The Holocaust Memorial in Rhodes, Greece has been vandalized with swastikas on all six sides of the monument, reported the Times of Israel. The initials AME were also spray-painted onto the Holocaust Memorial, which may refer to an unknown organization, according to the Greek Helsinki Monitor.

Greece’s Jewish community has already been on high alert due to the rise of the Neo-Nazis Golden Dawn Party, which presently has 21 parliamentary seats out of 300 and enjoys the support of seven percent of the Greek population. The logo of the Golden Dawn Party closely resembles a swastika and the Golden Dawn Party openly displays copies of Mein Kampf as well as other works on Greek racial superiority at their party headquarters.

Most of the Jews of Rhodes are directly descended of Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. The language of the Jews of Rhodes during Ottoman times was Ladino, which combined the Castilian dialect of Spanish with Hebrew, Turkish, and Greek. Under the Ottoman millet system, the Jewish community of Rhodes enjoyed great autonomy and in the seventeenth century, there were many rabbinical academies on the island.

The Jews of Rhodes tended to preserve their Sephardic musical traditions, particularly the long 13th century ballads of Spain, epic poems, and songs sung by women without a musical instrument. The Rhodes Jewish community also had other special customs, such as making sesame and honey pancakes for Hanukkah, bringing home grass during Passover to commemorate the Red Sea seaweed, and preserving the used tablecloth from Rosh Hashana out of the belief that it had healing powers. Prior to the Holocaust, the Jewish community of Rhodes boasted 4,000 members.

The Rhodes Jewish community, along with its unique way of life, was destroyed during the Holocaust. Anti-semetic laws passed by the Italian government on the island in 1938 caused half of the Jewish community to flea. Out of the 2,000 Jews who remained on the island, 42 Jews were saved thanks to the courageous efforts of Turkish Consulate General Selahattin Ulkumen, who in 1990 was honored by Yad Vashem as “Righteous among the Nations.”

The rest of Rhodes remaining Jews were detained in the summer of 1944 once the Italians passed full control over the island to the German authorities, who in turn ordered Rhodes Jews to march to the port stripped of their belongings. From there, they were crowded onto three boats, spent eight days on a tortuous journey to mainland Greece, and then were forced onto trains to Auschwitz. Out of the 1,673 Rhodes Jews sent to Auschwitz, only 150 survived. Today, there are only about 30 Jews still living on the island.

The Holocaust Memorial that was vandalized this week was dedicated in 2002 inside of the Square of the Martyred Jews, which is located in what used to be Rhodes Jewish Quarter. On the six sides of this Holocaust Memorial, the words In eternal memory of 1604 Jewish martyrs of Rhodes and Cos who were murdered in Nazis death camps” is written in a different language. The Greek authorities have opened an investigation into this incident.

Reported by: Rachel Avraham for United with Israel

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