Kos Old Jewish Cemetery
Jews are mentioned as residing in Kos as early as the second century B.C.E. In the 14th century, Romaniot Jews lived there, but were expelled in 1502. A small Jewish community existed from the beginning of Ottoman rule (1522). A synagogue was built in 1747. In 1850, there were around 40 Jewish families, but their number dwindled thereafter. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were only 4 Jewish families in Kos. However, following WWI, Jews returned to the island and in 1934 the community built a new synagogue after an earthquake destroyed the old one. The Jews numbered 166 in 1938, dropping to 85-100 in 1943. In July 1944, the Jews were transported by ship, along with the Jews of Rhodes (2,000 in all) to Piraeus. They were held under brutal conditions at an SS prison camp outside Athens prior to deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other death camps. None of the 12 Jews of Kos who survived the Holocaust returned there.
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. Perhaps the appearance of a cemetery with regular burials dates back to the 18th century. However, a Jewish community has existed in Kos since the 14th century.