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.
David describes how he survived the sinking of the Struma; the boat's chief officer, who was with David, did not survive.
He says that the only way we can survive is really by us shouting all the time, so that we don't fall asleep, because if we fall asleep we will not, we will never wake up any longer. So we were sitting back to back on this bench and yelling all night. And as the, the night came...as the day came along, we were already exhausted of yelling. And then we stopped, and then I felt that he is not any longer on my back. I turned around and he, he fell from the bench on to the deck and his head was in the water, like...on his belly. In other words, he could not possibly breathe any longer. He was dead. And...but he was very close to me, but just a corpse.