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App Commemorates Lost Jewish Community of Crete

ATHENS — A mobile phone application that enables visitors to learn about the Jewish heritage of the Greek island of Crete and the Etz Hayyim Synagogue has been launched.

The app, a joint initiative between the Canadian and Israeli embassies in Greece, was launched Tuesday, the same day that a ceremony was held to mark the destruction of Crete’s Jewish community in the Holocaust.

“This free tourist application constitutes an important tool, allowing users immediate access to the rich history of the Jewish community of Chania and Crete,” said Julie Crôteau the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Canada in Greece.

Jewish history on Crete dates back more than 2,300 years, but the community was destroyed during the Holocaust.

In June 1944, the Nazis put the 265 Jews of Crete, along with several hundred Greek and Italian prisoners of war on the ship Tanais.  The Jews were intended to be transported to Athens and then on to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp along with the rest of Greek Jewry.

However, the ship was sunk by a British submarine and all on board were killed.

The app details the rich history of the Jewish community, which in modern times was centered around the city of Chania, and also the Etz Hayyim Synagogue.

At the end of the war all of the island’s five synagogues were destroyed. The Etz Hayyim synagogue also remained in ruin until renovations began in 1996. It was rededicated in 1999.

Today, the synagogue is a central attraction for Jews and other visitors from around the world while visiting Crete.

The app, which is available in the Apple store and will soon be released for Android, was developed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. It is the third in a series on Greek Jewish heritage, following apps for the cities of Thessaloniki and Ioannina.

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