ZACHOR! – REMEMBER!
On February 23, 1942, as the Holocaust raged, 786 Jewish refugees on their way to Eretz Yisrael (then known as Palestine and under British mandatory rule) perished when the sea vessel, Struma, was torpedoed by the Soviets on the Black Sea.
In Eretz Yisrael, the British were widely blamed for their murder and above all Lord Moyne (British minister of state in the Middle East). Moyne had gone so far as to make the vicious argument that the Jewish refugees from Romania might be Nazi agents trying to penetrate into British lands and should therefore be turned back.
On Dec. 24, 1941, in a letter to Richard Law, Moyne wrote:
“We have good reasons to believe that this traffic is favored by the Gestapo and the Security Services attach the very greatest importance to preventing the influx of Nazi agents under the cloak of refugees. As to Knatchbull-Hugessen’s humanitarian feelings about sending the refugees back to the Black Sea countries it seems to me these might apply with equal force to the tens of thousands of Jews who remain behind and who are most eager to join them. (…) to urge that Turkish authorities should be asked to send the ship back to the Black Sea, as they originally proposed.”
The Struma went down two months later and the Jews of Eretz Yisrael had had enough. Three years later Moyne was targeted and killed by Lehi. The young men that carried out the deed were Eliyahu Bet-Zuri and Eliyahu Hakim. In Bet-Zuri’s final statement in a Cairo courthouse, speaking in Hebrew, the Struma became the symbol for all the evil done by the British as mandatory rulers, justifying his act and the revolt in that context:
“Millions sank in the sea of blood and tears, but the British skipper did not lift them to the ship. And if a few of the survivors held on to the bow of the ship, he, the British skipper, pushed them back into the sea. And we in our home-land had no choice but to surrender or fight. We decided to fight.”