David Stoliar

David Stoliar (31 October 1922 – 1 May 2014) was the sole survivor of the Struma disaster, in which the Soviet submarine Shch-213 torpedoed and sank the Holocaust refugee ship MV Struma in the Black Sea in the early morning of 24 February 1942. All of the other estimated 781 Jewish refugees and 10 crew were killed.[1]

Early life

Stoliar was born the son of Jacob Stoliar in Chișinău, Bessarabia, which at the time was part of Romania.[2] The Stoliars lived in Chișinău until 1927, when David and his parents moved to France to join one of Jacob's brothers, a hotelier in Vence in Provence.[2] In 1932 the Stoliars returned to Romania, where Jacob took a job with another of David's uncles, who ran a textile factory.[2] In 1932 David's parents divorced and his mother returned to France, settling with her brother in Paris.[2] She took David with her to Paris but Jacob remained in Bucharest.[2] David was at school at a boarding collège in Fontainebleau until 1936, when Jacob had him return to Bucharest.[2] David's mother remained in France, where she remarried.[2] David went to school at a Liceu in Bucharest, spending his summer holidays with his mother in Paris.[2] In 1940 the Liceu expelled David for being Jewish, after which he briefly attended a Liceu set up by Bucharest Jewish community.[2] By the end of 1940 the Romanian authorities deported David to a forced labour camp at Poligon near Bucharest.[2]

Struma voyage and disaster

In 1941 Jacob bought David a ticket to travel on the Struma, an elderly motor schooner that was bound for Palestine.[2] Jacob got him released from the labour camp and bribed Romanian officials to issue Stoliar a passport.[2] On 12 December 1941 David sailed from Constanța aboard the Struma, but her engine repeatedly failed and three days later a Turkish tug towed her into Istanbul.[3] At the UK's behest, Turkey held Struma at anchor in Istanbul without allowing her passengers to disembark. Negotiations between Turkey and Britain over the fate of the refugees seemed to reach an impasse, and on 23 February 1942 Turkish authorities boarded Struma, towed her back into the Black Sea with her engine still inoperable and cast her adrift.[4]

The next morning, Soviet submarine Shch-213 commanded by D.M. Denezhko[5] sank Struma with a single torpedo. Stoliar survived the blast and clung to a floating piece of deck,[6] and later was joined by the ship's First Officer, who was Bulgarian.[2][6] Stoliar later claimed the officer told him that he saw the torpedo before it sank the Struma.[2] The officer died overnight.[2]

After his rescue Stoliar was detained in Turkey for six weeks. After an outcry and strike in Palestine, Turkish authorities released him to Simon Brod. Afterwards British authorities acquiesced and issued him travel papers and a visa to Palestine; Brod put him on the train to Palestine. British authorities in Palestine interviewed Stoliar about the Struma sinking.[6] He later joined the British Army, in which he served in the 8th Army in North Africa.[6]

After the war

Stoliar's father Jacob survived the Second World War.[6] They learned that in 1942 the authorities in German-occupied France had deported David's mother, along with her stepson by her second marriage, to their deaths in the Auschwitz -Birkenanu death and slave labour concentration-death camp complex.[2] David married his first wife Adria in 1945, by whom he had a son, and served in the Israeli army in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.[6]

After the war Stoliar worked in the oil industry and in shoe manufacturing.[6] Adria died in 1961 and he married his second wife Marda in 1968.[6] David lived and worked in Japan and then moved to the United States.[2][6] He and Marda settled in Bend, Oregon.[6] He died on 1 May 2014 at the age of 91.[7][8]


  1. Aroni, Samuel (2002–2007). "Who Perished on the Struma And How Many?". JewishGen.org.
  2. Rubinstein, Shimon. "David Stoliar". Personal Tragedies as a Reflection on a Great Tragedy Called Struma. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  3. "David Stoliar Born 1922 Chișinău, Romania". Holocaust Personal Histories. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  4. Stoliar described the harsh behavior of the Turkish police on Struma's arrival. See Druks, 2000, pages 74–76 & note 26 on page 116. The note quotes from Herman P Eberhalter to President Harry S. Truman, 23 May 1946, President's Official File 204.
  5. Щ-215. СОВЕТСКИЕ ПОДВОДНЫЕ ЛОДКИ (in Russian). 23 April 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  6. "Lone Survivor Bears Witness to a WWII Atrocity". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 21 January 2001. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  7. Ofer Aderet, Lone survivor of 'Struma' disaster dies in U.S., Haaretz (4.5.14) ; A Life Well Lived: Only SS Struma Survivor Passes Away (4.5.14)
  8. McFadden, Robert D. (23 January 2016). "David Stoliar, Survivor of World War II Disaster, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 January 2016.

Further reading

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