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Jewish Refugees Shipwrecked in the Aegean Sea in 1940
and Interned on Rhodes, and
• Searching the Database
This database was originally published online at JewishGen.org in late 2008. At the time, it consisted solely of the names of 201 European refugee Jews who, following the shipwreck of their refugee boat in the Aegean Sea in either May 1939 or May 1940, were temporarily housed on the Island of Rhodes, and then were transferred to the Ferramonti Di Tarsia internment camp in 1942. This database has since been revised in early 2009 to include the full list of refugee Jews who were shipwrecked, approximately 300 of whom were not transferred to Italy and thus were not on the earlier list, nor in the earlier database. Furthermore, a small number of the people transferred to Italy were apparently not part of the original shipwreck group. This new larger database combines both original data sources, hoping to give the clearest possible picture of who these people were and what happened to them.
The Island of Rhodes is located in the Aegean Sea, just off the coast of Turkey. In 1940, Rhodes had a population of approximately 2,000 Jewish residents, most of whom were Sephardic Jews whose families had lived on the island since fleeing the Inquisition 500 years earlier, but a few of the families were Romaniote (Greek) Jews who had lived in the area since ancient times. Their primary language was Ladino (Jewish-Spanish). Rhodes was part of the Ottoman Empire until the end of the first World War, and today Rhodes is Greek, but between 1922 and 1948 Rhodes was Italian, the island having been seized by Mussolini.
During the 1930's, several ships full of European (Ashkenazi) Jews heading to Palestine stopped off at Rhodes for refueling and supplies. One of these ships was known to have been shipwrecked off the coast on the island of Samos in May 1939 or May 1940 (reports differ). This ship is believed to have been the "Pentcho", whose point of origin was Bratislava, Slovakia. The damaged ship managed to return to port in Rhodes, but the refugees on board had lost almost all their luggage and had to live in the Rhodes athletic stadium for several months. The local Rhodes Jews, known as Rhodeslis, brought them food, blankets, and supplies.
According to Rhodes-born Holocaust survivor Laura Varon's memoir, "La Juderia," the months in 1939 that the shipwrecked European Jews spent living in the Rhodes stadium were the first time most of the Rhodeslis were able to receive firsthand information about the Holocaust, and an inkling of just how terrible the situation was getting in Europe for Jews.
Eventually, a new transport ship was obtained and most of the European refugees continued on to Palestine. Rabbi Marc D. Angel's history, "The Jews of Rhodes", says that the Rhodes community also arranged for 300 of the refugees to be transported to Tangiers. However, neither Varon's book nor Angel's book mentions any refugees being transported to a camp in Italy. Perhaps the local Rhodeslis were unaware of their fate. Luckily, most of the shipwrecked and deported people survived the Holocaust and were freed in 1944.
Sadly, the Jews of Rhodes did not have as fortunate a fate as the European Jewish refugees temporarily housed on the island and enumerated in this database. The Rhodes community was deported from the island in the summer of 1944. Of the approximately 2,000 Jews on the island just before the war, only either 104 (Varon's book) or 151 (Angel's book) are thought to have survived. Rabbi Angel, citing various sources, says that 22 people died during the deportations, 1,145 died in Auschwitz, and 437 died in the labor camps.
There are 505 names on this list, although eight people are listed as members of the ship's crew (one of whom is also noted as being Jewish). The list also includes the names of four children born while the group was interned on Rhodes, as well as a small number of people who are listed as having died during the internment. The original list assigns each person a number, going from 1 up to 521, but skips a few numbers. It is also not strictly alphabetical, although surnames are generally grouped by their first letter.
The original list is typewritten in Italian, with Italian variants and spellings given for some names (such as "Alessandro" for "Alexander"). The birthdates were originally presented in European date format (DD-MM-YYYY, or occasionally just YYYY). A town name is listed for each person, but it is unclear whether this is their hometown or their actual place of birth. The town names are written as they would appear in 1940, are occasionally the Italian version of the town names, and are often abbreviated. A large number of them are located in modern-day Slovakia, primarily Bratislava.
Each person's nationality and occupation is listed in Italian. (See the translation helping aid in the "Database" section below). A large number of them are listed as "apolide", meaning "stateless or displaced person". Sometimes that is combined with another national identifier, such as "tedesco apolide", meaning "German stateless or displaced person". Each person's name is either underlined or not. People of noted German origin are almost always underlined on the list, but so are some others, with little obvious reason. While it is not immediately clear what purpose this served, it may have influenced the selection of which people were deported to Italy and which were allowed to leave the island for Tangiers or Palestine. Or perhaps certain names were being reported to another location.
The following letter was in the same ITS file as the list of the shipwrecked passengers. It was typewritten in English and apparently dates from 1951. It gives some background details about the detainment in Rhodes:
This list, along with its introductory letter, concerns 201 Jews who were transferred from Rhodes to the Ferramonti Di Tarsia internment camp, located in the Cosenza province of southern Italy. The 201 people in the Ferramonti camp were reportedly freed when the camp was liberated by the Allies in late 1944. Ferramonti was an internment camp, not a death camp, and most of its internees survived. The camp allowed for the sending and receiving of mail, which not only explains how the introductory letter attached to the list survived, but is also the subject of the letter itself.
The "Transferred to Ferramonti" list had far less information on it than the other list. The data includes the first and last names of the internees, the page number on which the person appears, and a penciled-in mark next to each name. The mark could be a checkmark or an X. It is unclear what the significance of that mark means; however, a large percentage of people who were on the Ferramonti list and who were NOT on the original Shipwreck list are far more likely to have an X next to their names. Perhaps it symbolized whether people had come to the camp from Rhodes or from another point of origin. It is left in the database for completeness' sake.
The online ITS index claims that there are 198 names on the Ferramonti list; however, the transcriber found and transcribed 201 names while the contemporaneous letter claimed 200 names. It is unclear which names created the differences. All records and information from the list were extracted, and as far as can be seen, no data are believed to be missing.
The letter accompanying the list of names was typewritten in German and dated 04-Mar-1942. Here is an English translation:
This database includes the names of 533 individuals. 505 names were on the original "Shipwrecked Passengers" list and 201 names were on the "Transported to Ferramonti" list, with some overlap between the two lists. Both lists also include some names that the other list does not.
The fields of the database are as follows:
|Apolide||Stateless / displaced person|
|Agente Di Com.||Business agent||Insegnante||Teacher|
|Agronomo||Agriculturalist||Macchinista||Machinist, engine driver|
|Aiutto Mecc.||Auto Mechanic||Macellaio||Butcher|
|Caffetiere||Coffeemaker||Mont. Radio||Radio assembler|
|Cantore||Cantor||Operaio||Workman, laborer, artisan|
|Capitano||Captain, Commander||Orologiaio||Watch maker|
|Commeszo||Saleswoman, salesman||Sarta||Dress maker|
|Dott. In Legge||Doctorate in law||Spedizioniere||Freight forwarder|
|Dottoressa||Doctor, physician||Stampatore||Stamper, leather artisan|
|Elettromeccanico||Electrical mechanic||Studente Lagge||Law student|
|Falegname||Joiner, carpenter||Studente Medico||Medical student|
|Fuochista||Stoker, fireman||Tecnico Tessile||Textile technician|
|Impiegata||Clerk, employee||Vetraio||Glassman, glazier|
The information in this database originally comes from two files obtained from the International Tracing Service (ITS), held in its archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany.
The official name of the "Shipwrecked Passengers" list is "Namenliste der jüdischen Internierten auf der Insel Rhodos 16.4.1941 (versch. Nationalitäten)", which was translated by the ITS as "List of names of the Jewish internees on the island of Rhodes 16.4.1941 (various nationalities)". The list was obtained by the ITS from "IKRK Geneva" the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland. The ITS file location is "OCC 36/11 Ordner 1", sheet name "5.55-9.74", and inventory number "53". Full data about the file can be accessed at this page in the ITS index website: http://resources.ushmm.org/itsinventory/inventory1.php?Inventory__Id=3211.
The official name of the "Transferred to Ferramonti" list is "Liste von Personen v. Rhodos, die in das Lager Ferramonti Überstellt wurden 12.1.1942," which was translated by the ITS as "List of persons from Rhodes who were transferred to the camp Ferramonti 12.1.1942". The list was obtained by the ITS from "IKRK Geneva", the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland. The ITS file location is "OCC 36/9 Ordner 1,"sheet name "5.55-9.74" and inventory number "57". Full data about the file can be accessed at this page in the ITS index website: http://resources.ushmm.org/itsinventory/inventory1.php?Inventory__Id=3215.
The transcription and data entry for this project was completed by Brooke Schreier Ganz, with some help from transcribers at the Amazon Mechanical Turk project. The translation of the "Transferred to Ferramonti" letter from German into English was performed by Erin M. Blakemore.
In addition, thanks to JewishGen Inc. for providing the website and database expertise to make this database accessible. Special thanks to Warren Blatt and Michael Tobias for their continued contributions to Jewish genealogy. Particular thanks to the Research Division headed by Joyce Field and to Nolan Altman, coordinator of Holocaust files.
This database is searchable via JewishGen's Holocaust Database.
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