Istanbul-based journalists Frantz and Collins bring to light a forgotten incident in WWII shameful for Allies and Axis alike.
With its long history of anti-Semitism, Romania made a willing partner in Hitler’s war against the Jews of Europe—so willing, in fact, that Hitler feared that Romania might emerge as “a bastion for fascists who were even more brutal than his own troops.” For the country’s Jews, this meant endless persecution, though some of the wealthier ones were able to bribe their tormentors to leave them alone and even to permit their escape through such vehicles as the Struma, a worn-out ship that in December 1941 took some 800 Jewish refugees from the Black Sea port of Constanta with a view to landing in British-controlled Palestine. There the plot thickens, for according to the authors (Celebration, U.S.A., 1999, etc.), the British had no interest in admitting more Jews into the territory; foreign secretary Anthony Eden even remarked to an underling, “If we must have preferences, let me murmur in your ear that I prefer Arabs to Jews,” and his subordinates responded in kind. Forbidden landing, the Struma was interned in an Istanbul harbor for two months, then expelled from Turkish waters and sunk by a Soviet submarine; through good investigative work, Frantz and Collins produce evidence that Josef Stalin had ordered the sinking of all nonbelligerent shipping in the open waters of the Black Sea, although they cannot say why. All but one of the Struma’s passengers and crews died. The authors tell this ugly story competently, if without much flair; their narrative is strangely flat for so dramatic an incident. Nonetheless, they’re to be commended for producing one more bit of proof that none of the major powers cared much about the fate of Europe’s Jews during the Nazi era.
A modest but moving addition to the historical literature surrounding the Shoah.