The Struma

90 & 64 minute versions • Documentary • Produced in association with: Cinemax Reel Life, Channel 4, Israel Broadcasting Authority and History Television • Production year: 2001

1941: Constanta, Romania. Black Sea. Nearly 800 Romanian Jews board a 46-metre boat called the Struma, a refugee ship bound for Palestine. The vessel is horribly overcrowded; the people are packed together like sardines. And then the engine fails.

Limping along, the Struma manages to reach Istanbul Harbour only to wait while Turkey, trying to stay "neutral" in the war, deliberates the passengers' fate.

On February 23, 1942, the Turks tow the disabled Struma out into the Black Sea. Desperate cries can be heard from the shore. Sheets with the plea "SAVE US" are visible over the sides of the ship. The Struma floats aimlessly.

Twelve hours later, a submarine locks on the boat. A single torpedo is fired. The sea is full with the dead and dying. Over 100 are children. Twenty-four hours later, Turkish fishermen sail out to the site of the wreck. They find one survivor. Today, he is still alive.

2000: Using information from the sole survivor, the grandson of two Struma passengers leads an international team of elite divers to find the watery gravesite of his grandparents.

The expedition makes global headlines. On the last day, nearly 100 of the passengers' relatives board the diving vessel to remember and finally say goodbye.

Directed by: Simcha Jacobovici
Producers: Simcha Jacobovici and Felix Golubev
Supervising Producer: Ric Bienstock
Executive Producers: Jack Rabinovitch, Pauline Duffy and Simcha Jacobovici

Award Highlights:

  • Best Documentary, 2002 Portland International Film Festival