q&A with Author Deno Seder
Peg Karadimas: What is your ethnic background?
Deno Seder: I am a 1st Generation Greek-American. My father was a Greek Orthodox priest in Shreveport, LA. My mother would clean the church there. When she wanted to vacuum in the sanctuary (an area where women were typically are not allowed) she would lock the doors behind her, rationalizing that “God wants a clean altar”.
PK: Where in Greece are your parents from?
DS: My parents are from Samos and Crete. I understand Greek better than I speak, but when I am in Greece, my Greek definitely improves.
PK: What was your inspiration to write about the relationship between the Greek Jews and the Greeks in Zakynthos during World War II?
DS: My wife and I were in Jerusalem and she was setting up for an art exhibition for her work. (My wife is of Hungarian Jewish descent) While on break, we visited the
Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. That is where I came across the Bishop Chrysostomos and Mayor Loukas story.
PK: What compelled you to write about it?
DS: I feel that it was, and is, a modern parable for Christianity. During World War II, there was a saying among the Greeks:
“If you are a good Christian, save a Jew.”
My production company specializes in media campaigns, films, and videos in politics, art and advocacy. And so I felt that here was a story that is not well known, and it needs to be recognized as part of the Greek Jewish history.
PK: How long did it take to research and write?
DS: The writing actually took about two years, start to finish, with a couple of visits to Greece as well.
PK: I read that most records were destroyed in Zakynthos during the 1953 earthquakes. How did you conduct your research?
DS: Truly, the only written record available now is Chrysostomos’ diary. There are only 2 copies published. One is at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., and the other one is at the National Library of Greece in Athens.
So, I started my research in Washington D.C, where I copied the diary (no books can be checked out there).Then, I had to procure a translator to translate the diary.
I also travelled to Greece a couple of times, and met with villagers in Zakynthos. These villagers were children and teenagers during World War II, but even as adults they still had vivid recollections of their experiences.
The part that took the longest was viewing hours of video testimonies of the Greek Jewish plight. These videos were available at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the Steven Spielberg archives at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.
Although the videos were captivating, viewing them was also one of the lengthiest processes, due to the fact that they were in Greek and Hebrew. Translators were also needed to translate the oral content into English.
PK: How do you feel about how the book turned out?
DS: I feel very proud of this book and also a sense of gratification. I I sent a copy of the book to Patriarch Bartholomew. And he actually wrote me back. It was a very complimentary letter.
PK: Is this your first book?
DS: No, my first book is Wild About Harry: A Biography of Harry Lee. He was a sheriff in Louisiana, re-elected six times in 28 years. Another interesting figure in history.
PK: Since your company is in media and film, are you currently working on any projects related to Greek Jewish history?
DS: Well, as a matter of fact, my wife and I, and the production company, are working on two projects simultaneously .
We have created a curriculum for educational purposes — on the subject of Greek Jews and Greek History. So we are working on getting that into the education system and schools.
PK: That sounds great! We definitely need more stories than just the ones that are always taught in the schools. What is the second project?
DS: Well, we also have also written a screenplay for a feature film on Miracle on Zakynthos (some of it is fictionalized of course).
PK: That sounds exciting! When can we expect these projects? Especially the film?
DS: Well, we need $40 million dollars to produce a film.
PK: $40 million dollars! So, this isn’t just any feature film. Your goal is to make this a must-see movie?
DS: Yes, it’s expensive to make, however it is an important part of Greek and Jewish history. I sent out this project to the head of Fox, (a Greek by the way) but received a nice, albeit rejection, letter. I really would love to have Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson read it as well, as I think this would be a project that would interest them.
PK: Deno, the screenplay sounds amazing. You know the saying — six degrees of separation? Maybe one of our readers, might be kind enough to connect you with someone like Tom Hanks.
DS: (laughs) That would be great! I would love that.
After reading his book, and speaking with him, I have become a huge fan, and I am definitely looking forward to more of Deno Seder’s projects. And maybe we will be seeing this part of history at the movies in the near future.
Connect with Deno Seder: website
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