Notorious World War II sub discovered

09/27/2010

It’s believed an infamous Soviet submarine that disappeared during World War II has been discovered off the coast of Romania.

A Romanian and Dutch team first discovered the submarine two years ago but only this month became convinced that it was the SC-213, a Shchuka-class sub best known for torpedoing the Struma, a Holocaust refugee ship carrying nearly 800 Jews fleeing Romania for Palestine on Feb. 24, 1942. All but one refugee drowned.

The SC-213 is believed to have been lost in a Romanian minefield in October 1942. There is also conjecture that the sub was sunk by a German auxiliary submarine chaser.

The Struma was a Bulgarian ship sailing under the Panamanian flag commissioned by Zionist organizations in Romania to carry Romanian Jews to Palestine.

En route, the ship’s engines gave out and a Turkish military tugboat towed it to Istanbul harbor. There, the Struma sat under police surveillance and languished in the harbor for 71 days, its passengers prevented by Turkish police from going ashore.

The only food the passengers were able to get was that brought aboard by a Turkish Jew named Simon Brod, working with the Red Crescent and other Jews of Istanbul.

Finally, in late February 1942, after negotiations with the British regarding the fate of the passengers seemed to reach an impasse, Turkish authorities boarded the Struma, cut its anchor chain and towed the hapless vessel, without a working engine, radio or anchor, and without adequate food or provisions, back into the Black Sea, and cast her adrift.

The next morning, the SC-213 fired a single torpedo at the Struma, which sank a short while later.

David Stoliar, a 19-year-old native of Bessarabia, clung to the wreckage and was eventually picked up by a rescue ship, the lone survivor. 

Initially, it was believed the ship was sunk by a stray mine, but in the 1960s it was revealed that the SC-213 was acting under secret orders to sink all neutral and enemy shipping entering the Black Sea, to reduce the flow of strategic materials to Nazi Germany.

Sadly, after his rescue Stoliar was imprisoned in Turkey for six weeks. Only after an impassioned outcry in Palestine did Turkish authorities released him. Afterward British authorities issued him a visa to Palestine.

Stoliar later joined the British Army and served with distinction in Egypt and Libya, then later in the Israeli Army in the 1948 war for Israeli independence. He later moved to the United States.

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