Who Perished On The Struma And How Many?

Samuel Aroni
Professor Emeritus
UCLA, California, USA

Background
Database
Acknowledgements
Searching the Database

This database contains the names of over 700 Jewish refugees who perished when the Struma sank.

Background

Introduction

The Struma was a ship chartered to carry Jewish refugees from Romania to Palestine during World War II.  The ship was sunk by a Soviet submarine on February 24, 1942.

Although sixty years have past since so many men, women and children died in the sinking of the Struma, and much has been written about the event, the years have not diminished either the interest in it or the horror of it.  This tragedy was caused by a combination of events: the British White Paper, the closing of Palestine to Jewish refugees, the Turkish refusal to help them, and the Soviet war against all vessels in the Black Sea.  It is still not known how many people perished, and who exactly they were.

There have been over one dozen published lists of the names passengers of the Struma, dating from 1941 to 2002, both official and unofficial.  A "classic figure" of 769 passengers has emerged.  However, since the lists are in conflict with one another, the accuracy of this figure is in doubt.  In order to get closer to the truth, a composite list was developed, incorporating the information from six previous sources.  This database is the composite list, and a brief analysis of its contents follows.  The truth may never be known, but the search for it will probably persist.

The Lists

The six lists providing the information for the composite list are as follows:

[A] List of the Constanţa Port Police

Prepared by the Constanţa Port Police at embarkation, December 8-11, 1941, it is numbered and contains 765 names.  No sex or age is given, and the list is neither alphabetical nor does it always group families together.  The names of the nine passengers who were later allowed to disembark in Istanbul, and that of the sole survivor (David STOLIAR) are naturally included, but so is also the name of only one Jewish member of the crew (Nadar MOLNAR); the names of three other Jewish members of the crew are not on the list.

This list was published, in 2000, in the manuscript of Touvia Carmely (Carmely, 2000).  The manuscript included a photographic reproduction of one original page of the list, and provided the 765 names in their original numerical listing.

[B] List of the American Consul General in Istanbul

On March 7, 1942, Samuel W. Honaker, the American Consul General in Istanbul, sent this alphabetical list of 768 names to the United States Secretary of State in Washington, D.C.  The names included six of the nine persons who disembarked, and also the sole survivor.  In addition to age and sex, the list also indicated the nationality of each person. Most were Romanian (a few of them were shown as having Collective Passports, or traveling under a Certificate of Voyage).  There were also six German, one Greek, three Nansen, four Polish, and four Polish Chilean (?) passports.  Finally, one Romanian passport was indicated as "lost".

The list that was used for this database is a copy of the original, including the Consul General's cover letter. It is not known where the Consul General obtained the list.

[C] The Romanian List of Serban Gheorghiu

This list comes from a Romanian book published in 1998 (Gheorghiu, 1998).  It presents, alphabetically, 767 names and ages.  It mistakenly included those of three people who disembarked in Istanbul.  The sources for the list were stated by the author to be as follows:

"The list of the Struma passengers was taken and checked from the following lists:

  1. The list of the International Red Cross of Geneva,
  2. The list of the General State Security of Bucharest,
  3. The list of the Constanţa Port Police, and
  4. The list published in 1942 in the book "Meghilat Struma", in Jerusalem."

[D] The List of Struma Victims for the Holon Monument

This list was prepared in connection with the Struma monument, erected in Holon, Israel, in 1968, and published in the special brochure prepared for the occasion. (The Struma Monument, 1969). It contains 801 names, without ages, again mistakenly including three names of people who disembarked in Istanbul.

[E] The List of Efhraim Ofir

Ofir's Hebrew book contains an alphabetical and numerical list of 767 names and ages, in addition to a separate list of the crew (Ofir, 1999). It also includes much additional information, and photographs, for over 160 people. The names are not in Hebrew, and did not need translation.

[F] and [F1] The Lists of Touvia Carmely

Touvia Carmely produced two distinct manuscripts, the first in Romanian and the second in English (Carmely, 2000, and Carmely, 2002).  Each contains a list of drowned Struma refugees, arranged alphabetically and separated into single persons and families.  The first list has 760 names ([F]), and the second list, the so-called "Register of the Drowned Refugees" has 766 names ([F1]].  Both lists include three of the four Jewish members of the crew.  Beyond age and sex, Carmely provides a great deal of additional information in the first manuscript for most of the listed individuals, such as family relations, occupation, passport numbers, city of origin, and addresses.

The Composite List

The combination of names from the above six independent lists resulted in the composite list shown in Table 1.  It is listed alphabetically according to what was assumed to be the most probable surname of each of the 781 listed drowned passengers.  Where available, ages are also indicated.  Where a different surname is shown in certain lists, the information is indicated in brackets.  The letter of each list ([A] to [F] or [F1]) follows the data obtained from it.

The convention in the table with respect to age is to indicate it again only when there is a change from the previously given value.  Thus, it is to be assumed that all lists shown after a given age have the same value.  Obviously, this does not apply to the two lists which did not contain ages, namely lists [A] and [D].  However, when all the four lists with names have the same value, it is shown at the very beginning, even if indicating lists [A] or [D].

We have considered list [F1] to be a corrected version of [F].  Thus, when the [F1] version differs from the [F] version, the [F1] version is given.

Table 2 shows the details of the ten members of the Struma crew, four of whom were apparently Jewish.  Table 3 summarizes the names and ages of the nine passengers who were allowed to disembark in Istanbul.  They, together with David STOLIAR, the sole survivor of the sinking, were the only ten persons who remained alive of those who sailed with the Struma from Constanţa.

An HTML version of these four tables is available here. The line number references in this introduction correspond to the lines in these HTML tables.

Analysis

Composite List

The composite list contains 781 passengers or individual names.  Ideally, each passenger should be listed identically in each of the six separate lists investigated.  Obviously, this is not the situation.  The following classification can be made of the 781 passengers:

Description Number of Passengers Percentage
Identical (surname, name, age) 50 6.4%
Minor Differences (except in surname) 183 23.4%
Missing (from either one or more lists) 39 5.0%
Missing (appear in ONLY ONE list) 10 1.3%
Cases with duplicates (in one or more lists;
including some surname variations)
43 5.5%
Surname variations 456 58.4%
    Total 781 100%

In the cases indicated as "minor differences", the surnames of the passengers are the same in all the six lists. However, there are various differences in personal names, and possibly also in the indicated ages. Usually, age differences are of one year, but in some cases more significant variations exist.

Missing Names in Lists

In ten (10) passenger cases, names appear in only one list, and are missing from the other five lists.  This occurs three times in list [F] or [F1] (passengers 101, 508, and 726), and seven times in list [D] (passengers 198, 244, 316, 358, 428, 456, and 678).

There are a total of thirty-nine (39) passengers with names missing from one or more lists.  Twenty-seven (27) of these are from single lists, as follows:

Twelve (12) passengers have names missing from more than one list, resulting in a total of 34 missing names.  The missing passenger names and the lists from which they are missing are as follows:

List [A] List [B] List [C] List [D] List [E] [F] or [F1]
255 255        
449 499        
    450 450 450  
  481 481 481 481  
522   522   522  
523   523   523  
524   524   524  
590 590        
  591 591 591 591  
672 672        
739 739       739
741 741       741

Duplicates

Some lists have duplicate names of the same passenger. This has been discovered in the case of forty-three (43) passengers, five (5) of which have duplicates in more than one list for a total of forty-eight (48) duplications, and is indicated in the composite list by the sign "&". Most duplicates have variations in both surname and personal names. In only eleven (11) duplications are the surnames identical, and in only two (2) cases are both surname and personal names the same. This has made the identification of duplicates based partly on judgment, introducing the possibility of additional errors.

The forty-eight (48) duplicates are distributed among the six lists, as follows.  Duplicates in more than one list are indicated in bold:

In six (6) cases, duplicates occur in two members of the same family:

Husband and wife: 115 and 116, list [B]; 277 and 278, list [F]; 407 and 408, lists [D] and [F1]; 593 and 594, list [F1]; 623 and 631, list [D]. Father and daughter: 557 and 560, list [D].

Surname Variations

As indicated above, there are a great number of surname variations between the lists, seemingly for the same person. There are many possible reasons for these differences, including typographical errors, different spellings in Romanian and other languages, such as German, various possible versions of a given name, and errors made in the original recording. The same applies to variations of personal names.

Conclusions

There remains an uncertainty in the number and exact identity of the victims of the Struma tragedy. If the composite list is fully accurate, the number of victims, including the crew, was 791, of which 785 were Jewish.

However, doubts remain and may not be easily resolved.  If every one of the ten (10) people shown in only one list was a Struma passenger, why were they missed in the other lists?  While contamination of mistakes between lists is to be expected, why did the list of the Constanţa Port Police miss nineteen (19) passengers?  The Holon Monument list, [D], seems the most inaccurate, with seven (7) unique names, and half of all the duplicates.

Samuel Aroni, Professor Emeritus, UCLA, California, USA

Dr. Aroni's Acknowledgements:

Sincere thanks are expressed to Mr. David Stoliar and Mr. Rifat Bali, for supplying copies of lists [B] and [C], and to Mr. Touvia Carmely for copies of his two manuscripts.

References

Database

The fields of the database are as follows:

Acknowledgments

The information contained in this database was indexed from the Dr. Aroni's analysis of all the existing lists described above.  Edward Mitelsbach, a JewishGen volunteer, compiled the list in database format.

With grateful thanks to Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz, co-authors of the book "Death on the Black Sea: The Untold story of the Struma and WWII's Holocaust at Sea", published by HarperCollins, 2003, for their permission to use the chapter by Professor Samuel Aroni, including his excellent composite list of Struma passengers.  And we particularly thank Professor Aroni for his gracious and generous permission to use his chapter, as well as calling our attention to this important book in the first place.

In addition, thanks to JewishGen Inc. for providing the website and database expertise to make this database accessible. Special thanks to Susan King, Warren Blatt and Michael Tobias for their continued contributions to Jewish genealogy.  Particular thanks to the Research Division headed by Joyce Field, to Nolan Altman, coordinator of Holocaust files, and to Michael Tobias, who solved the intricate problems of how to display the variants.

Nolan Altman
May 2007


Searching the Database

This database is searchable with corresponding notes from the above introduction by using the HTML table here or by the usual database search fields via JewishGen's Holocaust Database.


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