Turkey to commemorate Struma victims this year

Turkey to commemorate Struma victims this year

Turkey to commemorate Struma victims this year

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For a second time, Turkey will commemorate victims of the Struma tragedy, in which 767 Jews died in the Black Sea while trying to escape the Holocaust, with the Foreign Ministry underlining the need to draw lessons from the tragic incident.

“Within the framework of our country’s sensitive attitude towards humanitarian tragedies, last year, a commemoration ceremony was held for those who lost their lives in the Struma on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said in a written statement released on Feb. 23.

On Feb. 24, 2015, a ceremony was held in Istanbul’s historic Sarayburnu neighborhood for the first time ever to commemorate the sinking of the Struma vessel, with attendance of then-Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik, now the spokesperson for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“With an understanding to draw lessons from the Struma disaster and convey [these lessons] to future generations … a commemoration ceremony will be held in Istanbul [this year] and a wreath will be dropped into the sea for the memory of those who lost their lives in the Struma,” Bilgiç said in his statement which came in form of an official answer to a journalist’s question.

“On this occasion, we commemorate with respect those who lost their lives during the Holocaust, one of the biggest disasters in history, and during the deplorable incident that took place on Feb. 24, 1942 while escaping the Holocaust,” Bilgiç concluded.

Turkey’s chief rabbi, İshak Haleva, was present at last year’s ceremony at Sepetçiler Kasrı, a waterfront pavilion facing the Bosphorus.

In 1942, the Struma vessel, carrying 768 Jewish refugees from the port of Constanza, sank after being torpedoed just off the cost of Şile, in the international waters of the Black Sea. Only 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.