Turkey commemorates Struma victims on tragedy’s 74th anniversary
ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
Hürriyet PhotoThe 767 victims killed in the Struma boat tragedy while trying to escape the Holocaust were commemorated for the second time in Turkey on Feb. 24, in a ceremony in Istanbul’s historic Sarayburnu neighborhood.
The ceremony, marking the 74th anniversary of the torpedoing of the Struma in the Black Sea, was attended by Istanbul Governor Vasip Şahin, the head of Turkey’s Jewish Community Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, and Chief Rabbi İzak Haleva, along with the Istanbul consul generals of Germany, Israel and Romania.
Speaking at the commemoration, Şahin described the causes of the tragedy as “anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and enmity towards different religions.” He stressed the need to fight these phenomena, which he said are once again on the rise in Europe.
“We observe that the necessary lessons were not drawn from such tragedies,” he said, comparing the plight of Syrian refugees fleeing the war in Syria with Jews who struggled to escape the Holocaust.
“Today, we need to not look for someone to blame but to draw the necessary lessons and prevent the repetition of such incidents,” Şahin added.
Ibrahimzadeh also stressed the need to face the realities of the past, “not for revenge but to create peaceful and free tomorrows, to prevent such tragedies in the future.”
“History teaches us once again that sacred truths inevitably come to light, despite attempts to hide them,” he said, praising recent steps by the Turkish state to “mend history with the Jewish community.”
On the same date last year, the first ever ceremony was held in the Sarayburnu neighborhood to commemorate the sinking of the Struma, with attendance of then Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik, who is now the spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
This year’s ceremony was concluded with a prayer by Chief Rabbi Haleva, in memory of the tragedy’s victims.
Governor Şahin, Chief Rabbi Haleva and İbrahimzadeh also left a wreath in the Bosphorus, while participants of the commemoration threw white carnations into the sea.
In 1942, the Struma, which was carrying 768 Jewish refugees from the port of Constanza, sank after being torpedoed just off the Turkish coastal village of Şile, in the international waters of the Black Sea. Only one refugee survived and 767 people perished, including 103 children and the entire crew.
The Struma disaster took place after British authorities officially declared that no more Jews would be accepted to Palestine. As a result, the Turkish authorities did not allow anyone to leave the boat while it was docked in Istanbul. The boat was then towed back to the Black Sea, where it eventually sunk after being struck by a torpedo, likely fired by a Soviet submarine.