Turkey 'owes' apology for deaths of Holocaust escapees

Turkey 'owes' apology for deaths of Holocaust escapees

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey owes apology for deaths of Holocaust escapees

Jewish-Turkish businessman Alaton (2nd from R), musician and author Livaneli (2nd from L) and other Jewish-Turks remember the victims of 1942 Struma tragedy. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Ankara must show the courage to apologize for its role in the Struma tragedy in which 764 people died in the Black Sea after being neglected by Turkey while escaping from the Holocaust, a leading Jewish-Turkish business has said. “Just like German Chancellor Angela Merkel apologized for Turks who were murdered by neo-Nazis, Ankara must have the same courage,” İshak Alaton said.

Alaton was accompanied by Turkish musician and author Zülfü Livaneli, who wrote his latest novel, “Serenad,” about the Struma disaster. Representatives of the Jewish community also joined the memorial service along Istanbul’s Seraglio Point coastline.

“This is a kind of open secret, but Turkey must acknowledge and apologize just like other responsible states have to. Britain, Romania and Turkey share this shame. It doesn’t matter if they were Jews or Muslims; they could have any other ethnic or religious identity. We owe it to those who were killed by the states. All the people must stand together against massacres,” Livaneli said during a service in Istanbul commemorating the 70th anniversary of the tragedy.

Alaton said he was only 15 years old when he carried bread to the ship Struma every morning while it was anchored at the Istanbul shore.

“I realized that they were sent to death when a morning came and we did not find the boat where it had been. Only the Jewish community helped out those people who were living in that old boat with diseases and hunger,” Alaton told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The Struma disaster happened following an official declaration of the British authorities that no Jews would be accepted to Palestine. As such, Turkish authorities did not allow anyone to leave the boat, according to reports. Turkish authorities cut the chain of the anchor and, due to a breakdown in the engine, tugboats attached ropes to the boat and pulled it out of the Bosphorus, leaving it in the Black Sea, where a Soviet submarine shot the boat on Feb. 24, 1942. Some 764 people died in the incident.
Only one person, a 20-year-old man, was rescued – 24 hours after the event. Some 760 of the bodies were never recovered.

Alaton said the Jewish community was in fear due to the fascist atmosphere that had been created by ultranationalist Turks at the time.

“My dad was forced to work in [the eastern province of] Erzurum’s Aşkale village one year after this incident because of the 1943 Wealth Tax implementations against the minorities,” said Alaton.