Zakynthos Jewish Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Greece
Region
Ionian Islands
District
Zakynthos
Settlement
Zakynthos
Site address
From Zakynthos town centre, drive along Filikon Street until the café “Breeze” is on your left side. Then, turn left and proceed for 90 metres to St. George’s Church. The cemetery is located behind the church.
GPS coordinates
37.79277, 20.89650
Perimeter length
450 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
The cemetery is partially surrounded by a masonry fence of 2 metres height on the western and northern sides of the steep slope.
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
The cemetery is partially fenced, protected and slightly overgrown. It is located on a steep slope and is made up of tiers. The western and northern boundaries are not clearly delineated.
Number of existing gravestones
More than 1000
Date of oldest tombstone
1671/5431
Date of newest tombstone
1954
Urgency of erecting a fence
Low
Land ownership
Property of local community
Preserved construction on site
The house of the cemetery keeper is located on the cemetery site, and the site includes a memorial to Holocaust victims.
Drone surveys
Yes

Historical overview

The earliest records of a Jewish presence in Zakynthos date back to the late 15th century. With the Spanish and Portuguese expulsions (1492-97), a large number of Sephardi Jews settled alongside the small Romaniot community. The Venetians who controlled Zakynthos required the Jews to wear a yellow ribbon and hat. In 1522, there were 30 Jewish families. The Jewish population peaked at around 1,000 in 1686. The community was active in the redemption of captives. The Jews lived in a ghetto and maintained relations with the Christian inhabitants of Zakynthos. In 1728, many died in an epidemic and the distressed community suffered from poverty. The Jewish population in 1811 was 274. Full citizenship was granted to Jews when Zakynthos was annexed by Greece in 1864, although antisemitism and poverty continued. In 1893, later many died in an earthquake. Zakynthos suffered another earthquake in 1912. The Jewish population in 1940 was 275 (of a total population of 41,165). The Jews of Zakynthos were the only community in Occupied Greece to survive destruction, thanks to the island’s mayor, Lucas Karrer and Archbishop Demetriou Chrysostomos, who were subsequently named Righteous among the Nations in 1978. After the war, 70 Jews returned. However, most emigrated in the following decades.

The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown, but the first Jewish cemeteries most likely appeared in Zakynthos in the 15th or 16th centuries. The emergence of the Jewish community dates to the 15th century.

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