Aboard the "Struma"

 The illegal immigrant ship "Struma" (PHG\1081814)


Sometimes, while reviewing files of an archive held at the CZA, the documents reveal unknown stories and fragments of stories. During the re-registration of the archive of Simon Brod, part of the life story of two children led to the hope that their unknown fate would be one with a happy ending.


Menachem Begin at a Memorial service for the victims of "Struma", GPO (PHIS\1473319)One of the greatest disasters in the history of the illegal immigration to Palestine was the sinking of the ship, “Struma”. In 1947, the Revisionists organized the voyage of the ”Struma”, that sailed from the coast of Romania to Turkey. The ship was in a bad shape and it carried 768 Jewish refugees – a greater number of people than should have been allowed. The ultimate goal was to receive visas for the passengers in Turkey, and then to arrange for them to come to Palestine. The “Struma” reached its destination and docked in Istanbul for ten weeks. During this time, the Turks tried to find another country that would take the Jewish refugees. The Jewish Agency tried to persuade the British authorities to bring the refugees to Palestine, at the expense of immigration quotas granted to the Yishuv, but to no avail. The British wanted to avoid an unprecedented wave of Jews arriving in Palestine, via Turkey. Eventually, on the night of February 23rd, 1942, the Turks dragged the ship “Struma” outside the country's territorial waters. The people on board were left without food or water. The next morning a torpedo hit the ship. The “Struma” sank immediately, along with the people who were on board. There was only one survivor from the ship – David Stoliar. Years later it was discovered that a Soviet submarine had shot the torpedo that sank the ship. The Yishuv mourned the drowned refugees and felt anger towards the British, due to their policy of closing the gates of Palestine to Jewish refugees. Following the sinking of the “Struma” the Jewish National Council (the Vaad HaLeumi) declared a day of mourning, and an internal curfew.
Simon Brod and David Stoliar – the only survivor from "Struma", Simon Brod Archive (A201\5)Simon Brod was one of the heads of the Jewish community in Istanbul during World War II. He was involved in locating Jewish refugees, rescuing and taking care of them, and helping them get into Palestine, via Turkey. The only survivor of the “Struma” returned to Turkey with Turkish fishermen who discovered him at sea and helped him onto their ship. When he reached the shore he was imprisoned, but was released following the many efforts of the local Jewish community, and Simon Brod, who accompanied him during his stay in Turkey and his trip to Palestine. The archive of Simon Brod contains documents related to the “Struma”, which raise questions about the fate of two children, who were abroad the ship. One document is a letter from the British Passport Control Officer sent to the British Embassy in Istanbul, dated 23rd of February 1942. The letter grants visas to Palestine for Rita and Jacob, aged nine and seven respectively. The approval was given one day before the sinking of “Struma”.

 The letter that grants visas to Palestine for Rita and Jacob Glickman, 23.2.1942 (A201\14)


A relative of Rita and Jacob in Palestine, Markus Glickman, sent a telegram to Simon Brod on 24th of February, telling him about the visas that were granted to the children. He asks him to do everything he can to disembark them from the ship and transfer them to Palestine. The telegram was sent the same day that the ship sunk. Had the British Consulate or Simon Brod received the information on time, could they have manage to rescue the children before the sinking of the ship? There is no answer in the files. Another document has a list of names of the children who died during the sinking of Struma, but the names of Rita and Jacob are not there.


"Palestine goverment cabled today british consul istanbul to disembark exceptionally from struma two children rita aged nin and yaacov aged seven children of avraham and eugenia glickman | please do everything for them disembark them and send them together with the other children | thanks in advance | cable - markus glickman", 24.3.1942 (A201\11)



The next step was to check in other sources if the names Rita and Jacob Glickma appear in the context of the Struma. The site JewishGen has a list of the victims that died on the Struma. Unfortunately, the names of Rita and Jacob appear among the victims. Apparently, both the British Consulate and Simon Brod did not make it on time, in order to save the children from their bitter fate.