Documentary novel deals with Struma ship tragedy

Documentary novel deals with Struma ship tragedy

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Documentary novel deals with Struma ship tragedy

The novel’s writer Halit Kakınç and businessman İshak Alaton leave black wreath on the sea in memory of the 769 passengers who died tragically on the Struma.

The tragic story of 769 Jews who were left to their fate aboard the ship Struma off the coast of Sarayburnu is the subject of a new novel by academic, journalist and author Halit Kakınç.

The novel was launched on Sept. 11 with a ceremony aboard a boat on the Bosphorus, in which Kakınç and businessman İshak Alaton, who wrote a foreword for the book, left black wreath on the sea in memory of the Struma’s 769 passengers. Rabbi Yav Yeuda Adoni and Rav Mendi prayed for the ship’s passengers, and Bulgarian priest Angel Velkov prayed for the ship’s Bulgarian crew.

The Struma was chartered to carry Jewish refugees from Romania to British-controlled Palestine during World War II. The engine gave out several times after the Struma set sail from Constanta, Romania, on the Black Sea, on Dec. 12, 1941, and it was towed to Istanbul on Dec. 15. On Feb. 23, 1942, with its engine inoperable and its refugee passengers aboard, Turkish authorities towed the ship from Istanbul harbor through the Bosphorus out to the coast at Şile. But on the morning of Feb. 24, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the Soviet submarine Shch 213, killing 768 men, women and children, with only one survivor, a 19-year-old man, making it the largest exclusively civilian naval disaster of the war in the Black Sea.

After seven years of research in books and by talking with the witnesses of this tragedy, the victims’ children and grandchildren, Kakınç based his novel on real documents and tells the tragic story with a documentary-novel technique. The book focuses on the last 72 days the refugees spent aboard the boat, off the coast of Istanbul’s Sarayburnu.

Highlighting the adventure of three young and loving couples, Thea and Fredi, Medea and Saimon, and İlse and David, before and during their escape from Romania, the book tells the Struma tragedy through real human stories. Of these six young people, only Medea and David survive in the novel.

Nazi Germany responsible
Nazi Germany was largely responsible for the Struma tragedy, as well as the British government, which pressed the Turkish government to prevent Jews escaping the Nazis from entering Palestine, which was then under Britain’s administration, Kakınç said. It was this that caused the ship to return to the Black Sea even though its engines were not working. He added that Turkey was also responsible, because some politicians, members of the media and groups within Turkey were influenced by Nazi Germany.

Alaton said that it is time for the Turkish state to confess its sins. “I want a state that knows how to apologize when it is appropriate,” he said, adding that the Struma’s story should be made into a film by Steven Spielberg.”

The book will first be translated into English.