There were approximately 100 Jews in Cyprus in the early 20th century. After the rise of Nazism in 1933, hundreds of European Jews escaped to Cyprus, which was a British colony at the time. Axis forces never attempted to take over the island. Between August 1946 and January 1949, the British set up 12 centers in Cyprus for Jewish refugees – nearly all of whom were Holocaust survivors and most of whom had been detained to prevent them from entering British Mandate Palestine. According to historical accounts, conditions in the centers were harsh, and many Cypriots provided aid to Jewish refugees suffering from overcrowding and poor sanitation. In all, the British detained approximately 52,000 refugees (the majority of whom were between the ages of 12 and 35), including some 1,300 persons from North Africa, at these sites. Roughly 2,000 children were born in the camps, and approximately 400 people died during their internment. The majority of persons in these camps eventually moved to the State of Israel after its creation in 1948. The chief rabbi of Cyprus estimated that as of mid-2019, there were approximately 3,000 Jewish residents, including many expatriate Israeli, British, and Russian citizens.
Since 1974, the southern part of Cyprus has been under the control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. The northern part of Cyprus, administered by Turkish Cypriots, proclaimed itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) in 1983. The United States does not recognize the “TRNC,” nor does any country other than Turkey. A substantial number of Turkish troops remain on the island. A buffer zone, or “Green Line,” patrolled by the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), separates the two sides. This report covers the entire island.
Immovable Private, Communal/Religious, and Heirless Property
The Republic of Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that no immovable property in Cyprus was confiscated or otherwise appropriated by the Nazis, fascists, or their collaborators during the Holocaust era. Authorities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots reported that records of immovable properties do not include information about the nationality, ethnicity, or religion of the owners.
The Department is not aware of Holocaust victims or their survivors making claims on any immovable property in Cyprus, and there are no known survivors of the Holocaust living in Cyprus. The Republic of Cyprus has not entered into bilateral treaties with other countries regarding the restitution or compensation of immovable or movable property confiscated or wrongfully taken during the Holocaust; however, the Republic of Cyprus is a party to The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, including the first and second protocols.
Movable Property: Nazi-Confiscated and Looted Art, Judaica, and Jewish Cultural Property
No Nazi-confiscated or looted movable property has been found in the Republic of Cyprus. Its Department of Antiquities researches the provenance of all collections in state museums and emphasizes that it only holds objects originating in Cyprus. The Department of Antiquities says that it adheres to all conventions, declarations, and other instruments that promote the return of cultural objects to their place of origin and their restitution to their rightful owners. The Department is aware of no movable property that has been found in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Likewise, there are no reports of Judaica or Jewish cultural property in either the government-controlled area or the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.
Access to Archival Documents
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) engaged in an archival project with archives in Cyprus, which concluded in 2015. There are no ongoing archival projects between Cyprus and the USHMM at this time. Turkish Cypriot authorities reported there were no archival materials related to the Holocaust in their administrative area.
Education, Remembrance, Research, and Memorial Sites
The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has established an annual ceremony of remembrance and commemoration for Holocaust victims on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. High-level government officials, including the President of the House of Representatives and Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, regularly participate in remembrance and commemoration ceremonies. Turkish Cypriot authorities do not sponsor any regular, annual ceremonies of remembrance and commemoration for Holocaust victims.
Since 2009, public secondary school teachers read a message about the Holocaust and lead a discussion with students on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Lessons on the Holocaust are included in the high school history curricula in both the government-controlled areas and the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.
The Jewish community in Cyprus is building a museum and cultural center in Larnaca to raise awareness about the Holocaust and, in particular, the support that Cypriots gave to Holocaust victims and other Jewish refugees who resided on the island from August 1946 to January 1949. The Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Cyprus conducts research on the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes. The Ministry of Education and Culture reports that it signed an educational agreement with Yad Vashem in 2016.