05 July 2018

Memorial service recalls
Holocaust victims in Crete

Canon Patrick Comerford with Chief Rabbi Gabriel Negrin at the Holocaust Memorial Service in Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Chania, Crete

Canon Patrick Comerford (Diocese of Limerick) and Barbara Comerford were guests at a memorial service in Etz Hayyim Synagogue in Chania – the only surviving synagogue in Crete – to mark the anniversary of the destruction of the Jewish community of the Greek island during World War II.

In June 1944, the 256 remaining Jews of Crete were being sent by the Nazis for deportation to Auschwitz when the Tanais, the container ship carrying them from Chania to Athens, was torpedoed by a British submarine HMS Vivid, off the coast of Santorini.

In all, about 1,000 prisoners were on board the ship, including 400 Greek hostages and 300 Italian soldiers. No one survived.

The service in Etz Hayyim Synagogue on Sunday 17 June was led by the Chief Rabbi of Athens, Rabbi Gabriel Negrin, and Patrick and Barbara Comerford were invited to join reading the names of the 256 Jews from Crete who died on board the Tanais.

During the Haskhavah or memorial service, the New York-born poet Natalie Ventura, who now lives in Crete, read her poem ‘Memorial Service.’

‘This was a humbling occasion, and as a visitor to Crete for 30 years it was deeply moving to have been invited to take part in this service’ Patrick Comerford said to Newslink. ‘In a cruel twist of fate, the Jews of Crete were destroyed by fire in the Holocaust, but not in the way the Nazis had planned. The crew of the ,HMS Vivid believed they were sinking an enemy target, but never realised horrific purpose of its voyage or who was on board.’

This half-page news report is published in the July 2018 edition of ‘Newslink’ (p 7), the Limerick and Killaloe diocesan magazine

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