Speech Delivered by H.E. Ömer Çelik, Minister of Culture and Tourism, during the Struma
First of all we would like to convey our condolences to Turkish Jewish Community for those who lost their lives on Struma
ship, on behalf of our Government. In fact, there is a deficiency even in this sentence, in that we convey our condolences to Turkish Jewish Community as if it were a separate part from us; but this agony belongs to all of us. Therefore, we convey our condolences to our entire nation.
A ship set sail on a voyage of destiny from the Port of Constanza on 12 December 1942. There were 768 passengers aboard the ship, 108 of whom were children. It covered a long distance and anchored off the coast of Sarayburnu. It had to wait here for seventy days because it could unfortunately not obtain permission to proceed to British-controlled Palestine. Your grandfathers and grandmothers and the Turkish Red Crescent provided aid and looked after the people aboard throughout seventy days. However, as a result of a complicated process and tragic incidents, this ship met her own fate in the Black Sea. This is an immense sorrow. By organizing this commemoration event for the first time and participating at governmental level, just as the Reverend Chief Rabbi has whispered to me, we are in fact trying to ensure that this sorrow will never be forgotten. Usually such sorrows are covered up and left to be forgotten, but we do not want it to be forgotten. This is a part of our history. We are launching these ceremonies to traditionalize by holding them every year, so that such incidents shall never occur again.
We will never forget and allow it to be forgotten. The mistakes and neglects involved in this incident should never be forgotten. Why? Thus, the same fate should not befall ever again some Jews, Muslims or Christians tomorrow.
We witnessed a memorable scene yesterday. Young Muslims in Norway kept guard before synagogues after an attack was perpetrated against a synagogue in this country. This is what really matters. Muslims and Christians should keep guard before the synagogues, in those sacred places where the name of God is uttered. Jewish and Christian people should keep guard before mosques and Muslims and Jewish people should keep guard before churches. Because they all pray to God. We bow with great respect before the memories of those 768 people who departed from here on 23 February 1942 and passed into eternity on 24 February 1942.
Those people are part of our history. Perhaps they were the most tragic chapter of the historical relationship between Turkish and Jewish people…
Just as we remember good days of our history, we must also not forget such sorrows, because they will let us hear better news in the future. We share a common saying. It says, we wish to come together only to hear good news from now on. However, this is possible only when we do not forget such tragic incidents.
Distinguished speakers have already mentioned it: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobe, racism; certain threats which we assume to have been forgotten in history threaten today the humanity much more than they did in the past. Actually, whenever we begin to think that the human reason has progressed, the human conscience has developed, human rights and humanism have become universal values there and then unfortunately the most terrible threats spring from the most primitive pages of the history. The threat of anti-Semitism is on the rise; Islamophobia is on the rise; racism and xenophobe are rising up. These are confronting us, particularly in Europe, as extremely vivid threats. So, our commemoration of Struma
is not only the commemoration of a ship and a period in our history.
This is also an occasion for us to weld together always our minds and consciences in the face of these threats. This is undoubtedly an extremely dramatic incident. At the same time, an incident that indicates more tumultuous developments than itself and telling us to keep our minds and consciences always alert and vigilant today, in view of the current circumstances. Because, all these threats; anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobe and racism feed on the same source. They cause great sufferings for the humanity as a result of the merging of the capability for producing evil, which is a part of the human being with certain political and social movements. In the 70th
anniversary of Holocaust, the commemoration of this incident which happened 73 years before is very important in this perspective. We remember those who lost their lives in this incident and bow before their memories. We share undoubtedly this great sorrow of the Jewish Community. However, we express also that our will not to allow it to be forgotten is intended to show that this sorrow does not belong just to the Jewish Community; it is a common sorrow for all of us. We will never forget and never allow it to be forgotten. We will draw lessons from it and we will look together to the future resolutely.
The Jewish Community in this country is not a guest, as I have mentioned before on some other occasion; but it is the rightful host. Just like other citizens of this country… We can never tolerate if they are harassed or subjected to unfair treatment on the pretext of certain developments for which they are not at all responsible, as has been claimed on various occasions. We decisively stand up against all these attempts.
I hope we will come together to share good news next time. By using this opportunity, on the occasion of this commemoration ceremony, I offer my condolences once more.
I convey my affection and respect to all of you.
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