Afraid of becoming victims of the horrors being perpetrated by the Nazis in Eastern Europe, 769 Jews attempted to flee to Palestine on board the ship Struma. Leaving from Romania on December 12, 1941, they were scheduled for a short stop in Istanbul. However, with a failed engine and no immigration papers, the Struma and its passengers became stuck in port for ten weeks.
When it was made clear that no country would let the Jewish refugees land, the Turkish government pushed the still-broken Struma out to sea on February 23, 1942.
By December 1941, Europe was engulfed in World War II and the Holocaust was fully underway, with mobile killing squads (Einsatzgruppen) killing Jews en masse and huge gas chambers being planned at Auschwitz.
Jews wanted out of Nazi-occupied Europe but there were few ways to escape. The Struma was promised a chance to get to Palestine.
The Struma was an old, dilapidated, 180-ton, Greek cattle ship that was extremely ill-equipped for this journey – it had only one bathroom for all 769 passengers and no kitchen. Still, it offered hope.
by Jennifer Rosenberg