Mobile Phone App to Preserve Crete’s 2,300 Year Old Jewish Heritage


A mobile phone application that allows visitors to learn more about the ancient Jewish heritage of the Greek island of Crete and the Etz Hayyim Synagogue has been launched, thanks to a partnership between the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada with the support of the Embassies of Canada and Israel and in collaboration with the Etz Hayyim Synagogue.

The app was launched on the same day that a ceremony was held to mark the destruction of Crete’s Jewish community in the Holocaust and is available for download here.

“This free tourist application constitutes an important tool, allowing users immediate access to the rich history of the Jewish community of Chania and Crete,” said Julie Crôteau the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Canada in Greece.

Screenshots of the app from the iTunes store.

Screenshots of the app from the iTunes store.

Jewish history on Crete dates back more than 2,300 years, but the community was destroyed during the Holocaust.

In June 1944, the Nazis put the 265 Jews of Crete, along with several hundred Greek and Italian prisoners of war on the ship Tanais.

The prisoners were on their to Athens and then on to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. The ship was sunk by a British submarine and all on board were killed.

The app details the rich history of the Jewish community, which in modern times was centered around the city of Hania, and also the Etz Hayyim Synagogue, a 15th century center of the city’s Jewish community which survives today after being rebuilt.

At the end of the war all of the island’s five synagogues as well as Jewish cemeteries and schools were destroyed. The Etz Hayyim synagogue also remained in ruin until renovations began in 1996. It was rededicated in 1999.

Today, the synagogue is a central attraction for Jews and other visitors from around the world who visit Crete.

The app, which is available in the Apple store and will soon be released for Android, was developed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. It is the third in a series on Greek Jewish heritage.

These applications can be downloaded for free and allow users to go on self-guided walking tours using GPS technology. The New Media lab has already developed a mobile application for the histories of the Jewish communities of Ioannina and Thessaloniki. These are the first apps of their kind promoting the rich history of Jews in Greece.

The 15th century synagogue in Hania's old town.

The 15th century synagogue in Hania’s old town.

Ambassador Robert Peck, the former Canadian Ambassador to Athens was a champion of numerous projects that connected his country with Greece, including the technology projects with Simon Frasier University.

“As Canada’s former Ambassador to the Hellenic Republic I applaud the SNF Centre of Hellenic Studies for this important initiative to highlight the Jewish legacy in Greece and Crete, in particular. The Etz Hayyim synagogue is a symbol of religious freedom and a testament to the work of Nikos Stavroulakis who has ensured its survival for future generations,” Peck told The Pappas Post in a statement.


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