An old rust bucket that sank in the Dardanelles under mysterious circumstances may have helped open the door for the rescue of others.


While the book focuses largely on the ship and its tragedy there is an excellent article by Ayhan Ozer that gives a full account of the politics leading up to and following the incident that makes the perfect companion to the book. Things are seldom as simple as they seem and the following excerpt from the article shows that there were at least some beneficial consequences in mitigation.

The Presidential archives in Hyde Park, N.Y. records an initiative by the President Roosevelt in early 1944 that coincides with that newly adopted relaxation policy for the Jewish immigration to Palestine. According to On the Record, November 1979 issue published by the General Service Administration, president Roosevelt authorized a cloak-and-dagger mission to rescue 50,000 Jews from the Nazi-occupied Southern Europe. The plan was to transport them with the Turkish boats to Istanbul and then to Palestine via the land route. For that purpose, president Roosevelt sent a department store executive, Mr. Ira Hischmann, to Turkey as his special envoy to make a deal with the Romanian ambassador to Turkey, Alexandre Cretzianu, Mr. Hirschmann had $5 million in gold sovereigns at his disposal to be used as needed. He met with the ambassador in the woods outside Ankara, and told him that the Soviet army was advancing, and not only his life but his family’s life was also in danger. If he helped to get the Jews out of Romania on Turkish boats, in return, he and his family would be granted visas to the United States. According to Mr. Hirschmann, both sides kept their part of bargain, and the deal worked. Around that time, eight ships carried 2,936 Jewish refugees from Romania to Istanbul, and the Turks provided transit visas and trains to transport the Jewish refugees to Syria.

 

Death on the Black Sea : the untold story of the Struma and World War II’s Holocaust at sea New York, N.Y. : HarperCollins Publishers, c 2003      Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)  Romania, Strumah (Ship) Hardcover. 1st ed. xvi, 352 p. : ill., maps ; 23 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 345-349).  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

On the morning of February 24, 1942, on the Black Sea near Istanbul, an explosion ripped through a ship filled with Jewish refugees. One man clung fiercely to a piece of deck, fighting to survive. Nearly eight hundred others — among them, more than one hundred children — perished.

From this dramatic prologue Death on the Black Sea unfolds as a powerful story of endurance and the struggle for survival aboard a decrepit former cattle barge called Struma. The only path to escape led through Istanbul, where the desperate passengers found themselves trapped in a closing vise between the Nazis and countries that refused them sanctuary.

The story of the Struma, its passengers, and the events that led to its destruction is investigated and revealed fully in two vivid, parallel accounts set six decades apart. One chronicles the diplomatic maneuvers and callousness of Great Britain, Romania, Turkey, and the rest of the international community, which resulted in the largest maritime loss of civilian life during World War II. The other part of the story recounts a recent attempt by a team of divers to locate the Struma at the bottom of the Black Sea, an effort initiated and pursued by the grandson of two of the victims.

A vivid reconstruction of a grim exodus aboard a doomed ship, Death on the Black Sea illuminates a forgotten episode of World War II and pays tribute to the heroes, past and present, who keep its memory alive.

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