The Jews of Rhodes lived within the bounds of the walled city, in the eastern section, in a separate, densely populated area with narrow, serpentine, cobbled streets, commonly referred to as “Juderia”.
There were tall, stone, palatial homes, but there were also more humble dwellings built with mud-bricks for the large families of poorer people. Floor mosaics of white and black pebbles were fashionable in Rhodes for centuries and Jewish courtyards and synagogues floors were decorated in this manner.
Very often more than one family lived under the same roof; in such cases the families would have been related. The “cortijos”, the courtyards between houses, buzzed with news, and Judeo-Spanish (ladino) songs were heard, keeping alive a centuries-old tradition.
The main street of the quarter was known for hundreds of years as “La Kaye Ancha” which means in the Judeo-Spanish “Ladino” language “The wide street”. “La Kaye Ancha” was the main artery of the Jewish life in the city, the central gathering place through which weddings and other joyous processions passed.
It was the heart of the jewish quarter and it was situated between the residential area and the business district. The fountain ornamented with three bronze seahorses was built during the governorship of the Italians, replacing a previous one which was destroyed.
Demographic estimates put the population of the Jewish community of Rhodes at between an average of 500 people at the end of the 16th century. During the 19th century, the community witnessed a significant growth in population due to immigration. At the end of the century it reached its peak population of 4.500 to 5.000 souls. By the early 20th century a fairly large group of the Jewish families started living outside the Juderia in newer sections of Rhodes.
After the deportation of the Jews of Rhodes on the 23rd of July, 1944, the Juderia ceased to exist.
The Holocaust Memorial, dedicated to the victims of the WWII from the islands of Rhodes and Cos, was erected in the heart of the Jewish quarter, in the Jewish Martyrs square. The first elected mayor of Rhodes, Gabriel Haritos, following the integration of the island with the rest of Greece, named it as Jewish martyrs square honoring the victims of the Holocaust. The memorial is located in a small park that was established in place of Jewish homes that were destroyed by bombs during the World War II.
The memorial was a generous donation of Mr. Victor Restis.
The unveiling took place on July 23rd 2002, to commemorate the date that the Jews of Rhodes and Cos were deported (23rd of July 1944).
The monument is an incomplete six-sided polygon of white and black marble and on each side of it the same text is inscribed in different languages(Greek-French-Italian-English-Hebrew –Judeo-Spanish (“Ladino”):
In eternal memory of the 1604
Jewish martyrs of Rhodes and Cos
Who were murdered in Nazi death camps
23 July, 1944