Death on the Black Sea: The Untold Story of the 'Struma' and World War II's Holocaust at Sea

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9780066212623: Death on the Black Sea: The Untold Story of the 'Struma' and World War II's Holocaust at Sea

On the morning of February 24, 1942, on the Black Sea near Istanbul, an explosion ripped through a ship filled with Jewish refugees. One man clung fiercely to a piece of deck, fighting to survive. Nearly eight hundred others -- among them, more than one hundred children -- perished.

From this dramatic prologue Death on the Black Sea unfolds as a powerful story of endurance and the struggle for survival aboard a decrepit former cattle barge called Struma. The only path to escape led through Istanbul, where the desperate passengers found themselves trapped in a closing vise between the Nazis and countries that refused them sanctuary.

The story of the Struma, its passengers, and the events that led to its destruction is investigated and revealed fully in two vivid, parallel accounts set six decades apart. One chronicles the diplomatic maneuvers and callousness of Great Britain, Romania, Turkey, and the rest of the international community, which resulted in the largest maritime loss of civilian life during World War II. The other part of the story recounts a recent attempt by a team of divers to locate the Struma at the bottom of the Black Sea, an effort initiated and pursued by the grandson of two of the victims.

A vivid reconstruction of a grim exodus aboard a doomed ship, Death on the Black Sea illuminates a forgotten episode of World War II and pays tribute to the heroes, past and present, who keep its memory alive.

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About the Author:

Douglas Frantz, the investigations editor at the NEW YORK TIMES,is the newspaper's former Istanbul bureau chief and a former investigative reporter the LOS ANGELES TIMES and CHICAGO TRIBUNE.

Catherine Collins covers Turkey for the CHICAGO TRIBUNE and has written for the NEW YORK TIMES and LOS ANGELES TIMES. Frantz and Collins have written several nonfiction books, most recently CELEBRATION, U.S.A.

From Publishers Weekly:

On February 25, 1942, a young Romanian Jew named David Stoliar was rescued after surviving more than 24 hours in the frigid Black Sea. His 768 shipmates were not so lucky-their desperate attempts to escape Nazi persecution in Romania ended when a Russian torpedo downed the Struma, a former cattle barge pressed into service as a decrepit, cramped refugee ship bound for Palestine. But as journalists Frantz and Collins (Celebration, U.S.A.) chronicle, the Struma, stymied by uncaring or anti-Semitic officials in England and Turkey, was doomed from the start. When the Struma's engine failed almost immediately after leaving the port of Constanta, a make-do repair got it to Istanbul. There, the engine failed again and the ship languished in port for two months; eventually, she was towed back into the Black Sea, where she was attacked. The authors are painstaking in their efforts to expose the horrors of what has been but a historical footnote, and their talent for fleshing out the admittedly meager historical record of the attack is compelling and clear-eyed (they were able to track down Stoliar). But their narrative sometimes shuttles awkwardly between historical events and the present-day, unsuccessful quest by a victim's descendant to locate the sunken wreck. With scant corroborating first-hand accounts, the authors lean too heavily on laundry lists of Holocaust horrors and reports of "diplomatic callousness"-the back-and-forth missives between various governments seeking to rid themselves of the Struma, for example. Still, this is a book of meticulous, driven reporting, and a valuable contribution to WWII history.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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