§ [The question was as follows:
§ To ask His Majesty's Government, whether they will permit the entry into Palestine of the 800 refugee Jews now stranded in the Sea of Marmora, or still confine the permission to some fifty children between eleven and sixteen years of age.]
My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, I would 160 say that I understand that the "Struma" was a converted yacht of about 200 tons, and that it left Constanza in October with some 750 Jews on board with the object of effecting their entry illegally into Palestine. The ship was flying the Panamanian flag. She was reported to have reached Istanbul about the middle of December, and thereafter considerable engine repairs had to be effected. The vessel was described as a mere hulk and badly overcrowded. Since putting this question on the Paper, the noble Lord will have seen the report in yesterday's Press that this vessel sank in the Black Sea on February 24 after an explosión. Clearly, therefore, for a reason which we all deeply regret, this question no longer arises. At the moment I have no further information than what has appeared in the Press as to the cause of the sinking, but His Majesty's Ambassador at Ankara has been asked for an immediate report by telegraph. In the meantime, I should like to say how deeply His Majesty's Government deplore the tragic loss of life which has occurred.
§ LORD WEDGWOOD
My Lords, may I ask one supplementary question? When all hope was lost, the Jewish garrison at Masaba, rather than hand their wives and children over to the Romans, slew them all and fell on their swords. About a year ago, a ship similar to the "Struma" was refused permission to land those on board in Palestine, and blew up in Haifa harbour, when over a hundred were drowned. May I ask the noble Lord whether he is not as sure as I am that the bomb which destroyed the "Struma" was the last hope of the unfortunate refugees to save them from being handed back to Hitler? And may I ask him whether he does not think that the blood of these people is on our hands?
My Lords, I deeply sympathize with the noble Lord's emotion; indeed this happening is such a terrible one that we must all sympathize. I think he would be, if I may say so, premature in assuming what he does assume. There have been suggestions that it was a mine; there have been suggestions of various kinds. All I can say at the present moment is that we have sent an urgent message to our Ambassador in Ankara to try to find out the facts of this very dreadful event.