Q : Can "STRUMA'S AFFAIR"
be summarized in a few sentences ?
A : M/V STRUMA was a small refugee ship which left Rumania on December 12,1941
overcrowded with 747 jews on board, hopefully to reach Palestine. But her engine got spoiled and
so, she anchored in Bosphorus for repairs. At the control, the Turkish Authorities were suprised
to find out not only that STRUMA has no destination wherever and no return address, but no
money at all in order to buy food, drinking water or to pay for mending the spoilt engine.
Nevertheless the required money was raised by the Jewish Communities of Istanbul, but the
destination have not been solved. And so after ten weeks of vain hopes, the Turks towed her back
to the waters of the Black Sea, and there the next morning February 24, 1942, STRUMA was
struck by a torpedo and sank near the entrance into Bosphorus, some 10 miles eastwards. All the
passengers and crew lost their lives with the exception of David Stoliar aged 19.
Q : Why have she been taken back to the Black Sea and not allowed
to resume her voyage ?
A : Practically, STRUMA was decayed and unfitted to sail independently in open seas. Sooner or later she would be sunk , and being in Turkish waters, Turkey would be obliged to give the survivors shelter. Bosphorus, which is 20 miles long, was chosen as the shortest distance to tug
STRUMA into international waters.
Q : What reason makes you call it " STRUMA'S AFFAIR " ?
A : Money ! STRUMA was an affair, a business of large dimensions. Huge amounts of money were paid in order to buy the liberty. However, the sold merchandise haven't been
Q : Which Rumanian body or bureau stood behind this "Affair " ?
A : Initially the New Zionist Organization of Rumania affiliated to the Revisionist Movement.
Later, due to an action at law, the affair have been passed over to a private maritime agency led by
Messrs. Jean D. Pandelis et Co.
Q : Lets return to STRUMA. You mentioned that she was torpedoed in the
waters of the Black Sea. Who did it ?
A : For years it was an enigma. Nowadays it is known that STRUMA was torpedoed by the Sovietic submarine Shch-213, commanded by Lt.- Col. Isaev, who ordered the torpedo to be
launched off in such a way, as if it was fired by the Turks from shore.
Q : Why did he do it so ?
A : Probably because he was ordered to do it so. It was a political act well thought-out rather than a regrettable error. Its purpose was to breed discord between Turkey and the " Axis Alliance" at the expense of the lives of the unlucky refugees, in order to undermine the correct diplomatic relations between Turkey and Germany.
A : From the most competent eye witness who was the first mate of STRUMA. Dikof Lazar- Ivanov, an earnest seaman aged 46. He related this staggering fact to David Stoliar while both of them fought for their lives on an improvised raft floating over the frozen waters of the Black Sea, a few hours before the seaman found his watery grave.
Q : How happened that from a bulk of 759 passengers, just a single passenger survived the calamity ?
: It is difficult to give a reasonable answer without knowing the ship.
The inside of STRUMA was a death trap. Built in England as a yacht, when
aged became a pontoon in Greece and in Bulgaria. Later was brought in Rumania
and converted into an immigrant ship. Just to get an
idea: The larger dormitory of the ship ( 280 beds ) was located on the bottom of the ship. In order
to reach it from the main deck, someone has to pass through countless passages, dormitories,
gangways and ladders from narrow to narrower. Obviously, a quick and total evacuation in the case of emergency couldn't be achieved. Outside over the main deck in the back of the ship, the ship owner erected a wooden superstructure. Actually it was a wretched shed divided into six berths, with six beds each. David Stoliar had one of these beds. When the explosion occured everything which was over the desk blew in the air, and this is how David Stoliar among others found himself in the sea fighting with the frozen waves. But he was young and stout, and resisted longer having by hazard seized a wooden beam, whom later changed it for a larger wooden board on which he spent
about 24 hours, and than has been picked up by a Turkish fisherman's boat.
Q : Why the Turkish fisherman's rescue boat was sent so late ?
A : It seems that before Struma was tugged off, orders were issued to civilian and military bodies not to interfere or to save from drowning any man, woman or child, whatever happened. It is well known that the orders in Turkey are carried out blindly. Only the next day, when David Stoliar and first mate Lazar have been seen alive on the improvised raft by a steamer and radio raported, it was too late for the Turkish Authorities to deny it any more, and have had no others alternatives but to send a rescue boat.
: According to your research, how many men, women and children drowned
in the catastrophe ?
A : 759 souls !
Q : But everywhere is mentioned 769 souls. Am I wrong ?
A : No, you're right, but it cannot be so. There is a Rumanian official certificate dated
next day after STRUMA left Constanza, and issued by the harbour Master's Office. This
document attests that on the ship were 769 passengers. Nine passengers alighted at Istanbul and went to Palestine by trains, and another one survived the explosion.
Q : And how many of them were jews ?
A : According to conclusive evidences 741 jews. 737 of them were passengers with
tickets, and 4 others jews ( two women and two men ) which served in the ship crew.
Q : Since the above figures do not fit, somewhere is a discrepancy. Were
jewish immigrants and the crew, some extra people on the ship ?
A : Yes. Twelve unknown people !
Q : Gestapo's agents ?
A : ? !. Sorry. I cannot give any concludent answer !
: And now we come to the last question. Nowadays some investigations are
carried out in order to indentify STRUMA's wrenck. Where do you believe
she sank ?
A : So much as my informations are up-to-dated ( and I pick up the information from the
press ), in one of the places chosen to be searched by the divers, lies the wrenck of another jewish refugee ship called MEFKURE. As for STRUMA's wrenck it should be searched for, somewhere eastwards, - exactly in the opposite direction, but who am I to contradict a general consensus. Nevertheless allow me to renew a thesis once taken for good by scholars, but nowadays almost forgoten. Last week I came across a book written in hebrew called " Assir Haneemanut " ( THE LOYAL REBEL ), by Gershon Agron. The book was published in Jerusalem in 1964 five years after the author's death, and contains, some valuable informations concerning STRUMA. In a chapter dedicated to this subject , Mr Gershon Agron (1894-1959 ), late chief reporter and manager of Jerusalem Post, describes how, as a reporter of the Palestine Post arrived in Istanbul in
February 24th, 1942, some hours after STRUMA sank. He had the opportunity to interview some Turkish faithful officials and others about this subject, just before the Turkish Government declared it secret of government, and henceforth no more informations were available beside those officially issued. Briefly, he was ascertained that STRUMA have been shoved off some ten miles eastwards towards Þýle, and there occured the explosion, morever STRUMA sank about 11/2 mile off the Turkish sea shore. Frankly, I do not see any problem to find out the proper place. I asked my brother Dr. J. Carmeli, once a military navigator about this problem. He explained me that an
experienced navigator with the help of the Navigation Tables, would be able to establish very accurate the direction where in a certain date and interval of hours, some 6 or 7 miles off the entrance into Bosphorus in the Black Sea, a ship of about 300 tons without engine would be shoved by local streams. As you can notice, it looks out to be a problem of mathematics rather than a case for casual exploration. Yet, if mistake the Mefküre wrenck will be found by the mission instead of STRUMA's, the finding for the unconsoled kinsmen will be for them and for the state of Israel a blessed one.
Haifa. April 6th, 2000