Turkish and Romanian Jews on Friday marked the 70th anniversary of the deaths of 768 Jewish refugees denied shelter by Turkey during World War Two.
Their ship, the SS Struma, fled Romania and docked in Istanbul after Britain denied them entry to Palestine. They waited there 70 days.
Ishak Alaton, a prominent Turkish Jewish businessman, was a teenager when he helped deliver food packages to the passengers.
“Suddenly one night, the ship disappeared,” he told euronews. “Ankara ordered it to be towed out to sea and set adrift. Its engine was broken at the time.”
A Soviet torpedo sank the ship the next morning. There was only one survivor.
The refugees’ fate had been the subject of talks between Turkey and Britain, which wanted to restrict Jewish immigration to Palestine.
But it is a matter of intense debate amongst historians why Ankara wanted the ship to be towed away and refused to let the passengers disembark.