June 28 – Memorial Service for the Jewish community of Hania killed in 1944.
Since the rededication of the Synagogue in 1999 we have had an annual memorial service to commemorate the Jews, Greeks and Italian prisoners of war who were drowned in the sinking of the Tannais in 1944. The service is kept relatively short and as a rule, it is also centered so as to concentrate on the gravity of the event which spelled the near end of the Jewish presence in Crete. The service begins at sun-down with the recitation of Arvith prayers after which follows the prayers for martyrs and then all of the names of the community (276) are read together out loud. The termination of the service is when the participants light small votive candles and distribute them around the courtyards and interior of the synagogue.
This year we had a quite large attendance as the Saltiel Family Reunion had brought some 55 members of the family and we were especially honored by the presence of His Excellency and Mrs. Ali Yahya, the Israeli Ambassador to Greece. Both the Ambassador and his wife have become firm friends of the Synagogue and we are sure that they will be back soon to Hania.
The memorial service was especially notable as we had just completed the sarcophagus in the north courtyard of the synagogue where a special delineation (eruv) had been made in the 18th century to create a small burial site – eventually for four rabbis. Several weeks ago we were asked by the Archaeological Service to assist in identifying several skeletal remains that had been found in the vicinity of the now destroyed Jewish cemetery. It was not difficult to ascertain that indeed they were Jewish burials – to the number of 15. Through the assistance of the Director of the Archaeological Service, Dr. Mixalis Andreanakis and one of his team. Mr Vasillis Varouhakis, the delicate matter of assuming responsibility for the remains was expedited in a showing their sensitivity to the matter.