Turkey on Wednesday marked the anniversary of 1942 Struma disaster, which killed hundreds of people when a vessel carrying Jewish refugees was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in the Black Sea.

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said commemoration ceremonies have been annually held in Istanbul’s Sarayburnu district on Feb. 24 since 2015.

“Today, with the ceremony held in Sarayburnu, we remember with respect those who lost their lives in the Struma vessel 79 years ago, as they were fleeing the Holocaust,” it said.

The Struma vessel, carrying Jewish refugees fleeing the persecution of Nazis and their allies during the World War II, was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine in the international waters of the Black Sea on Feb. 24, 1942, claiming the lives of 768 people, including 108 children.

This torpedo essentially targeted humanity

A ceremony in Istanbul commemorated the victims of the deadly incident.

Organized by the Istanbul Governorship, the event at the port of Sarayburnu on the European side, gathered Deputy Governor of Istanbul Ozlem Bozkurt Gevrek, Istanbul Representative of the Foreign Ministry Ambassador Salih Murat Tamer, Isaak Haleva, chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Turkey, Ishak Ibrahimzadeh, head of the Jewish community in Turkey, and Huseyin Aksu, deputy chairman of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

Speaking at the event, Gevrek said that the painful event that took place in the dark days of the World War II inflicted deep a wound in the memories.

Noting that Turkey launched all kinds of humanitarian and diplomatic initiatives to rescue the innocent civilians aboard the ship, she said: “The Struma carried innocent people whose only purpose was to flee Nazi persecution and continue their lives in safe lands.”

Gevrek said that what needs to be done to prevent such painful events from happening again is to remember and organize commemoration ceremonies, and learn from history and pass it on to future generations.

“Today, we observe with concern that anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, and all kinds of discriminations are becoming widespread like viruses while the world is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic,” she added.

Addressing the event on behalf of the Turkish Jewish community, writer Aaron Nommaz described the Struma incident as one of the most embarrassing events in history.

“The reason why we are all gathered here is to commemorate the sad event where 768 people including 103 children, were buried in the cold waters of the Black Sea due to a torpedo attack, and to take a step to prevent it from happening again,” Nommaz said.

“This torpedo essentially targeted humanity, not the Struma vessel,” he added.

Nommaz also said that many countries refrain from holding commemoration ceremonies for those who lost their lives on the Struma.

“I wish that similar commemoration ceremonies that we do every year here would be held by other countries like Romania, Balkan countries, the UK, Russia, and Germany,” he said.

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