The History of the Jews of Crete

The island of Crete has had a history quite distinctly its own, due to its relative isolation from the mainland of Greece and its proximity to North Africa, Egypt, and the coast of Palestine. Depending on the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean, Crete has thus been drawn into various orbits of influence, political economic and cultural.

 

Once Crete had emerged from some 2000 years of in-fighting and relative isolation after the Dorian invasions the island found itself centrally located in the new international world that had been created by Alexander the Great. It is into this world that Jews began to settle in great numbers in many of the new Hellenistic cities such as Alexandria, Antioch, Ephesus and along the coast of Asia Minor. We can assume that many began to settle as well in Crete which was in close proximity to all of them as well as central to new routes of trade that linked Rhodes, Delos and Thessaloniki.

 

The Jews of Crete are first mentioned in 2 Maccabees and appear to have had a community at Gortys. This city came into administrative prominence during Hellenistic times and attracted artisans and technicians from Alexandria. It is likely that the members of this early Jewish community were originally from Egypt. Inscriptions found on the island of Delos indicating the existence of a Samaritan community at Knossos/Herakleion in the 1st century BCE make it likely that a Jewish community also existed there.

 

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With the Roman conquest of Crete in 67 BCE the island was linked administratively with Cyrenaica (Libya). Cretans, certainly Cretan Jews, are referred to in the Acts of the Apostles as having been present at Pentecost when Peter spoke in tongues. Philo and Josephus, both writing in the 1st century CE, allude to the Jews of Crete. Moreover, Josephus was married to a Cretan Jewess from the western end of the island, which indicates that Jews were present in areas other than the administrative centers of eastern Crete.

 

Tacitus, in his History written in the 1st century CE has an interesting theory regarding the origin of the name “Judaean.” He claims that the Jews were in fact Cretans and that their original name was “Idaeans” (in other words “from Mt. Ida”). Beyond the obvious etymological similarity this may also be based on some strand of the tradition that links the Palestinians to Eteo-Cretans fleeing the island with the arrival of the Greeks.

 

Unfortunately, none of the Roman sites on Crete have been systematically excavated and inscriptions from this period are at times ambiguous. A few have been identified as possibly alluding to Jews. They come from sites near Herakleion and as far west as Kisamo-Kasteli. Other inscriptions have been found at Agioi Deka near Gortys and in Gortys itself. At Kassanoi (Arkades), about 43 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Herakleion, there is an area known as the Evraioi (“Hebrews”) which has been designated by archaeologists as possibly the site of a cemetery. During the reign of the Emperor Theodosius II (408-650 CE) Cretan Jews were singled out for prohibitive legislation. Under Theodosius, the Jews of Egypt and Palestine especially bore the brunt of a wave of anti-Jewish sentiment that, among other things, led to restrictions on the erection of synagogues as well as the abolition of the office of Nasi when Gamaliel II was deposed. The ‘Nasi’ or Prince (sometimes referred to as the Patriarch) had been appointed under Roman law for universally regulating the scattered Jewish communities in the Empire. Its abolition was intended to sever the head of Judaism from its body.

 

It may well be that the difficulties they were facing in adjusting to the new Christian Roman Empire led to the appearance of a Cretan Jewish Messiah in about 430 CE. In that year a rabbi named Moses appeared in Crete and spent a year traveling about the island announcing that he was the same Moses who had led the Israelites through the Red Sea and into Sinai. He promised that in the following year he would lead Crete’s Jews to the Holy Land. Commercial and economic interests were abandoned in anticipation of the miracle and on a specified day the Jews of Crete met together at some point unknown to us and, to the horror and amazement of Christians watching the event, threw themselves off the cliffs and into the sea. Many were drowned; still others were saved by fishermen assembled in nearby boats to watch. In his Historia Ecclesiastica the historian Socrates Scholasticus makes special mention of the fact that there was a general conversion to Christianity on the part of the survivors. What happened to R. Moses is not known. Whether or not the Jews of Crete actually did convert through shame or despair at this point in their history is unknown, but for several centuries afterwards they are not mentioned in histories dealing with the island.

 

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In 825 Crete was seized by Andalusian Moors who established an emirate and centralized their authority over the island at what is now the city of Herakleion. Out of its port sailed corsairs that became the scourge of the Aegean. Athens appears to have been attacked, if not occupied for a period of time, and Thessaloniki was seized and sacked during one of these raids.

 

Crete for the first time in over 2000 years once again became a thalassocracy and through raids aimed at the coastal cities of the eastern Mediterranean it amassed in- credible wealth. Kandia (as Herakleion was known then) was surrounded by a great moat and fortifications as was, apparently, Hania.

 

Though Jews are not mentioned in accounts dealing with this period it is probable that they were active in urban areas. They were well established in Herakleion (Kandia) by the 11th century not long after the reconquest of the island by the Byzantines in 961.

 

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The Byzantine recapture of the island was accomplished with great violence followed by a complete re-organization of its administrative system under officials from Constantinople. It would appear that there had been a wholesale conversion of Cretans to Islam and the response of the Byzantines after the reconquest was to initiate quite aggressive activities aimed at forcing them back into Orthodoxy.

 

Especially active was St. Nikon who is mentioned in contemporary accounts as having been previously active in the Peloponnese around Sparta in efforts to ‘Hellenize’ and convert the enormous numbers of Slavs who had settled there. He was especially harsh on the Jewish Community of Laconia (Sparta) and though not mentioned it is unlikely that the Jews of Crete fared well during this period of re-Byzantinizing of the island.

 

At that time the walls of Herakleion were enlarged, and the Jewish quarter was not excluded, but incorporated within its new limits. Its inclusion hints at a sizable quarter which, following a Byzantine custom, had hitherto been outside the walls.

 

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Venice acquired Crete by purchase in 1207 as part of her share in the partition of the Byzantine Empire following the sack of Constantinople by the participants in the Fourth Crusade of 1204.

 

Not long after the incorporation of the island into the Venetian maritime empire, Cretan Jews began to enjoy at least some of the positive aspects of the resulting expansion of trade. They were placed for the first time on an equal footing with Greek Orthodox Christians, because the Venetians, being Latin, looked upon the latter as schismatics, if not heretics. Certainly whatever ill-will was felt by the Orthodox towards Jews was exacerbated by this.

 

Another Candiot Jew worth mentioning is Elias ben Moise Delmedigo a talmudist and philosopher born in Candia in 1460 (d. 1497). When still relatively young he took up post at the University of Padua where one of his students was Picco della Mirandola. His son, Joseph (Rofeh), became a famous physician, astronomer, philosopher and mathematician. He was one of the early students of Galileo. He travelled widely in the Near East and Europe and eventually died in Frankfurt in 1648.

 

According to Venetian custom Jews were restricted in their public appearances by the use of the badge and also forced to live in ghettos, but they still took an active part in trade. Greek-speaking and Romaniote in their traditions, they were also, it appears, quite lax, or at least idiosyncratic in some aspects of Jewish religious observance. This may have been due to adherence to the Palestinian Talmud. In 1228, the Herakleion community was visited by a Palestinian rabbi named R. Baruh ben Isaac, who was sufficiently horrified to enact a special set of regulations for the community. The Takkanoth Kandya as these are known, are one of our main sources of information about the Cretan Jews of this time.

 

Life under the Venetians was not without difficulties and Jews found themselves caught in the middle of the intense animosity that existed initially between Cretans and Venetians. By 1250, not only was the badge required on external garments, signs were also required on the doors of their houses. These are an indication that Jews did do business outside the ghetto. Cretan Christians were also discriminated against by the Venetians who exploited the island in colonial fashion. In 1364 a massive uprising took place that almost succeeded in breaking the Venetian hold on the island. At Castel Nuovo the entire community of Jews was killed. It was after the uprising of 1364 that Venice began to play a more committed role in Cretan life and Crete became almost a separate republic with its own signoria and rector.

 

According to Venetian accounts, the Jewish community in Herakleion swelled appreciably toward the year 1395 when they were reassessed for tax purposes and given certain trade privileges. The cause for this expansion of the community may well have been the influx of Jews from the Iberian peninsula following the exodus of 1391 when Jews were forced to convert to Christianity.

 

A century later, in 1481, there were 400 families in Herakleion with four synagogues. We have no information on the communities in either Rethymnon or Hania during this time. Apart from the urban Jews, there appear to have been agrarian Jews as well who produced kosher cheeses and wines for both export and local use. In order to restrict Jewish competition in rural commerce and agriculture, laws were enacted to inhibit the Jews from making further purchases of land. This forced the Jews into money lending and into trade in silk, metals, dyes, and leather.

 

Jews were especially active in intellectual pursuits and many travelled widely – especially in Italy. R. Shemarya of Negroponte (also called ‘Ikriti’) born toward the end of the 13th century in Candia (Herakleion). He is especially known for a commentary on the Song of Songs and on the Book of Genesis as well as compiling a Haggadah. One of his patrons was Robert of Anjou.

 

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The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 certainly saw the arrival of many émigré Jews and Christians in Crete. Not long after the conquest of the city a Cretan rabbi, Elias Capsali, who had been a witness to its fall, was appointed Haham Bashi or Chief Rabbi by Sultan Mehmet II. This office fell vacant on his death and was not revived until the early 19th century.

 

At least in Herakleion, tensions between Christians and Jews raged at times into riots and violent attacks. In the same year as the fall of Constantinople, Herakleion’s Jews were accused of showing contempt for Christians by crucifying lambs and, in a separate incident, of blaspheming the Host. The former attack was certainly made by Orthodox Christians, while the latter reflects accusations common to Latins in the West. It is not surprising that the first lament to appear after the collapse of Constantinople was by a Cretan Jew, Elias Belleli.

 

Gradually, in the course of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, the Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches in Crete began not only to reach a modus vivendi with each other, but to create a hybrid Creto-Venetian culture. Some Jews took advantage of these broadened horizons to travel to Italy for schooling in places like Padua and Mantova. Contacts were maintained with other Jewish communities with strong Italian influences, including Corfu, Zakynthos and Livorgno, and a number of prominent secularly oriented intellectuals were active at this time, including members of the Del Medigo family.

 

At the same time, however, Jews found themselves facing a united Christian front against them. News reaching Crete of the relatively peaceful and prosperous life of Jews in the Ottoman Empire created sympathies which occasionally led to acts of treason. In 1538, they were accused of hiding Turks in Herakleion and the community was saved from being massacred only at the very last moment by the intervention of Venetian troops. A special Purim was inaugurated to celebrate the miracle of that salvation.

 

The Ottoman conquest of Crete took the better part of the 17th century to accomplish. Hania and the western end of the island fell quickly to the well-organized army of Yusuf Pasha, but it was not until 1669, after a twenty-year siege, that Herakleion fell and the Venetians departed never to return.

 

The lot of the Jews on Crete changed dramatically under the Ottomans. In the towns the ghettos were opened and Jews were allowed to settle in neighbouring quarters abandoned by the Venetians. Crete was also drawn into a quite different economic orbit and ports such as those of Hania, Ierapetra, and Rethymnon were now in close contact with Izmir, Alexandria and Bengazi. Judaeo-Cretan family names reflect these contacts, such as Constantini (from Constantin in North Africa), Minervo (from Alexandria), Mizrahi (Izmir) and other names that appear to belong to Ashkenazi Jews from Europe. The Ottoman Empire had passed its zenith by this time, and Crete did not attract great numbers of Turks. From the time of the fall of western Crete to the Ottomans in 1634 there were numerous conversions for Islam by Cretans. Especially landowning remnants of Creto-Venetian families became Muslims through the active proselytising activities of the Bektashi Dervishes. Jews continued to have contacts with Venice and the Ionian Islands and many emigrated. In general, we know little if anything about individual communities during this time.

 

During the 19th century, there were a number of increasingly violent revolts on Crete against the Ottomans. Conditions for Jews deteriorated, leading to further emigration. It is estimated that in 1817 there were 150 families, divided between Herakleion and Hania. In 1858 there were 907 Jews on the island as a whole, and in 1881 only 647, most of them in Hania. Accusations of blood libel were common. In 1887, for example, the Sultan himself was called upon to intervene in an especially violent incidence of blood libel.

 

That tensions had been fierce for some time between the Christians and Jews is dramatically evidenced in the south courtyard of the synagogue of Etz Hayyim by four graves of known rabbis. The earliest burial is that of the Tzaddik, Hasid and Kabbalist R. Hillel Eskenazi who died in 1710. Apparently it had been impossible to remove his body from the Jewish Quarter of Hania due to a Christian mob that prevented the funeral cortege from passing out of the city walls to reach the Jewish cemetery in Nea Hora and in the end it was decided to bury him in the precincts of the synagogue.

 

Later, between 1821 and 1845, three other rabbis (R. Joseph ben Shalom, his brother Baruh ben Shalom and Abraham Habib of Gallipoli) were buried nearby. Undoubtedly internment there had been dictated again through violence and the dates of their deaths took place during a period when anti-Jewish feeling ran high in both Crete as well as the mainland of Greece.

 

Toward the end of the 19th century, Crete was made into an independent republic under a Greek prince regent. A parliament was established, with several Jewish representatives, who managed to claim their constitutionally guaranteed seats with great difficulty. After Crete was formally annexed to Greece in 1913, Jewish emigration continued until, by 1941, there were only 364 Jews in Hania, 1 in Rethymnon, and 7 in Herakleion.

 

The Chief Rabbi of Crete during these momentous years was R. Abraham Evlagon whose original appointment was made in 1867 by Sultan Abdul Aziz under reforms in the Empire that had been put into effect under the Sultan. From the time of his arrival Evlagon steered the dwindling Jewish presence on the island through a tumultuous period in the history of the island. He was certainly active during a time when Crete suffered from what essentially amounted to a civil war between Cretan Muslims and Christians. Furthermore Crete was de facto an Ottoman province constantly assailed by irredentist aspirations on the part of the Greek government on the mainland of Greece supported more times than not by the ‘Powers’ (Great Britain, Russia, France and Italy) each of which had its own agenda as to the future of the island. After the semi-independence of Crete was declared under a Greek regency in 1896 his role must have been especially difficult. In 1913 when the island was officially annexed to Greece, Evlagon would have ceased to be a legally defined Ottoman appointee and his role to a degree mitigated – the fate of all who did not fit into the nationalistic jargon of the time. Cretan Muslims (Turko-Kritiki), Armenians, the remnants of Africans who had acted as servants for Turks, and even Jews had become ‘outsiders’ and had no ‘proper’ role in Crete as a Greek island. The mass emigration of Cretan Muslims had already begun in 1896 and was followed by the disappearance of the Armenians (either by emigration or absorption in the Greek Orthodox population). The Africans became an easily exploited and more than obvious intrusion into the nationalism of the age and were treated indifferently and disappeared as a presence through distressful conditions. The fate of the Jews as that of the Africans was not at all clear. Already by 1900 the Jews had begun to emigrate in large numbers and Jewish life as such was concentrated in Hania. Evlagon’s awareness of the danger is obvious in an admonition that he made to the Jewish community of the city that they speak Greek as opposed to either Ladino (Judaeo-Espagnol) or Turkish. Chief Rabbi Abraham Evlagon died in 1933; shortly before his death he wrote and account of his years as Chief Rabbi of the island.

 

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish communities in Greece generally were in the midst of adjustment and accommodation to somewhat recently asserted national identity but also had no tradition or experience in pogroms (with the exception of Sephardic Jews who had been forced to flee the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century and had been given refuge in the Ottoman Turkish Empire). Nationalism in a somewhat virulent form had eroded the structure of the Ottoman Empire by the early 20th century and new of national states appeared in the Balkans. Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, as well as a nascent national movement in Turkey, created a new kaleidoscopic configuration: highly complex and inimical in certain instances. Jews in general were already marginalized though early aspirations to a Zionist homeland certainly were at work in the earliest migration of Eastern European Jews to what was then Palestine. For the most part, however, the hitherto Ottoman Jews found themselves suddenly to be Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian or ‘other’ Jews.

 

The process of nation-state building that characterized Greece was irredentist and based on aggressive expansionist policies inspired by an idea of Greece that in fact had never existed, unlike either Bulgaria or Serbia that had existed as clearly defined kingdoms until conquered by the Ottomans. What constituted the carrot for Greek nationalism was a somewhat vaguely defined cultural, linguistic and to a degree ethnic and religious geographical ‘space.’ Seen from this point of view the British Commonwealth (and ensuing contradictions) most resembles what ‘Greece’ represented in antiquity though now given an added ingredient, viz. national political identity.

 

This process had more or less reached a balance after 1913 when Thrace, Epirus and the island of Crete were incorporated into the Greek state. This saw the sudden inclusion into Greece of some 100,000 former Ottoman Jews who, by 1941 were in the process of being redefined as ‘Greek’ Jews. The Jews of what constituted ‘Greece’ during this time and process were hardly a unity and even attempts to form such had met with failure. Early attempts on the part of the Ottomans to create a Chief Rabbi of the Empire in emulation of the Patriarchal structure of both Greeks and Armenians had certainly collapsed by the early 16th century.

 

Appealing to some but hardly relevant to most, was Zionism. For Jews of the former Ottoman Empire emigration was an answer that saw perhaps over a third of the Jews of Greece who had left their traditional communities. Certainly this was the case in Crete where officially the Jewish community of Herakleion, that once boasted four synagogues had become defunct by 1912. That Hania and its Jewish community had swelled to a degree was a consequence of its being the regional capital of the island and an influx of Jews probably from other now dying communities e.g. Rethymnon, Kissamos and perhaps even Siteia. Though even here it is estimated that the Jewish presence was perhaps 600 in total for the island in 1900 and by 1941 had been reduced to 300.

 

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Toward the end of the 19th century, Crete was made into an independent republic under a Greek prince regent. A parliament was established, with several Jewish representatives, who managed to claim their constitutionally guaranteed seats with great difficulty. After Crete was formally annexed to Greece in 1913, Jewish emigration continued until, by 1941, there were only 364 Jews in Hania, 1 in Rethymnon, and 7 in Herakleion.

 

The Chief Rabbi of Crete during these momentous years was R. Abraham Evlagon whose original appointment was made in 1867 by Sultan Abdul Aziz under reforms in the Empire that had been put into effect under the Sultan. From the time of his arrival Evlagon steered the dwindling Jewish presence on the island through a tumultuous period in the history of the island. He was certainly active during a time when Crete suffered from what essentially amounted to a civil war between Cretan Muslims and Christians. Furthermore Crete was de facto an Ottoman province constantly assailed by irredentist aspirations on the part of the Greek government on the mainland of Greece supported more times than not by the ‘Powers’ (Great Britain, Russia, France and Italy) each of which had its own agenda as to the future of the island. After the semi-independence of Crete was declared under a Greek regency in 1896 his role must have been especially difficult. In 1913 when the island was officially annexed to Greece, Evlagon would have ceased to be a legally defined Ottoman appointee and his role to a degree mitigated – the fate of all who did not fit into the nationalistic jargon of the time. Cretan Muslims (Turko-Kritiki), Armenians, the remnants of Africans who had acted as servants for Turks, and even Jews had become ‘outsiders’ and had no ‘proper’ role in Crete as a Greek island. The mass emigration of Cretan Muslims had already begun in 1896 and was followed by the disappearance of the Armenians (either by emigration or absorption in the Greek Orthodox population). The Africans became an easily exploited and more than obvious intrusion into the nationalism of the age and were treated indifferently and disappeared as a presence through distressful conditions. The fate of the Jews as that of the Africans was not at all clear. Already by 1900 the Jews had begun to emigrate in large numbers and Jewish life as such was concentrated in Hania. Evlagon’s awareness of the danger is obvious in an admonition that he made to the Jewish community of the city that they speak Greek as opposed to either Ladino (Judaeo-Espagnol) or Turkish. Chief Rabbi Abraham Evlagon died in 1933; shortly before his death he wrote and account of his years as Chief Rabbi of the island.

 

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish communities in Greece generally were in the midst of adjustment and accommodation to somewhat recently asserted national identity but also had no tradition or experience in pogroms (with the exception of Sephardic Jews who had been forced to flee the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century and had been given refuge in the Ottoman Turkish Empire). Nationalism in a somewhat virulent form had eroded the structure of the Ottoman Empire by the early 20th century and new of national states appeared in the Balkans. Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, as well as a nascent national movement in Turkey, created a new kaleidoscopic configuration: highly complex and inimical in certain instances. Jews in general were already marginalized though early aspirations to a Zionist homeland certainly were at work in the earliest migration of Eastern European Jews to what was then Palestine. For the most part, however, the hitherto Ottoman Jews found themselves suddenly to be Greek, Bulgarian, Serbian or ‘other’ Jews.

 

The process of nation-state building that characterized Greece was irredentist and based on aggressive expansionist policies inspired by an idea of Greece that in fact had never existed, unlike either Bulgaria or Serbia that had existed as clearly defined kingdoms until conquered by the Ottomans. What constituted the carrot for Greek nationalism was a somewhat vaguely defined cultural, linguistic and to a degree ethnic and religious geographical ‘space.’ Seen from this point of view the British Commonwealth (and ensuing contradictions) most resembles what ‘Greece’ represented in antiquity though now given an added ingredient, viz. national political identity.

 

This process had more or less reached a balance after 1913 when Thrace, Epirus and the island of Crete were incorporated into the Greek state. This saw the sudden inclusion into Greece of some 100,000 former Ottoman Jews who, by 1941 were in the process of being redefined as ‘Greek’ Jews. The Jews of what constituted ‘Greece’ during this time and process were hardly a unity and even attempts to form such had met with failure. Early attempts on the part of the Ottomans to create a Chief Rabbi of the Empire in emulation of the Patriarchal structure of both Greeks and Armenians had certainly collapsed by the early 16th century.

 

Appealing to some but hardly relevant to most, was Zionism. For Jews of the former Ottoman Empire emigration was an answer that saw perhaps over a third of the Jews of Greece who had left their traditional communities. Certainly this was the case in Crete where officially the Jewish community of Herakleion, that once boasted four synagogues had become defunct by 1912. That Hania and its Jewish community had swelled to a degree was a consequence of its being the regional capital of the island and an influx of Jews probably from other now dying communities e.g. Rethymnon, Kissamos and perhaps even Siteia. Though even here it is estimated that the Jewish presence was perhaps 600 in total for the island in 1900 and by 1941 had been reduced to 300.

 

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The Nazi-German occupation of Greece began in 1941 and lasted until well into 1945. The circumstances that led to this were complex and perhaps initially only peripherally of concern for Germany as it was called upon to assist its Italian and Bulgarian allies in their expansionist and irredentist aspirations. Crete was taken by the Germans in May 1941. They were met by fierce resistance from the local population and the three main towns, Hania, Rethmynon and Herakleion, were badly bombed.

 

The Axis Powers eventually prevailed in the Battle of Crete and established their rule by June 1941. By agreement the island was divided into two zones of occupation; the Germans taking the lion’s share with the main ports and cities and the Italians holding the far eastern portion. Already, however, the singling out of Jews for some special treatment by the Luftwaffe was obvious by a demand by the German High Command for knives that were used for shehita or ritual slaughter and in compliance with a separate demand an initial list of the community and its members was to be submitted by the rabbi of Hania, Elias Osmos. It is significant that the Germans were acutely aware of the ‘otherness’ of the Jews in the Greek mentality despite their being politically defined as Greeks, in their approach to the community very early during the occupation.

 

Rabbi Osmos was certainly a man of great age and little direct experience. The collusion of the Greek police in the first and subsequent censuses of the community is obvious by the fact that all orders from the Luftwaffe were directed to the Greek Municipality and hence to the Greek police and from them to the Jewish Community representatives in Hania.

 

It was not until the morning hours of 29 May 1944, and almost as an afterthought, that the Jews of Crete were arrested. Most of the Jews lived in what was then the Jewish Quarter between Kondylaki and Skoufon streets, bordered by Zambeliou and Portou Streets in the Old City of Hania. Jews who lived in such areas as Splantzia and Halepa and other parts of Hania were herded together and eventually were fed into the convoy of trucks that left from Zambeliou, Portou and Kondylakis Streets. From there they were taken to Ayias Prison located not far from Hania. Until 9 June they were kept in atrocious conditions, that were described by Christian friends who had attempted to make some contact with them, as inhuman. Many of the elderly and others had nothing to wear save the bed clothes that many wore at the time of their arrest. From Ayias they were transported to Herakleion by lorry and dispatched on the ill-fated ship Tanais. Together with Greek and Italian prisoners they were headed for Piraeus where they would have joined Jews from Corfu and Zakynthos destined for Auschwitz.

 

For some years the details of the last hours of the Tanais and the fate of its crew and human cargo was not clear. What was known is that the ship had been sunk and that all had perished. Evidence has now appeared through the Foreign Office in London that in fact the Tanais had been sighted by a British submarine and was given two torpedo broadsides and sank within 15 minutes. None of the prisoners survived.

 

An memorial service for the members of the Jewish community of Crete who perished on the Tanais is held annually, during which a list with all the names of the victims is read.

 

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