Oral History

David Stoliar describes being the only witness to the fate of the "Struma"

In 1936, David moved to Bucharest to live with his father. As Romania came under German influence, Romanian authorities introduced increasingly harsh measures against Jews. Antisemitic agitation increased and Jews came under attack in the streets of Bucharest and in other public places. David's father decided David should leave the country and arranged passage for him to Palestine. In December 1941, David left Romania from Constanta, a port city on the Black Sea, on the "Struma," an old cattle boat. The boat had engine trouble and reached Istanbul, Turkey, its first stop on the way to Palestine, only with great difficulty. Turkish authorities did not permit the passengers to disembark while negotiations about their onward voyage took place. They ultimately refused transit for the passengers and towed the "Struma," neither provisioned nor seaworthy, back into the Black Sea. Within hours, a Soviet submarine patrolling for Axis shipping mistakenly torpedoed the "Struma." Out of 769 Jewish passengers, David was the sole survivor.


After these three weeks I was told that I am allowed to leave the, the station, and I will be taken by Mr. Brod [ph], who pick me up and take me to his house. He came. Now I, my clothing were in the, in, my old clothing were in the old, in the suitcase. I came--he came, picked me up, and, and we took a taxi, he took a taxi and he took me to his home. Uh, there I had the chance take a bath. We had dinner. His wife was there. I, uh, slept very well. And he explained to me what I did not know, that, uh, it's a miracle that I was still alive after "Struma," because I am the only witness that can say what happened to "Struma," and that the authorities would have been very glad to make me disappear. Then there would be no trace of knowing what happened to the vessel. He says, "The fact that you managed to talk a few words at the entrance of the hospital and telling them what you, your name and where you coming from, these reporters right away published this in newspaper, so it's al...was already known throughout the news media that you are one of the sur...you are a survivor of this particular vessel. And because of that, it seems that the Turkish authorities were reluctant to make you disappear, basically. But, they kept you in their police station because they did not know how to deal with you."


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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