We Can Never Forget

This blog represents something different from our usual light-hearted look at photography.  We’ll get back to those, next time, but this is a serious look at one of the most memorable parts of the trip to Greece.  We pulled into the walled fortress city of Rhodes early in the morning. 

During my pre-trip research I had found that there was a Jewish Martyr’s square and an ancient synagogue.  Dr. Francie, one of the wonderful friends I traveled with is Jewish and my father’s family fled Poland just ahead of the Germans, so we both wanted to visit.

Since the 13th century, through both Christian and Arab occupations, the population in Rhodes had thrived.  Before WWII there were more than 5000 Jews in the city supporting multiple synagogues.  Today there are less than 500 and one remaining historic building.  Down a series of narrow winding arched streets, you come to a simple door to a vanished world. 

 Designated a World Heritage Site and rebuilt through donations, the interior of the building has been gradually restored.  The wall paintings and iron work rebuilt. 

The attached museum lists the names of all the family members who were deported in 1943 and who mostly perished in Auschwitz in 1944. 

 Seeing the artifacts of daily life, the photographs of the families and the documents sentencing them to their deaths,  serve as a potent reminder that this kind of brutality still exists in the world and that we must speak up against it.

The sacred Torah of the synagogue survived the war.  The head rabbi was good friends with the imam of the largest mosque and entrusted him with its safekeeping.  Throughout the war, it was hidden beneath the podium where he pronounced his Friday prayers.

Only 150 people returned to Rhodes after the war.  To return they had to endure further trials and travails.  The caretaker of the synagogue Samuel was 17 when he came home.  His parents, brothers and sisters all gone, his cousins, aunts and uncles and most of his friends perished as well.  Now he serves as a living monument.  He speaks multiple languages and is incredibly warm and engaging as he talks about his journey.

  Look closely at his left arm. 

 The string of numbers crudely tattooed into his flesh should burn in all of us. 

The carved stone in the Martyr’s square is strong but his spirit is far stronger.  

None of us, should ever forget that this could happen to any of us.