Rhodes


This Greek island, not far from the Turkish coast, belongs to the southern islands and was conquered in 1912 by Italy from Turkey. In 1934, about 3700 Jews lived on Rhodes, most of them in Rhodes old town. In 1938, the Italian authorities introduced anti-Semitic laws which led to the emigration of about half of the Jews. Italy withdrew from the war in September 1943 and the Germans occupied previously controlled areas, including Rhodes. Initially, the Jews were left in Rhodes alone because the germans first focused on the jews on the greek mainland. But in June 1944 the snare of Rhodes jews was drawn. Adolf Eichmann (who organised the deportations of Jews from occupied territories) sent Anton Burger to Rhodes to prepare for the deportation of Rhodes Jews. On July 17, the Jews were ordered to appear in special assembly areas. They were then sent to the headquarters of the former Italian air force, just outside the old town of Rhodes, where they were imprisoned.

On July 20, the germans began to arrest those Jews who had not yet registered. A total of 1673 Jews were gathered, in addition to these, about 40 Jews escaped because they had Turkish passports. Those who were imprisoned were subjected to both abuse and looting. On July 23, the Germans began deporting the jews by ship from the port of Rhodes to Athens on the Greek mainland. Seven Jews died during the trip. During the trip, a stop was also made on the island of Kos where about 140 Jews were picked up. The journey to the Greek mainland took eight days and in Athens they were put in a prison called Chaidari. There they remained until August 3, when they began to be deported to Auschwitz, a journey that took about two weeks. About 100 Jews died during the trip. After arriving at Auschwitz, about 400 Jews were elected to slave labor, the other about 1200 were sent directly to the gas chambers because they were deemed unable to work. Of the Jews deported from Rhodes died in 1604, most of them at Auschwitz.

Current status: Preserved with memorial tablet (2016).

Location: 36° 26´45 N, 28° 13´18 E

Get there: Walk from central Rhodes town.

My comment:

On the front of the Italian air force headquarters there is a memorial plaque. What the building was used until 2016 I do not know, but it seemed to be some kind of authority because it was surrounded high fences and locked gates. It is also easy to find as it is located just outside Rhodes old town at d’Amboise gate. Inside Rhodes’ old town on the martyrs’ square is a memorial dedicated to the Jews from Rhodes who were murdered by the Germans. On a cross street by the square there is a synagogue and there is a small museum about Rhodes Jews, among other things about the Holocaust. The deportation of the Jews of Rhodes to Auschwitz may in a way symbolise the nazi zeal and ambition that the Jews in German-controlled areas should be abducted and murdered in special designated places, even if it posed huge logistical challenges.

For those who are interested in war films, it was in Rhodes that the old classic from 1961 The cannons on Navarone were largely recorded. But this is not something that is noticeable and nothing that the local tourism industry has been coins out of. The exception is Anthony Quinn Bay outside the town of Faliraki, named after one of the actors. But it is also the only one, and the question is whether the tourists who are there and sunbathing and bathing know who Anthony Quinn (1915 – 2001) is.

Follow up in books: Gilbert, Martin: The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (1987).