Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos

On the small, verdant Ionian Island of Corfu, at the foot of the Venetian Fortress, are the remnants of a former Jewish "Ghetto", stark reminders of the once vibrant Jewish community that lived here for over a millennium. Little is left now: the shells of bombed out buildings, their former stores, now owned by Greek Christians and only one of the three synagogues that existed at the time of the Holocaust.

In the late nineteenth century the Jewish community numbered close to 5000, most of them poor. The wage earners were porters, street venders and owners of small shops. Education was at minimum, most young men leaving school to help their parents raise their large families, most young girls never attending school at all. The community was a mixture of Romaniote (Greek speaking Jews) and Jews from the south of Italy who had emigrated there after the persecutions in the 15th century. The dialect spoken was a mixture of Greek, Hebrew and Pugliese Italian. This was the community that produced Lazarus Mordos, a prominent doctor, the Olivetti family of typewriter fame, Albert Cohen, the famous poet and the grandparents of George Moustaki, the internationally acclaimed French singer.

In 1891 a "Blood Libel" ravaged the community. Ironically, the young murdered girl was Jewish, Rebecca Sardas, but the devastation that followed the accusation that Jews had murdered her caused over half of the community to emigrate, most to Egypt. Those that were left were the poorest, the least able to leave.

At the dawning of World War II the Jewish community of Corfu numbered 2000, most of them young children and the elderly. On June 10, 1944, four days after the bombing of Normandy, with the end of the war in sight, the Jews of Corfu were rounded up to be deported off the island. First they were imprisoned in the Old Venetian Fort in dank, cramped quarters. Then they were sent off the island in small boats, final destination Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of the 1795 Jews of Corfu who were deported, only 121 would survive. The mayor of the island issued a proclamation, thanking the Germans for ridding the island of the Jews so that the economy of the island would revert to its "rightful owners".

All that remains of the vital Jewish presence in Corfu is a small and highly assimilated community, numbering about 80 Jews, most survivors of the Holocaust, and La Scuola Greca Synagogue, built in the 18th century and still standing in what was once the "Jewish Ghetto". A Holocaust memorial was dedicated on November 25, 2001.

On June 10, 2002, the 58th anniversary of the deportation of the Jews of Corfu, a reunion of Corfiote Jews, and their descendants, will take place on the island of Corfu. A memorial plaque with the family names of those lost in the Holocaust will be installed in the synagogue. Through intensive research, AFGJ (Association of Friends of Greek Jewry) has been able to document the following family names: Akkos, Alchavas, Amar, Aron, Asias, Asser, Bakolas, Balestra, Baruch, Ben Giat, Besso, Cavaliero, Chaim, Dalmedigos, Dentes, Ftan, Elias, Eliezer, Eskapas, Ferro, Fortes, Ganis, Gerson, Israel, Johanna,Koen, Kolonimos, Konstantinis, Koulias, Lemous, Leoncini, Levi, Matathias, Matsas, Minervo, Mizan, Mordos, Moustaki, Nachon, Nechamas, Negrin, Osmos, Ovadiah, Perez, Pitson, Politis, Raphael, Sardas, Sasen, Serneine, Sinigalli, Soussis, Tsesana, Varon, Vellelis, Vivante, Vital and Vitali.

A documentary film "Farewell My Island", by Isaac Dostis, will be shown. There will be memorial services in La Scuola Greca, with a special kaddish for the Jews of Corfu, followed by a candlelight procession. We invite you to attend, to pay tribute to the lost Jews of Corfu, to celebrate their lives and honor their memory.

for more information contact at
Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, President AFGJ,

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- Copyright © 2002: Moïse Rahmani -