Heraklion Jewish Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Greece
Region
Crete
District
Heraklion
Settlement
Heraklion
Site address
There are two possible locations of the Heraklion Jewish Cemetery. According to the workers of the Historical Museum of Crete in Heraklion, the cemetery was located at the site of what today is the OFI Stadium, which was built in 1960s, located between Parnassou Street, Isavron Street and Kantanou Street (GPS coordinates 35.33787, 25.11498). Elderly locals believe that the cemetery was located on the site of what today are residential buildings between Petlempouri Street, Isavron Street, Kontu Street and Kantanou Street (GPS coordinates 35.33888, 25.11405).
GPS coordinates
35.33787, 25.11498 or 35.33888, 25.11405
Perimeter length
511 or 356 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
yes
Type and height of existing fence
No fence
Preservation condition
Demolished and overbuilt Jewish cemetery
General site condition
The cemetery was totally demolished and overbuilt from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s. Today, the OFI stadium and residential buildings are located on the former cemetery site. A small operating Armenian cemetery is located near the stadium.
Number of existing gravestones
No tombstones preserved on the site itself. There are at least two Hebrew epitaphs from the Heraklion Jewish Cemetery in the Crete Archaeological Museum, dating from 1590 and 1645.
Date of oldest tombstone
Date of newest tombstone
Urgency of erecting a fence
Fence is not needed
Land ownership
Private
Preserved construction on site
Drone surveys
Yes

Historical overview

There is evidence of a Jewish presence in Heraklion as early as the 12th century, and the population flourished under Venetian rule (from 1204). From the 14th century, the Jews lived in a ghetto and established 4 synagogues by the end of the century. In the 15th century, Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews immigrated and joined the Romaniot (Byzantine) community, which gained renown for its efforts to raise money for the release of captives. In 1845, an earthquake destroyed most Jewish homes and the two existing synagogues. In 1884, the community suffered a blood libel. Towards the end of the century, the community organisedmprayer services and Jewish education, but only 20 families remained in 1897. After the Balkan wars (1912-13), the Jews numbered 52. The Germans invaded Crete in May 1941, launching an aerial attack that destroyed the only synagogue. There were then 26 families. After this, a ship bearing 400 Greeks and Italian prisoners of war was bombed and none survived. Only three Jews who survived in hiding remained in Heraklion after the war.

The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown, but it can be specualted that it may have existed as early as the 12th century. Most likely, it was founded around the 13th century.

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