This Greek island, not far from the Turkish coast, is part of the South Aegean 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. When Italy withdrew from the war in September, 1943, the Germans occupied previously italian controlled areas, including Rhodes. Initially, the Jews in Rhodes was not affected, because the germans were focusing on the Jews on greek mainland. But in June 1944 the germans began focusing on greek island Jews, including Rhodes. Adolf Eichmann (who organised the deportations of Jews from occupied territories) sent Anton Burger to Rhodes to prepare for the deportation of the Jews. July 17, the Jews were under false pretexts told to appear in special assembly areas. They were then sent to the headquarters of the former Italian air force, just outside the old town, and imprisoned.

On July 20, the germans began to arrest Jews not yet registered as being told. A total of 1673 Jews were arrested, in addition to these, about 40 Jews escaped arrest because they had Turkish passports. Those who were imprisoned were subjected to both abuse and robbing. On July 23, the Germans began deporting the Jews by ship from the port of Rhodes to Athens. 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 sent to Chaidari concentrtion camp. 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 selected for 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, 1604 died, 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 facade of the Italian air force headquarters there is a memorial plaque. What the building was used for in 2016 I do not know, but it seemed to be some kind of authority because it was surrounded with high fences and locked gates. It is also easy to find as it’s located just outside Rhodes old town at d’Amboise gate. Inside Rhodes’ old town on the martyrs’ square is a Holocaust memorial dedicated to the Jews from Rhodes. On a cross street by the square there is a synagogue and there is a small museum about Rhodes Jews, including 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.

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