Confronting Struma

The article below is the speech İvo Molinas’s gave at Struma victims’ commemoration on the 22nd of February, 2018 in Sarayburnu.
Confronting Struma

Struma is the tragic story of those who had no choice but to escape from the most demonic, the cruelest evil that history ever encountered. Struma is the sad story of those who thought they had purchased tickets to heaven, with the hope of escaping hell. Struma is the dark story of those who together with their spouses, children and beloved ones tried to utter the very last reflex of holding on to their lives granted by God.

Romanian Jews were as well starting to get their share, while the 'final solution’ plan, put into practice by the Nazis and aiming the murder all Jews within reach was spreading throughout Europe, under German occupation. At the beginning of 1941, when four thousand Jews – wife and children – were slaughtered solely because they were Jewish, in the city of Iaşi, Romania, Romanian Jews understood that they had no choice but to leave their country.

In total 769 Romanian Jews, including famous doctors, lawyers, engineers and businessmen had booked a 100-year-old rusty ship, which for the last 15 years had transported animals on the Danube River, and could only accommodate 100 people. The owners of the ship were planning to sell tickets by showing the photographs of another massive vessel, once again proving how the war morally corrupted mankind.

We are born alone, we die alone and most probably live in solitude. When the victims of the Struma headed to Istanbul to go from Constanza to Palestine in December 1941, they had experienced the worst of their loneliness, and probably shared their desolation with God alone, while engaging in the illusion of a journey of hope. When they hardly arrived at the Port of Istanbul, they had a better understanding of their loneliness in the freezing winter frost.

In the midst of the war, 769 people seeking paradise would wait for a miracle for 70 long days, but nothing would occur.

Over a year ago, the Turkish Parliament had passed a law accepting immigrants with a visa for their final destination, to transit Turkey. Moreover, tiny ships carrying immigrants without visas were allowed to cross coastal waters simply for humanitarian reasons. Thus, Turkey had become a country that saved thousands of innocent people. But this time, they were under Great Britain’s pressure and threat. None of Struma’s passengers were holding a visa.

The British were expected to solve the problem. But while the British Government did not approve their departure to Palestine, not to face the Arab opposition, Romania, in accordance with Germany’s demand would oppose to Turkey’s request to send the ship back to Constanza. Germany's plan was to get the ship to Palestine, so that the people of the region would bear animosity towards the British. The British could not come up with a solution.

Trapped amidst the interests of various parties of war, the Struma would be dragged into the Black Sea on February 23, 1942, and torpedoed by a Russian submarine the very next morning. 103 children, 269 women, 768 people in total dreaming of reaching heaven, would die in the treacherous and freezing waters of the Black Sea. Only one passenger, saved by Turkish fishermen would survive.

Nazism inflicted irrecoverable wounds in the common memory of mankind. At the end of a program that started with a hate speech, millions of innocent people, including children, were murdered.

And the Struma was imprinted in our memory as a symbol of this terrible period.

The most significant attitude on behalf of humanity would be for all countries, including our own, to confront their past on what they did, what they did not do, and what they could not do during Struma’s disastrous end. The utmost we can exert now, is to make sure that this unexampled, collective evilness of human history is never ever forgotten.

To commemorate the victims, to relentlessly remember the power of evil will act as an antidote to the growth of new evils. The recall of our common memory is the only weapon to restrain demons.

In this regard, we would like to express our gratitude to our government, our Esteemed Governor, and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who gave us the lead and their support in commemorating the Struma tragedy every year.

We also would like to thank Turkish authors, who by mentioning this tragedy in their novels, contributed to commemorate Struma victims and remember this evil act.

Let us say: 'Never forget', in the name of mankind’s welfare and in order to prevent the recurrence of pure evil...

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