Sunday, January 17, 2010

More details and photos of Hania Synagogue attack.

At the excellent Abravanel Blog.

Greek Jew Yitzhak Ganon Rebuilt his life after Horrors.


Sixty-five years ago, infamous Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele removed Yitzhak Ganon's kidney without anesthesia. The Greek-born Jew swore never to see a doctor again -- until a heart attack last month brought his horrific tale into the open.

He is a thin man. His wine-red cardigan is a little too big, and his legs are like matchsticks in his brown pants. Yitzhak Ganon takes care of himself. He's freshly shaven, his white mustache neatly trimmed. The 85-year-old sits on a gray sofa, with a cushion supporting his back. He is too weak to stand by himself, but he still greets a guest in German: "Guten Tag."

Speaking is hard for him. "Slowly, Abba," his daughter Iris says, and brings him a glass of water. Her father has never in his life complained of any pain, she says.

A month ago he came back from his morning walk and lay down. "Are you sick, Papa?" Iris asked. "No, just a little tired," Yitzhak Ganon answered, before going to sleep. But after a few hours he was still tired. "I don't need a doctor," he told his daughter.

The next morning things were even worse. Ganon's wife and daughter called a doctor, who diagnosed a viral infection and told him to go to the hospital. Ganon resisted, but finally realized his life was in danger. At some point he stopped fighting the doctor's orders.

'Just One Kidney'

His family brought him to the hospital in his home town of Petach Tikva near Tel Aviv. He had hardly been admitted when he lost consciousness. Heart attack, the doctor said. The blood clots were cleared with the help of tiny balloons, and the doctors put five stents in him. "We thought he wouldn't survive the operation," said Eli Lev, the doctor. "Especially since he had just one kidney."

When Yitzhak Ganon came to, he told the doctors where he lost the other kidney -- and why he had avoided doctors for 65 years. A reporter from the Israeli paper Maariv heard about the story. And now, weeks after the operation, Ganon is ready to tell his story to a German reporter for the first time.

He stretches his back and looks at a photo on the living room wall. It shows the Acropolis in Athens. "I come from Arta, a small city in northern Greece. It happened on Saturday, March 25, 1944. We had just lit the candles to celebrate the Sabbath when an SS officer and a Greek policeman burst into the house. They told us we should get ourselves ready for a big trip."

The 85-year-old slides the sleeve of his shirt up and uncovers his left forearm. The number 182558 is tattooed there in dark-blue ink.

Tied Down

The transport to Auschwitz took two weeks. His sick father died on the journey. Upon arrival, they had to strip and submit to an inspection. Ganon's mother and five siblings were then sent to the gas chambers.

Yitzhak Ganon was taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau hospital, where Josef Mengele, the so-called "Angel of Death," conducted grisly experiments on Jewish prisoners.

Ganon had to lie down on a table and was tied down. Without any anesthetics, Mengele cut him open and removed his kidney. "I saw the kidney pulsing in his hand and cried like a crazy man," Ganon says. "I screamed the 'Shema Yisrael.' I begged for death, to stop the suffering."

After the "operation," he had to work in the Auschwitz sewing room without painkillers. Among other things, he had to clean bloody medical instruments. Once, he had to spend the whole night in a bath of ice-cold water because Mengele wanted to "test" his lung function. Altogether, Ganon spent six and a half months in the concentration camp's hospital.

'Just Fatigue'

When they had no more use for him, the Nazis sent him to the gas chamber. He survived only by chance: The gas chamber held only 200 people. Ganon was number 201.

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops. Yitzhak Ganon made it back to Greece and found his surviving siblings -- a brother and a sister -- and emigrated to Israel in 1949. He got married. And he swore never to go to a doctor again. "Whenever he was sick, even when it was really bad," his wife Ahuva says, "he told me it was just fatigue."

But now Ganon is happy he finally went to the hospital after his heart attack. One week later, he had another heart attack, and was given a pacemaker. "If the doctors hadn't been there," he says, smiling for the first time, "I would be dead now." Yitzhak Ganon has survived, again.


Source: Der Spiegel

Some Good News; Decent Greeks Decry Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism




Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos
Subject:Christians citizens demonstrate in support of Jewish cemetery in Ioann ina
To: Undisclosed-recipients:;

Normally I would wait for our monthly e-newsletter to pass on recent news from Greece, but some news deserves to be passed on immediately, especially when it is such good news. Too often, negativity makes the front page. In recent years, anti-Semitism is all too prevalent. What then can be more emotionally rewarding than to pass on the news of a recent mass demonstration against anti-Semitism? Where did this demonstration take place? In Ioannina! It was organized by the Christian citizens of the city and was heralded as a “a human chain against racism.” The cemetery was surrounded by the citizens of Ioannina to show their support for the Jewish community of the city and to publically show their outrage at recent desecrations of Jewish tombstones. In addition, a public exhibition was held, highlighting the ancient Jewish presence in the city and the importance of the Jewish cemetery as a monument to the long Jewish presence in Ioannina. The committee that organized the public display of support made the following statement: “The Jewish cemetery is not only the religious space of the Jewish Community but, also, a cultural monument of our city, the protection of which, like other historical monuments of our city, is the duty of every citizen.” Let us all applaud the good citizens of Ioannina who organized and took part in this historic event. Photos of the event can be found in the attachments.



Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos
Museum Director
Kehila Kedosha Janina
280 Broome Street
NYC, NY 10002

Jew Hatred Flourishes on the Island of Crete. Hania Synagogue Attacked Again! When will this end?

With shock and sadness I forward this report received from my friend Nikos Stavroulakis of a destructive fire two nights ago at the restored and much-loved Etz Hayyim synagogue in Hania, Crete. The fire severely damaged the recently restored ezrat nashim (former women's section) of the historic synagogue, and entirely destroyed the library and computer stations. Additional damage from soot and water to the rest of the structure and furnishing can be repaired, but at a considerable cost.

Here is Dr. Stavroulakis's report in full (also posted on the Etz Hayyim blog with more photos):

At approximately 12:20-1:00 AM on the night of the 5th January, a serious attack was made on the fabric of the Synagogue. One or two or even more individuals made their way into the south garden of the synagogue by climbing over the iron gate. Subsequent to this they set about making an improvised incendiary device by tearing open a large Ottoman cushion in the mikveh and then with the contents stuffed a canister that was filled with some flammable liquid which was then set afire under the wooden stair of the ezrat nashim. (The upper floor of the women’s section (ezrat nashim) serves as the office of the director as well as a library and reading room and contains valuable books in various languages on Ottoman, Byzantine and Jewish art and architecture as well as resource books on European and Near Eastern History from pre-historic times as well as a large section on Cretan history. A computer and CD player with over 150 CDs of Sephardic liturgical and secular music were also kept in the office.)



Within probably minutes the assailants had taken off and the fire produced smoke that poured into the synagogue proper and then out into the street through the oculus in the facade of the synagogue.



Yannis Pietra, an Albanian emigrant living not far from the Synagogue, smelled the smoke and looking into the street saw it belching out of the facade and called the police, fire-station and then set off to find the director who arrived not long after along with Besnik Seitas the handyman of the Synagogue. At roughly the same time a young Moroccan, Nasr Alassoud, also traced the smoke that was coming down the street to the harbor. He proved to be a much needed hand by the director. By 1:45 AM the fire brigade had extinguished the fire and the police had begun their work. But the residual damage was only going to be apparent the next day.



Anja Zuckmantel-Papadakis, our librarian and her husband arrived not long after the fire was extinguished. What was quite notable was the lack of ‘locals’ despite the quite incredible noise of the synagogue alarm system and sirens from the two fire engines screeching through the neighborhood. What was even more disturbing and an obvious sign of a lack of civic responsibility was the apparent lack of sensitivity to the fact that had the synagogue been engulfed in flames at least half of the old city of Hania would have gone up in flames as the narrow streets and inaccessible quarters would have prevented access by the fire brigades.



By 7:00 AM a deposition was made by the director with the police and the somewhatience of assessing the damage done was carried out. Members or the Synagogue fraternity: Paola Nikotera, Konstantine Fischer, Sam Cohen and David Webber were on hand to examine what had taken place – to books, structure as well as to assist the police in establishing evidence part of which was a bar of soap that had been thrown against the outer wall. (A common anti-semitic quip in Greek runs…’I'll make you into a bar of soap!’) As the mains of the Synagogue had been disconnected in the course of extinguishing the fire, we were informed that it would perhaps take up to a week to have them reconnected. The prospect was met when Mr Giorgos Archontakis, an engineer, offered to help us with this. As we were dealing with this, Angeliki Psaraki our photographer arrived to take pictures of the damage and later with Mr Archontakis. These two were successful in submitting the necessary papers to the Electric Company and by 5:00 PM we had electricity again which considerably raised morale though the damage by now was even more apparent.

The Siphrei Torah were fortunately well protected in their Ehal but the walls of the interior of the sanctuary as the wooden ceiling have been streaked and covered by water laden soot as well. Much of the naked stone on the interior has been badly stained and by early evening we set in motion plans for the cleaning of the walls and even ordered the scaffolding. By late evening our carpenter, Mr Manthos Kakavelakis had taken measurement for the new stair as the old one was completely gutted in the fire and we had discussed the creation of a solid stone wall to protect the new library entrance. This structure will be articulated so as to include the entrance to the mikveh. All of the carpets of the synagogue (some 30 odd and most of them antique Turkish) had been covered with soot and messed about by the fire-fighters and police. These have been packed up in readiness for cleaning.

On the 6th January, a day after the fire we assembled together to recite Shaharith prayers at 9:00 as is our custom.



The atmosphere was understandably sombre but the director – Mr Stavroulakis – tried to divert some of the understandable anger by looking over what had happened over the past 24 hours or so. We must be angry over what has happened to our synagogue. If we were not it would be an indication that we were either indifferent or morally numb. But exactly against what is our anger directed? The urban context in which Etz Hayyim figures at this moment must be considered carefully and any indifference on the part of the citizens to the material fabric of this city and its collective ‘psyche’ is tantamount to abetting to a degree the desecration of monuments, of homes and sites of common meeting. What we must be angry about is the ignorance that determines racism, discrimination or badly examined lives.



We have tried at Etz Hayyim to be a small presence in the midst of what is at times almost aggressive ignorance. We have done this to such a degree that our doors are open from early in the morning until late in the day so that the Synagogue assumes its role as a place of prayer, recollection and reconciliation. In many ways we have been successful through this quiet presence – perhaps our ‘silent presence’ wears not too well on some and is even a source of annoyance to others. Often I have pointed out that we are perhaps the only synagogue of significance in Greece, possibly Europe, where there is little if any overt sign of protective security. Hand-bags are not checked, ID cards and passports are not examined, and one is not obliged to sign in. This character of the Synagogue must not change and the doors must remain open – or we have given in to the ignorance that has perpetrated this desecration. Our awareness of what ignorance can do to us will certainly determine how certain repairs are to be made – but at the same time we must be cautious about allowing ignorance to affect or determine the nature of our presence. We will have a heavy burden of funding the necessary renovations and we hope that you as either old friends or new ones will assist us.

Any donations will be deeply appreciated and, of course, welcome.

ALPHA BANK (Hania, Crete)

Account name: Friends of Etz Hayyim

Account # 776-002101-087154

IBAN: GR74 0140 6600 7760 0210 1087 154

Nicholas Hannan-Stavroulakis / Director Etz Hayyim Synagogue/ Hania

In the USA, tax-deductible charitable contribution will also be received by the International Survey of Jewish Monuments (ISJM). Checks can be sent to ISJM, P.O. Box 210, 118 Julian Place, Syracuse, NY 13210. Write "Hania" on the memo line. 100% of all funds will be transferred for use by Etz Hayyim.









Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos
Museum Director
Kehila Kedosha Janina
280 Broome Street
NYC, NY 10002

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More Details on the attack on the Synagogue in Crete

Friends,

At approximately 12:20-1:00 AM on the night of the 5th January, a serious attack was made on the fabric of the Synagogue. One or two or even more individuals made their way into the south garden of the synagogue by climbing over the iron gate. Subsequent to this they set about making an improvised incendiary device by tearing open a large Ottoman cushion in the mikveh and then with the contents stuffed a canister that was filled with some flammable liquid which was then set afire under the wooden stair of the ezrat nashim. (The upper floor of the women's section (ezrat nashim) serves as the office of the director as well as a library and reading room and contains valuable books in various languages on Ottoman, Byzantine and Jewish art and architecture as well as resource books on European and Near Eastern History from pre-historic times as well as a large section on Cretan history.

A computer and CD player with over 150 CDs of Sephardic liturgical and secular music were also kept in the office.

Within probably minutes the assailants had taken off and the fire produced smoke that poured into the synagogue proper and then out into the street through the oculus in the facade of the synagogue.

Yannis Pietra, an Albanian emigrant living not far from the Synagogue, smelled the smoke and looking into the street saw it belching out of the facade and called the police, fire-station and then set off to find the director who arrived not long after along with Besnik Seitas the handyman of the Synagogue. At roughly the same time a young Moroccan, Nasr Alassoud, also traced the smoke that was coming down the street to the harbor. He proved to be a much needed hand by the director. By 1:45 AM the fire brigade had extinguished the fire and the police had begun their work. But the residual damage was only going to be apparent the next day. Anja Zuckmantel-Papadakis, our librarian and her husband arrived not long after the fire was extinguished. What was quite notable was the lack of ‘locals’ despite the quite incredible noise of the synagogue alarm system and sirens from the two fire engines screeching through the neighborhood. What was even more disturbing and an obvious sign of a lack of civic responsibility was the apparent lack of sensitivity to the fact that had the synagogue been engulfed in flames at least half of the old city of Hania would have gone up in flames as the narrow streets and inaccessible quarters would have prevented access by the fire brigades.

By 7:00 AM a deposition was made by the director with the police and the somewhat depressing experience of assessing the damage done was carried out. Members of the Synagogue fraternity: Paola Nikotera, Konstantine Fischer, Sam Cohen and David Webber were on hand to examine what had taken place – to books, structure as well as to assist the police in establishing evidence part of which was a bar of soap that had been thrown against the outer wall. (A common anti-semitic quip in Greek runs...'I'll make you into a bar of soap!') As the mains of the Synagogue had been disconnected in the course of extinguishing the fire, we were informed that it would perhaps take up to a week to have them reconnected. The prospect was met when Mr Giorgos Archontakis, an engineer, offered to help us with this. As we were dealing with this, Angeliki Psaraki our photographer arrived to take pictures of the damage and later with Mr Archontakis. These two were successful in submitting the necessary papers to the Electric Company and by 5:00 PM we had electricity again which considerably raised morale though the damage by now was even more apparent.

The Siphrei Torah were fortunately well protected in their Hekhal but the walls of the interior of the sanctuary as the wooden ceiling have been streaked and covered by water laden soot as well. Much of the naked stone on the interior has been badly stained and by early evening we set in motion plans for the cleaning of the walls and even ordered the scaffolding. By late evening our carpenter, Mr Manthos Kakavelakis had taken measurement for the new stair as the old one was completely gutted in the fire and we had discussed the creation of a solid stone wall to protect the new library entrance. This structure will be articulated so as to include the entrance to the mikveh. All of the carpets of the synagogue (some 30 odd and most of them antique Turkish) had been covered with soot and messed about by the fire-fighters and police. These have been packed up in readiness for cleaning.

On the 6th December, a day after the fire we assembled together to recite Shaharith prayers at 9:00 as is our custom. The atmosphere was understandably sombre but the director – Mr Stavroulakis – tried to divert some of the understandable anger by looking over what had happened over the past 24 hours or so. We must be angry over what has happened to our synagogue. If we were not it would be an indication that we were either indifferent or morally numb. But exactly against what is our anger directed? The urban context in which Etz Hayyim figures at this moment must be considered carefully and any indifference on the part of the citizens to the material fabric of this city and its collective 'psyche' is tantamount to abetting to a degree the desecration of monuments, of homes and sites of common meeting. What we must be angry about is the ignorance that determines racism, discrimination or badly examined lives. We have tried at Etz Hayyim to be a small presence in the midst of what is at times almost aggressive ignorance. We have done this to such a degree that our doors are open from early in the morning until late in the day so that the Synagogue assumes its role as a place of prayer, recollection and reconciliation.

In many ways we have been successful through this quiet presence – perhaps our ‘silent presence’ wears not too well on some and is even a source of annoyance to others. Often I have pointed out that we are perhaps the only synagogue of significance in Greece, possibly Europe, where there is little if any overt sign of protective security. Hand-bags are not checked, ID cards and passports are not examined, and one is not obliged to sign in. This character of the Synagogue must not change and the doors must remain open – or we have given in to the ignorance that has perpetrated this desecration. Our awareness of what ignorance can do to us will certainly determine how certain repairs are to be made – but at the same time we must be cautious about allowing ignorance to affect or determine the nature of our presence.

We will have a heavy burden of funding the necessary renovations and we hope that you as either old friends or new ones will assist us. Any donations will be deeply appreciated and, of course, welcome.


Nicholas Hannan-Stavroulakis / Director Etz Hayyim Synagogue/ Hania

Parados Kondylakis
P O Box 251,
Hania 73100, Crete

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Small fire extinguished inside Hania's old quarter synagogue

(ΑΝΑ-ΜPA) -- A small fire was reported in the early morning hours of Tuesday inside a synagogue in Hania's historic old quarter, on the island of Crete.

According to fire brigade reports, the blaze was centred under a wooden ladder that leads to the library.

Firefighters immediately rushed to the scene and extinguished the fire before it threatened the temple and the adjoining library, which features roughly 1,600 rare books and manuscripts.

Authorities in the Cretan port city said the synagogue's main doors were locked and that the alarm system sounded when firefighters broke down the main gate to enter the building.

However, a full investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the incident.

The medieval synagogue in Hania's old quarter is amongst the most noted Jewish temples in Greece, functioning as both a cultural centre and a house of worship.

About Me

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I am an independent research historian and genealogist and currently working on my first book that will explore the Sephardic origin of many Eastern European Jews, entitled EASTERN EUROPEAN JEWS IN SEARCH OF IBERIAN ROOTS. I hope to correspond on this blog with like minded individuals and learn more about the subjects being discussed as well as impart some of my own knowledge to others. Please be considerate and give proper credits when reproducing anything from this site. Thank you.