Carnegie Hall Recalls Rescue of Bulgarian Jews

Society | February 6, 2007, Tuesday // 00:00| Views: 1748 | Comments: 15
  • Send to Kindle

A grandiose concert at Carnegie Hall, New York, recognized those who displayed extraordinary courage to save Jews from genocide during World War II and the role of Bulgaria, in particular.

"The rescue of the Bulgarian Jews is one of the most outstanding exploits of the Bulgarian people during the years of the World War II," reads the address of President Georgi Parvanov. The letter was addressed to the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, a co-organizer of the "Partners of Hope" concert.

Shashi Tharoor, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, highlighted the role of the then National Assembly of Bulgaria in preventing the deportation of Bulgarian Jews, saving nearly all Bulgarian Jews from certain death.

Nearly 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were rescued from the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

On March 10 in 1943 Bulgaria, led by the Orthodox Church and King Boris III, halted the implementation of a governmental decision dispatching the first groups of Bulgarian Jews to fascist death camps.

Tsar Boris III and his country made extraordinary effort and sacrifices to save its entire population of Jews.

Aware of the price he might pay for his risks, Boris faced the Third Reich with courage and resolve, firm in his convictions that he could not abandon his country's Jewish citizens.

The Tsar, along with members of the Orthodox Church, Jewish religious leaders, and others, ensured that not even one Bulgarian Jew fell into the clutches of the Nazi regime.
Society » Be a reporter: Write and send your article
Expats.bg All Are Welcome! Join Now!
Advertisement
Advertisement
Please, log in to post a comment.
» To the forumComments (15)
#15
DP - 7 Feb 2007 // 21:24:56

“the point was that something changed in the bulgarian mentality as far as minority problems are concerned and i dont like this change. do you? it seems to me that back then the bulgarians were more occupied to do their jobs instead of searching problems in someone else living next door.”

CreepyS, I don’t know how far back you look for making the comparison. To me the 45 years of Communism/Socialism/Transition, whatever, can never serve for any comparison in human behaviour for we were not allowed to develop as individuals do in a free world. Bulgarians are still in a period of adjustment to a profoundly different reality. I think that people got screwed galore during this 45 years exactly because they were in each others living room—there was no respect for privacy, we were being watch all the time, etc… Many of our differences were obliterated on the surface—no religion, supposedly no social classes ;), supposedly emancipation of women;)…. It was skin deep, but it gave that impression of calm and understanding covering fear and mistrust.

So, I like what I see now --the mentality of young Bulgarians--for they are more genuine and normal. And that bodes well for BG in the long run. I believe this was the case of my parent’s generation. Though, Communism turned back the clock for Bulgarians—we regressed badly and there are still too many old fogies that have vested interest in, or sentimental attachment to this past to allow fast progress forward. All those pensioners….;)

Hope we’ll see you in T.O. :)

#14
Kolega - 7 Feb 2007 // 18:26:55

DP:
"Wish that somebody saved the possessions of Bulgarians as well as Jews in BG during WWII!"

Very good point. Not to mention that DA's friends, the commies, took away all property - Jewish and not.
Nobody got their property "back untouched" as they left it in BG.

#13
DP - 7 Feb 2007 // 18:10:55

"...the Nazi-allied government of Bulgaria, led by Bogdan Filov, did not deport its 50,000 Jewish citizens, after yielding to pressure from the parliament deputy speaker Dimitar Peshev and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, saving them as well, though Bulgaria did not prevent Germany from deporting Jews to concentration camps from areas in occupied Greece and Macedonia."
Historians often criticise Bulgaria for their treatment of the Greek and Macedonian Jews.
as compared to Denmark:
"King Christian X of Denmark and his subjects saved the lives of most of the 7,500 Danish Jews by spiriting them to safety in Sweden via fishing boats in October 1943.
Moreover, the Danish government continued to work to protect the few Danish Jews captured by the Nazis. When the Jews returned home at war's end, they found their houses and possessions waiting for them, exactly as they left them. "

DA,
There is a difference between 50 000 and 7 500 people. Than, there is the difference of when that event came to light and who wrote the history (the victorious, of course). After BG was handed to Stalin by Churchill and Roosevelt what happened? Filov was killed as one of the over 100 elected representatives to the Parliament whose fate was decided by the Peoples Court, all murdered and thrown in mass grave; the monarchy was abolished by rigged referendum; the church was deemed reactionary …For 45 years the Communists in BG were mum about this event for they would never give a credit for anything to “the enemy” of pre-communist regimes. The Bulgarian Jews immigrated to Israel in 1948 in droves escaping communism. Many of them married Bulgarians to get them out from BG and the good will between Bulgarian Jews and their descendants living in Israel (many in Haifa) towards Bulgarians became proverbial during communists times.
It adds a very nice touch to the story the mention of how the people of Denmark save the possessions of the Jews. Wish that somebody saved the possessions of Bulgarians as well as Jews in BG during WWII! Wish Americans and British planes did not raid BG. After all, no Bulgarian solder fought against them. And this is a fact-- an inconvenient truth ;)

#12
Kolega - 7 Feb 2007 // 16:58:09

BTW, while we are in the business of collective blame and credit, why don't we check this out.
One could make the case that more blood was spilled by European Jews that by anyone else in the 20th century.
http://users.cyberone.com.au/myers/wilton.html

#11
Kolega - 7 Feb 2007 // 16:54:11

DA:
"as compared to Denmark:
"King Christian X of Denmark and his subjects saved the lives of most of the 7,500 Danish Jews by spiriting them to safety in Sweden via fishing boats in October 1943."

And as compared to Spain - technically an allied Axis country, where the Jews didn't even have to leave their homes and brave fishing boats and such, the Danish Jews got a raw deal.
Come on DA, you should know better - very tricky that comparison business.

Given the situation Bulgaria acted more humanely towards its citizen than many Western countries and that's a historical fact.

I know you are American, but let me try to explain this to you:
Bulgaria never set out to "save Jews" or support their cause.
What Bulgaria did is treated its Jews as Bulgarians - a rare and very progressive view for Eastern Europe.

The Greek Jews we had little sympathy for, because after two Balkan wars, WWI, and loss of national territories, we had little sympathy for Greeks in general.
As narrow minded and nationalistic that may sound, it was actually very enlighten for the period and place.
It is an important legacy for us to remember in the way we treat the Gypsies for example.
I know I joke with them, but they are part of our culture that needs to be recognized as such. There is no future otherwise.

#10
Devil's Advocate - 7 Feb 2007 // 16:24:57

Bulgaria
"...the Nazi-allied government of Bulgaria, led by Bogdan Filov, did not deport its 50,000 Jewish citizens, after yielding to pressure from the parliament deputy speaker Dimitar Peshev and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, saving them as well, though Bulgaria did not prevent Germany from deporting Jews to concentration camps from areas in occupied Greece and Macedonia."

Historians often criticise Bulgaria for their treatment of the Greek and Macedonian Jews.

as compared to Denmark:
"King Christian X of Denmark and his subjects saved the lives of most of the 7,500 Danish Jews by spiriting them to safety in Sweden via fishing boats in October 1943.
Moreover, the Danish government continued to work to protect the few Danish Jews captured by the Nazis. When the Jews returned home at war's end, they found their houses and possessions waiting for them, exactly as they left them. "

#9
CreepyS - 7 Feb 2007 // 10:11:37

Hi DP,

I was loosely citing an excerpt from a book by a jewish author about the war events in general (found it on the internet), so bg was not in the center of the book. maybe its rubbish, maybe there is something true, dont know. of course, i wished this to be true;) Never been in Toronto, but if i come close to there Ill give you a sign, thank you;)

the point was that something changed in the bulgarian mentality as far as minority problems are concerned and i dont like this change. do you? it seems to me that back then the bulgarians were more occupied to do their jobs instead of searching problems in someone else living next door.

#8
DP - 7 Feb 2007 // 04:46:26

Seriosno:“My point is that this is too often used as a blanket statement and a pat on the back to feel good, and in the process glossing over the rest of the horrible details, which includes most of the draconian measures in place against Jews in NAZI Germany but just short of deportation and murder….”

Changing the subject? Here we are discussing the fate of the Bulgarian Jews during WWII, not the Jews in Nazi Germany. BTW are you implying that German’s Nazis did not murder Jews? Wasn't the so-called “Final solution” the blueprint for the genocide of the Jews and whose idea was that?

"...with the exception of MACEDONIAN JEWS and THRACIAN JEWS, who Bulgaria
did send to their deaths.”

It was not Bulgaria but German Nazis who sent those Jews to their deaths. Reasoning like yours is nothing but injustice to those who tried to do something about a problem that the entire world seemed to ignore.

BTW, during the Communists time the Bulgarian Communists Government did not seek any recognition, or pat on the back as you say, for saving the Bulgarian Jew by the pre-communists regime--for purely political reasons.

#7
Kolega - 7 Feb 2007 // 03:42:50

Seriosno:
"just short of deportation and murder"?
I'd think that's a pretty important detail.
We in fact had no choice about forcing Jews to wear the star and curtail some of their freedoms.
Bulgaria is still the only East European country without any pogroms to our record, and we should pat ourselves on the back.

As far as today's going ons - I've seen the attaka folks - very few under 80 I have to say.
Lost and displaced individual on their way to history, and yet we are the only country in the neighborhood to have NOT spilled blood in the transition of the 90's.
Ethnic (as in Yugoslavian countries) or political (as was the case with Romania) - violence has not been our trade mark.
Pat pat on the back Bulgaria.

#6
Seriosno - 7 Feb 2007 // 03:11:03

OK DP:

Yes, what happened to the BULGARIAN JEWS is better than it could have been. My point is that this is too often used as a blanket statement and a pat on the back to feel good, and in the process glossing over the rest of the horrible details, which includes most of the draconian measures in place against Jews in NAZI Germany, but just short of deportation and murder, with the exception of MACEDONIAN JEWS and THRACIAN JEWS, who Bulgaria did send to their deaths.

#5
DP - 6 Feb 2007 // 19:59:54

Seriosno: “Lets not get carried away with this, it is the same story all the time....
Bulgaria DID deport Jews to their deaths from the territories they helped the Nazis occupy like Macedonia and Thrace. Its true, they did NOT deport them from Bulgaria proper. However, they were subject to massive discrimination. Jewish businesses were closed, they were put under curfews and moved, and many of them were forced to work in camps in Bulgaria doing stuff like building roads.”


Bulgaria did not deport Bulgarian Jews. The ones living in the occupied territories were not Bulgarian Citizens. As far as massive discrimination, closed businesses etc…let us not forget that this was a wartime and before you cry me a river about Jewish businesses being closed remember that all businesses were closed, that Sofia was carpet bombed and people suffered—Jewish as well as non Jewish. What happened to the Jewish people in BG was the best possible scenario on the background of the realities of the time. As far as “massive discrimination” goes you are out of line. All you have to do is find how many of the lawyers, doctors, university professors, etc at the time were Jewish and tell me how do you explain that fact?

“And this fact in no way proves any level of tolerance in the region, as anyone who's been in BG for more than a few months knows.”

There were no facts that you presented, just an opinion. And you are entitled to it.

#4
DP - 6 Feb 2007 // 19:56:39

“I have read that Tzar Boris III finally yelded to the demands of Hitler but while the deportation trains for the BG jews were ready to depart from the Sofia Hauptbahnhof, the polupation of Sofia revolted, staged demostrations before the King's palace and declared they will break the rails so that the trains wouldnt go anywhere. At the same time, the Jewish ravi of Sofia couldnt be found anywhere - he was hiding in the house of the Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch;) Nobody ever understood why the ordinary Bulgarians acted like this without any substantial leadership from the political parties. “

CS, this is bullshit. Check the source. It sounds as a very nice fairytale, but there is no truth in it at all. As a matter of fact, Bulgarians at large, were not even aware of the goings on. All the credit for this humanitarian act goes to Tsar Boris III, the Bishop Stephan, as well as Dimo Kazasov—a renown politician.

BTW Bulgaria had no Patriarch since BG fell under Ottoman Rule. Patriarch Eftimii was the last Bulgarian Patriarch until Kiril from Plovdiv was elected as Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch on May 10, 1953. (There is no other kind of Patriarch anyway).

PS. Recommended reading: Crown of Thorns by Stephen Grueff

BTW: CS, if you happen to visit Toronto, give me (us) a call. :)

#3
Seriosno - 6 Feb 2007 // 17:51:23

Lets not get carried away with this, it is the same story all the time....

Bulgaria DID deport Jews to their deaths from the territories they helped the Nazis occupy like Macedonia and Thrace. Its true, they did NOT deport them from Bulgaria proper. However, they were subject to massive discrimination. Jewish businesses were closed, they were put under curfews and moved, and many of them were forced to work in camps in Bulgaria doing stuff like building roads.

And this fact in no way proves any level of tolerance in the region, as anyone who's been in BG for more than a few months knows.

#2
CreepyS - 6 Feb 2007 // 13:59:36

A very interesting reading from

http://www.comforty.com/theoptimists/theoptimists_testimonies.htm

If youre bored to read all, read at least the last testimony.

Bishop Boris Kharalampiev: "I was the bishop in the town of Pazardjick. Among the Jews I had many friends. There were no disagreements between Bulgarians and Jews. The Jews had a school, a large synagogue. No one disturbed them in the practice of their beliefs. Because it is criminal to impose your spiritual beliefs on your fellow man. It’s criminal!"

Vera Kocheva: Jews were our friends, our close brothers, our soul mates. My best friend, who has remained my most cherished friend all my life, is Rachelle Alkalai. She is Jewish. The persecution of the Jews started with banning them from the main streets. I suffered from our government’s attitude towards the Jews. So, I started going with them to protest meetings I went to the synagogue. I even wore the yellow star when I was with Jews—out of solidarity, out of sorrow at seeing our dearest friends being insulted.

David Eskin: "We couldn’t go out in the street after 9:00 in the evening, till 6 next morning, which made us virtually prisoners. And then they introduced the Jewish star—yellow star— which we were forced to wear all the time. In our band there were four Jewish fellows, out of 10, giving concerts. Every Sunday we gave concerts. And this, for the morale of the Jews, was unbelievable. . . to give them a little bit spirit."

Penka Kassabova: "I was director of a school that prepared kindergarten teachers. We were giving an admissions test, and four young Jewish women applied. One of them was your mother, Ika. The four passed the exams, but one of the committee asked, 'But what about the Jewish stars?' I said: 'No problem. Our school has always been democratic; should we too give in to the Hitler madness? And we admitted all four of them."

Niko Nissimov: We were eleven Jews from Bulgaria, doctors and pharmacists. My two friends went back to the health department in Sofia, and got us transferred. Then, my friends returned and gave us the letters of transit. The guards said, “Ok, leave. Take a train to where you’ve been stationed.” That was, of course, March, 1943. From March 3rd through the 14th, I was on the train on the way to Auschwitz.

Vera Kocheva: When we understood that so many thousands of Jews from Greek Thrace had been deported and exterminated in Germany or in Poland, then we realized that our Jews were afraid that they too would be killed. So it was then and there that the Bulgarian people shuddered. And we wanted to prevent this disgrace for Bulgaria."

#1
CreepyS - 6 Feb 2007 // 12:26:34

I have read that Tzar Boris III finally yelded to the demands of Hitler but while the deportation trains for the BG jews were ready to depart from the Sofia Hauptbahnhof, the polupation of Sofia revolted, staged demostrations before the King's palace and declared they will break the rails so that the trains wouldnt go anywhere. At the same time, the Jewish ravi of Sofia couldnt be found anywhere - he was hiding in the house of the Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch;) Nobody ever understood why the ordinary Bulgarians acted like this without any substantial leadership from the political parties.

This mentality is totally lost now and the BGs have become ordinary East-European racists and xenophobes. But it is good to know that once upon a time Bulgarians were not a-holes.

Bulgaria news Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency - www.sofianewsagency.com) is unique with being a real time news provider in English that informs its readers about the latest Bulgarian news. The editorial staff also publishes a daily online newspaper "Sofia Morning News." Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency - www.sofianewsagency.com) and Sofia Morning News publish the latest economic, political and cultural news that take place in Bulgaria. Foreign media analysis on Bulgaria and World News in Brief are also part of the web site and the online newspaper. News Bulgaria