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It was a beautiful life in Juderia… Rodeslis Remember… Print E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2020 09:41
 Growing up on the island was like a paradis
Rachel Hanan (née Hugnu), Holocaust survivor

 “All along our daily paths, whether going to school, to work, to the synagogue, or visiting a friend or relative, we walked amid familiar and smiling faces. Kinship networks were frequently large, so that Hugnos’ extended family could only meet on particular festival days, otherwise, there would be a hundred cousins.” Isaac Jack Lévy

 “The life in Rhodes was beautiful, beautiful…Everyone very friendly like one family. No matter how many neighbors … we have, everyone is just like family… In fact, we used to say Auntie Straya, Auntie Rebecca, but we didn’t know if they were relatives or not. Because our parents they say, say hello to Auntie Rebecca or say hello to Auntie Rifka. To everyone we have to say Auntie. So for us all neighbors was family. Mirù Alcanà, Holocaust Survivor

 “[…] our excursions carried us further and further outside of the Jewish Quarter and these are the places I would like to describe here. These excursions were to places of natural beauty that took on a very special meaning for the Jews. Going there became a way of life for us. In groups we went to Mt. Smith, called Merdjan Tepe by the Turks, a mountain outside the city; Mount Filermo; Peveranio, a lovely village where there was a famous mountain called Prophet Elijah. It was the custom for newlyweds to stay at the hotel on that mountain. Puerta de la Mar, a resort area close to the Jewish section included cabanas, two large public bath house, coffee shops and promenade. At the end of Puerta de la Mar was the break-water called Las Penyas where some had Saturday afternoon picnics on top of the rocks. Further along was the Soap Factory where our promenade ended. We never went beyond this point, not because we were restricted but because we preferred staying close to our quarter. Beyond the Soap Factory was a beach area called Las Salinas (Spanish: where salt is made). The sand was very warm and was considered medicinal. People with rheumatism would go there during the summer and bury themselves up to their heads for the entire day. The Lemon Garden was a famous garden filled with lemon trees and flowers. It was open to us exclusively on Saturdays and Purim. The Mandraki, is along the waterfront. On Saturday and Sunday nights, the Jews, Greeks, Turks and Italians would gather to walk along the promenade and to sit at the outdoor cafes while listening to the military bands that performed at the nearby plaza. […] Last but not least was The Public Garden. Picnics were not allowed there, but we went to enjoy the flowers and fish pond. I have many fond memories […] As I am writing, my eyes fill with tears remembering these beautiful childhood days, when after finishing our chores, all the neighbors would gather to have afternoon coffee, with the freshly baked bread and “boyos”. All of the children would sit in a circle around the mothers in the courtyard. Where have these beautiful days gone? Why should these women who were so devoted to their families have to have suffered such a tragic end at the hand of the Nazis? Why did my sister – young, beautiful, healthy and full of life – have to die, and not me? Why was I saved within a period of a few months, and yet I could not save my sister, because immigration was stopped? There are so many “whys”, with no answers, that I must accept that it must have been the will of God […] Rebecca Amato Levy from her book “I Remember Rhodes”

 

A beautiful life that came to an end……….

“Throughout the village suddenly one heard shouting, crying, moaning, and categorical imperious commands meant, it seemed, to suffocate all those sounds. I leaned out of the only window which looked on the street and asked a neighbor who, out of curiosity, had gone as far as the corner to see what was happening for sure, then in a whisper, he said these words only: “They are taking away the Jews.” Where? Only later were we horror- stricken by the things we learned. One said that the Germans had driven the Jews out of their houses, all of a sudden, without giving them the time to dress, and that they had concentrated them all, in a beastly promiscuity, in what had been the Palace of the Aviation, near the “Hotel delle Terme”.  Aldo Siggillino, Italian teacher

 “July 23, 1944, a day certainly cursed by God. I was one of those who saw that long column of poor people violently pushed toward the harbor. It was a terrible experience, hallucinating for a young man of twenty-one. Never could I imagine that human cruelty could descend to such a level of abjection, of degradation. For many nights I was unable to sleep, because that vision of immense grief kept coming back to my mind and shook it with fearful nightmares. But what I saw was nothing in comparison with the atrocities which the Jews of Rhodes had to endure”. Gino Manicone, a young Italian airman, from one of his books, Nei cieli del Levante (1999)

“[…] we saw an old woman who, after having dragged her suitcase for a while, fel to the ground, exhausted; kicked by the soldiers and ordered to move on, she got up, but after a few steps she fell again: she was then grapped by the hair and dragged along, and her body swept the road. We shouted, horrified, and then the Germans pointed their rifles at us and we were forced to leave.” An Italian, non-Jewish woman

“One instance to make you understand what it was, the thirst and the hunger in this train. I had next to me a lady who had a baby of a year. This child was so thirsty and hungry she was licking the sweat of the mother. When I see a baby cry today […], any child, I can’t stand it.”  Violetta Mayo Fintz, Holocaust survivor

“ So we arrived at the camp of Auschwitz in Poland. The survivors were ordered to get off the train without baggage and they were immediately divided into two groups: one of elderly men and women, of sick people and mother with little children (about 1000 persons), and other of men and women able to work (about 500 persons). The first group was […] eliminated that same day: part of them were first gassed and then their corpses were cremated; part of them were flung into the crematorium alive”. Mirù Alcanà, Holocaust survivor

“At the conclusion of the Second World War, only a few Rhodian survivors returned to the island hoping to find in their own surroundings the security, warmth, and richness of their past life. Though still a “Paradise in the Sea,” with its vineyards, roses, rolling hills, crystal blue sea, and familiar alleys and courtyards, Rhodes had been drained of Jewish blood. The life was gone. What the shattered souls of the Nazi death camps found on their return was a war-ravaged juderia whose houses and streets belonged to strangers. They sought in vain for familiar faces; the warmth of memories became a constant reminder of tragedy. Sadly, all but a few Jews abandoned the island.”

Isaac Jack Lévy                                             

“[…] among the coming and going of tourists […] I fell a stranger, […] lonely and alone. Behind me I feel the shadows of the past; the memories of the Rhodes I knew pass before my eyes in a deathly silence. A silence that we only, who were born and reared in this quarter, can feel, a silence filled with intense grief, with the deep desire to weep […]. The small street of mothers, with the gaiety and the games of our children […] are now empty, lifeless.” Mosè Capelluto, studied at the Rabbinical College of Rhodes

JEWISH COMMUNITY OF RHODES

Sources:

- “A history of Jewish Rhodes” by Esther Menasce

- “I remember Rhodes” by Rebecca Amato Levy

-“The Holocaust in Greece”, chapter: The Deportation of the Jews of Rhodes, 1944 by Anthony McElligott

 

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