Turkey commemorates Jewish boat victims during Holocaust

Turkey commemorates Jewish boat victims during Holocaust

Turkey commemorates Jewish boat victims during Holocaust

An official ceremony was held on Feb. 24 to commemorate the victims of the 1942 Struma incident, a World War II tragedy that resulted in the death of over 750 Romanian Jews after their ship was sunk by a Soviet submarine after it had been forced to remain docked for two months in Istanbul.

Istanbul Gov. Vasip Şahin and Turkish Jewish Chief Rabbi İsak Haleva attended the ceremony at the Sarayburnu area of Istanbul for the victims of the tragedy, which Turkey began to commemorate officially in 2015. 

Delivering speeches for the people with whom Turkish Jews shared kinship, Şahin and Haleva expressed their condolences and prayers.  

At the end of the ceremony, Şahin and Haleva threw wreaths into the sea where the vessel was docked for over two months, with its passengers unable to disembark despite a series of diplomatic efforts. 

Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hüseyin Müftüoğlu also commemorated the victims of the incident earlier in the day, saying, “[They were] remembering those who lost their lives during the Holocaust, which was a brutality that has no other example in human history, and those who died on the Struma 75 years ago as they were trying to escape the Holocaust.” 

The Struma, a Bulgarian vessel that left Romania’s Costanta port with a group of Romanian Jews, was trying to escape the Nazis and make its way to Palestine, only to break down and be forced to dock in Sarayburnu.

For nine weeks, the passengers were prevented from leaving the boat due to German pressure on Ankara, while the boat was also not permitted to continue on to Palestine due to British objections. Aided for a short period thanks to the efforts of Istanbul’s Jewish community, the passengers struggled to survive on the ship with limited resources for weeks before the vessel departed.

While off the coast of Istanbul’s Şile district in the Black Sea, it was hit and sunk by a Soviet submarine.