Remember the Struma
As we read about the “apology” the Turkish prime minister demanded and was delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under the pressure of President Obama, it is incumbent on every Jew and Gentile to remember the shameful event during World War II for which the Turkish government was responsible. It should not be forgotten.
On Dec. 16, 1941, an old ship called Struma departed from a Rumanian port on the Black Sea heading to Haifa through the Dardanelles. Its cargo was a group of Jewish refugees — 103 children, 272 women and 393 men who escaped from the harsh rule of the Antonescu fascism in Rumania.
Near the coast of Turkey, when its engine failed, the ship rocked back and forth by the waves. The Turks pulled it to a port, but kept the passengers locked in the ship without offering them any shelter or food. During the following two months, the Jewish community of Istanbul provided food to the refugees, but the food supply ended. While Jews from other countries tried to find a solution to the problem, the Turkish government instructed the ship’s crew to leave the port. Without a functioning engine, when the ship did not move, it was tied to a Turkish towing vessel and taken out to the open sea outside the territorial waters of Turkey in the Black Sea — five miles from the shore. With its hundreds of passengers, the ship was left without any food and water. The crew tried but failed to repair the engine and the passengers were left in the middle of high waves of a storm.
On the next day, a loud explosion was heard. Turkey claimed that the ship hit a mine, or torpedoed by a Russian submarine. The ship sunk with all its passengers except for one refugee, David Stoliar, and a crew officer who died a few hours later. David was saved by a fisherman’s boat that happened to be in the area. He was the only refugee who survived to tell the world about the disgraceful actions of the Turks.
The Jews did not demand an “apology” from the Turks, but they should not forget Struma.