Turkey owes us an apology over the ‘Struma’

This is the worst tragedy in the history of illegal immigration to Palestine.

April 3, 2013 21:14
2 minute read.
RELATIVES OF those who died aboard the ‘Struma’ gather in 2000 to mark the tragedy.

Struma. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A few days ago, my father and I were discussing Israel’s recent apology to Turkey over the deaths of nine Turks on the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza in an IDF commando raid almost three years ago.

He reminded me about a shameful episode involving the Turks that occurred during World War II.

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As we approach Holocaust Remembrance Day, this is an appropriate time to retell this story, a disgraceful affair that should never be forgotten. Not only the Turks, but the entire world, should feel guilty.

On December 16, 1941, a small rickety boat called the Struma left Romania and crossed the Black Sea, headed toward the Land of Israel through the Dardanelles. On board were 103 children, 272 women and 393 men, all of whom were Jews fleeing from the horrors of Antonescu’s fascist regime in Romania.

Near the coast of Turkey, the engine broke down, and the boat began to toss from side to side among the waves. The Turkish authorities towed the Struma to a quarantined section of the port, where the passengers were forced to stay on board.

The Istanbul Jewish community provided the passengers with food for two months, until the food ran out. Jews worldwide sought to find a solution for the Jewish refugees on board the boat, but were unsuccessful.

On February 23, 1942, the Turkish government ordered that the rickety boat leave the Turkish port.

When that didn’t happen, the boat was tied to a Turkish tug boat and towed out of Turkish territorial waters into the Black Sea, 8 kilometers from the coast. The boat was left there with no food or water, a broken engine, and hundreds of people crowded aboard.

Attempts were made to fix the motor, but to no avail. The boat was left helpless to brave the stormy waters.

THE NEXT morning, a tremendous explosion was heard. Perhaps the boat hit a marine mine, as the Turks believe. Or maybe it was mistakenly hit by a Russian submarine torpedo.

The explosion caused severe damage, and the boat immediately sank. Of the hundreds of passengers on the boat, only two people survived: refugee David Stoliar, and one of the boat’s officers. The two of them were able to climb onto wooden beams. The sea water was bitterly cold, and in the morning Stoliar realized that the officer had not survived the night. Stoliar was saved by a fishing boat that happened to pass by. He was the only survivor left to tell the world about the Turks’ treacherous behavior.

This is the worst tragedy in the history of illegal immigration to Palestine. Not one place on the giant Turkish island called Asia Minor could be found to temporarily shelter these refugees of fascism. The Turks sent them to their deaths instead.

We are not in need of an apology. We will neither forget nor forgive.

Likud MK Moshe Feiglin wrote about the story in a Facebook post on Sunday, under the headline, “Demand for an apology from the Turks.”

“The truth is that we don’t need an apology! “And also not financial compensation,” Feiglin wrote. “The Jewish people have a special skill. They know how to remember!” If anyone reading these words knows Turkish, please send a copy of this story to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, so that he, too, can share the shame.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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