2 Friday, May 23, 1980
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
The Tragedy of the Struma: Anniversary of When
the Civilized World Permitted Escapees from the
Brutal Nazis to Drown in Their Floating Coffins
The Crime of the Struma, the Floating Coffin of the Nazi Era
The tragedy of the Struma seems to have been forgotten. The 768 victims of interna-
tional indifference to the persecuted and homeless who died in the sunken Struma, Feb.
24, 1943 was recalled in a single ceremony — when several hundred Romanian Jews
gathered in Bucharest on Feb. 24, 1980, to commemorate the horrible experience.
Dr. Moses Rosen, Chief Rabbi of Romania, speaking at that ceremony in Bucharest,
said: "Their tragedy is the tragedy of people without any place in this world. They were
banished by the Antonescu Fascists because of their (Antonescu's) hatred of the Jews.
The Turkish authorities prohibited them from landing and the British government
refused to allow them entry to the Holy Land. The Jewish people must remember that the
existence of a Jewish state is a matter of survival for all of us."
In the Bucharest Jewish cemetery there is a monument with the names of 768
Faivele the 'Best Boy':
A Lesson for People With Hearts
Show mercy and compassion every man to his
More helpful than all wisdom is one draught
of simple human pity that will not forsake us.
—George Eliot in "Mill on the Floss."
Mercy and truth are met together.
/t is one of the Lord's mercies that we are not
consumed, because his compassions fail not.
The merciful man does good to his own soul.
Philly, Philip, Faivel, Faivele symbolizes an appeal to
the heart — and to the mind — in a documentary film that
merits top rating for this year and for decades to come.
It is a story that emphasizes common sense in planning
human contact and security for a retarded man who is truly
a mere boy,„ who is provided with comfort thanks to the
interest taken in him by a cousin who sees the need for a
home for the Best Boy Philly and helps to attain it.
Ira Wohl is the producing genius who saw the need to
help Philly-Faivel, who spent several years compiling the
experiences and finding the home for his cousin. He pro-
duced a documentary so immense in scope, so human, that
his name must be recorded among the most creative in the
So valuable is "Best Boy" in the tasks to aid the re-
tarded that the Detroit Institute of Arts must be credited
with a notable contribution for introducing the documen-
tary film to this city and state.
So valuable is the theme in "Best Boy" that its lesson
should be translated into a challenge. It lends significance
to the work of Metropolitan Detroit's Jewish Association
for Retarded Citizens which has already established four
homes of the type in which Philly-Faivel is now domiciled.
The question now arises: how soon a fifth, a sixth, a
seventh such home here for the scores on'the waiting list to
be admitted into a Jewish, human, dignified, well-
supervised housing project for the retarded? Are there
enough people who can give a thousand, thousands, per-
haps a million, to advance this human cause?
That's the appeal of "Best Boy" and its theme to this
community. How many will respond to this appeal?
Teaching and Studying Ethics:
Ethics of the Fathers and
Jewish Experience as Guides
Inadequate teaching of ethics in American univer-
sities is deplored in a report by the Hastings Center of New
York. While thousands of courses have been introduced,
the Hastings study shows that the quality of teaching is low
and the teaching of ethics is shunned entirely in many
It is stated in the Hastings report that nothing of a
serious nature in ethics is offered for college students.
There is a tradition for ethical teachings in Jewish
historical experiences which should serve well in the quest
for inspiration for such programs in the schools of higher
There is the tradition of reading the Pirke Avot, the
Ethics of the Fathers, every Sabbath afternoon, in Jewish
Siich a practice inspires learning, cements family feel-
ings in the search for the high principles taught in these
In Jewish experience the ethical lesson is uppermost in
practice, in study, in teaching.
In her remarkable book, "Voices of Wisdom: Jewish
Ideals and Ethics for Everyday Living," (Pantheon Books),
Francine Klagsbrun provides guidance to ethical teaching
Dealing with Ethics of the Fathers and related topics,
Mrs. Klagsbrun comments on temper and anger in ethical
lore. As in all the topics analyzed, she makes her personal
Jewish tradition has always accepted some
An interesting "revelation" was in Deutschland Berichte, published in Bonn and
edited by Rolf Vogel, in 1965. It claimed that the Struma and another refugee floating
coffing boat, the Mefkure, which was sunk in August of 1944 with 313 escapees from
Nazism aboard, only 10 surviving, were dynamited and sunk by the Russians as an act of
The fact regarding the Struma nevertheless remain those which were described in
the Hebrew Column issued from Jerusalem by the Brit Ivrit' Olamit. It appeared in The
Jewish News Sept. 14, 1968.
To guarantee retention of the memory of the Struma, to add tribute to the martyrs,
this column merits reprinting here: .
In December 1941, the ship Struma sailed
from the port of Constanza in Romania. It
was a small cattle boat, only 190 tons, very
old and dilapidated. There were 768 Jews on
board who had succeeded in escaping from
Romania before the Germans got there.
They hoped to succeed in reaching Turkey
safely, and from there to get to.Eretz Yisrael.
The boat, which successfully traversed the
Black Sea, reached the shores of Turkey
with great difficulty and entered the harbor
of Istanbul to take on fuel and food and to
repair the engines which had broken down
on the way.
The boat received no help in Istanbul. The
harbor services declined to provide fuel, and
even food and water for the passangers were
The owner of the ship informed the im-
migrants that the engine had broken down
completely and that its repair would take
until the end of January. It was wartime,
and the Germans had great influence in
Turkey. Therfore the Turks stated that not a
single person would be allowed to leave the
ship. And so the passengers remained on
board the boat in the harbor for many long
weeks, and the engine was still not repaired.
On the 22nd of February, the immigrants
received a telegram from Eretz Yisrael
which contained the happy news that the
Jewish Agency had succeeded in obtaining
entrance permits for them to Eretz Yisrael.
But by the next noon, the happiness had
disappeared. Turkish police boats sur-
rounded the small ship and towed the
Sturma outside the port. They knew the
facts: with a broken engine, the boat could
not sail to Romania or to any other place in
The boat tossed around all night. The
winds drove it toward the open sea. But
nevertheless the passengers continued to
hope that someone would come to their re-
scue. It was a vain hope.
Next day people on the Turkish shore
heard a loud explosion. They could see in the
distance that the Struma was sinking
What caused the mysterious explosion?
That we do not know to this day. It is said
that a sea mine struck the boat; and it is also
said that a German torpedo sank it. The 768
immigrants on the boat drowned in the
Black Sea. Only one man survived.
Since then, the ship Struma has become a
symbol of the struggle of the Jews who wish
to return to their homeland.
(Translation of Hebrew column, published
by The Brit Ivrit Olamit, Jerusalem.)
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kinds of anger as necessary and important ---
anger against social injustice, for example, or the
anger of the prophets against the corruption of
their times. But the uncontrolled anger of one
person against another, the kind of anger in
which people lose all sense of what they're saying
or how they're affecting others, is condemned.
The Book of the Pious, a popular medieval col-
lection of moral lessons, whose main author was
Rabbi Judah the Pious of Regensburg, suggests
two practical techniques for keeping your temper
in check. An anecdote related in the Fathers Ac-
cording to Rabbi Nathan tells how Hillel kept con-
trol of himself in a situation that would have sent
most people flying into a rage. Hillel is often con-
trasted with his quick-tempered colleague
Shammai — "a person should always be gentle
like Hillel and not passionate like Shammai."
Examples qualifying the theme incorporated in this
chapter by Mrs. Klagsbrun are:
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A person's character can be judged by the way
he handles three things: his drink, his money and
And some people say by the way he jokes also.
tractate Eruvin, page 6
There are four kinds of temperament:
Easily angered and easily appeased — his ga.,
is canceled by his loss.
Hard to anger and hard to appease — his loss is
canceled by his gain.
Hard to anger and easy to appease — the saint.
Easily angered and hard to appease — the
—Ethics of the Fathers,
chapter 5, paragraph 14
It is clear that teaching and study of ethics need not be
a closed book. The Jewish experience emphasizes it.