Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Film Premiere: The Longest Journey: The Last Days of the Jews of Rhodes

 Rhodes, Greece. Synagogue interior.  Photo: Timothy J. DeVinney from N. Stavroulakis, Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece

Film Premiere: The Longest Journey: The Last Days of the Jews of Rhodes
by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) On March 13, 2013 a new documentary on the Jews of Rhodes, directed by Ruggero Gabbai and produced by the Shoah Museum in Rome, will premiere at the  museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.   The film recounts the history of the Jews of Rhodes and the destruction of the centuries-old community by the Nazi's during the Shoah.  

The release of the film is timely.  The memory needs to be protected and the story told.  Just last October, a memorial to the Shoah victims of Rhodes on island's Jewish Martyrs Square (the old Jewish Quarter) was vandalized.  The monument, on which is inscribed on each of six sides - in six different ;languages - the words "Do not ever forget the eternal memory of the 1,604 Jews of Rhodes and Kos who perished in Nazi death camps"  was dedicated in 2002 and has been vandalized several times.  Rhodes Jews has survived the Italian Fascist occupation, but in the fall of 1943, when Germans took control, their fate was sealed.  Today, there are few survivors of the Rhodes community, and only the historic synagogue (with a museum in the former women's' section), the well-reserved (and well documented) cemetery and the monument give testimony to the long history of the community.

You can learn more about the Rhodes community and surviving identifiable Jewish sites on the island on the Rhodes Jewish Museum website here.
Here is information form the Museum about the film:

The Last Days of the Jews of Rhodes
The Museum of Jewish Heritage
Edmond J. Safra Plaza | 36 Battery Place
Tickets: 626-437-4202

In 1938, the Italian Racial Laws stripped the Jews of Rhodes of their civil rights and livelihood. Amidst the indifference and compliance of the Italian authorities, three high school professors, known for their antifascist leanings, held unofficial classes for the Jewish boys and girls. In the fall of 1943, in spite of a much greater military force, after a brief resistance the Italian governor surrendered to the Germans. Many of the soldiers were deported to German labor camps.

With the Germans in military control of the island, the Italian civilian authorities took the oath to Mussolini and remained in their positions. They continued to protect Italian interests as well as the Italians who had not fled.

The Jewish community, by and large impoverished and unaware of what was happening to the Jews in Europe and even in Greece, witnessed the events following the armistice in complete isolation. Even though they were all Italian citizens, they were left out of the communication network that might have helped them make informed decisions.

On July 19, 1944, 1,800 of them, including elderly and children, all of them Italian citizens, were summoned to the air force headquarter and reported promptly to the authorities. Four days later they were loaded on boats and transported to Athens. They arrived in Auschwitz on August 16. Only 42 Turkish citizens were spared thanks to the intervention of the Turkish consul.

Today little remains of the culture and history of the Jews of Rhodes and this film is a precious contribution in tracing a continuity from that lost world to ours.

For additional information visit

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