Skip to main content

The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews

We have just returned from a very nice vacation (more about it in a different post), which I have used, among other things, to finish reading a couple of books - "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)" by none other than Richard P. Feynman himself, and "Beyond Hitler's Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews" by Michael Bar-Zohar:
 
Both are (IMHO) great books, but in this post I wanted to cover the latter (more on Mr. Feynman after I finish reading "What Do You Care What Other People Think?: further adventures of a curious character").


First of all, I would like to thank my good friend Al for turning me onto the subject and gifting me the book. I thought I knew quite a bit about the history and the fate of European Jewry during the WWII and the "Die Endlösung". After all, I have read extensively on the subject, both in school and later on; watched many documentary and popular movies - "Обыкновенный Фашизм" ("Triumph Over Violence"), "The Nazis: A Warning from History", "The Last Days", "Judgment at Nuremberg", "Nuremberg", "Conspiracy", "Pianist", "Life Is Beautiful", and "Schindler's List"; visited United States Holocaust Museum. And, of course, having grown up in the Soviet Union and being of Jewish decent myself I always had a strong personal connection to the events of WWII - one of my grandfathers was killed in action, another fought all the way to Berlin, many of my other relatives have fought or perished during the war, many suffered the displacement, evacuation, hunger, malnutrition, and other hardships. But I must admit the story of Bulgarian Jews completely evaded me. Unlike stories of Swedish and Danish Jewish Communities this one doesn't seem to be as well known and publicized, but what a remarkable story it is!!!


Yes, the story is not all roses - about 13,000 Jews from Thrace and Macedonia, territories under Bulgarian administration, were deported to the death camps in the East; and Bulgarian Jews were badly mistreated under "The Law For the Defense Of The Nation", but not one Bulgarian Jew was deported and the overall Bulgarian Jewish population grew during the WWII.


I recall the following popular quotes: "The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" and "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent". And I am thrilled to say that many of good people of Bulgaria did not remain silent and did not do nothing! King Boris III, clergy, prominent politicians, famous writers, poets, artists, professional organizations, and average people took part in defending the oppressed minority! At a great personal risk I must add. Here are a few inspiring examples: 
Dimitar Peshev, deputy speaker of the Bulgarian parliament, wrote a letter to prime minister in which he opposed any future deportations of Bulgarian Jews. He convinced 42 of his colleagues in parliament to sign the petition and presented it to the prime minister.
Elin Pelin, famous writer and a personal friend of Boris III, asked the King to put an end to the threat of Jewish persecution in Bulgaria.
Metropolitan Kyril fearlessly and repeatedly had criticized the government’s policy toward the Jews. Back in 1938, he had written a brochure called “Faith and Resolution,” condemning anti-Semitism. Another report tells of his coming to the school where the Jewish leaders were kept and asking to come in, to talk to them, Kyril was stopped by the police officer on guard: “you cannot enter, Father,” an officer said, barring his way. “I cannot enter?” the Metropolitan echoed. “Try to stop me!” Defying the guards, he climbed the fence, jumped into the schoolyard, and addressed the Jews who flocked around him. “Wherever you go – I’ll go.” he said. 
The Metropolitan [Stefan], however, indignantly protested against the suppression of his articles when he met the censor and a group of German diplomats at a party in Sofia. “It isn’t true that I am anti-German,” the head of the Sofia church said to the censor, “I am an admirer of many Germans, like Stefan Zweig, Thomas Mann, and Albert Wasserman” He stared fixedly at his pro-Fascist interlocutor, to make sure that he had registered the names of the famous Jewish and liberal German writers.
And I am proud to say that saved Jews showed their sincere appreciation by providing financial support to their saviors, who quickly fell out of favor with the Bulgarian Communist regime; by nominating 19 Bulgarians to the Righteous Among the Nations Honored by Yad Vashem; and by celebrating (in Israel) every year on March 9th the rescue of Bulgarian Jews.

"With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you!"

"Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Alan Mathison Turing

Update (11/23/2013): "Now, nearly half a century after the war hero's suicide, Queen Elizabeth II has finally granted Turing a pardon." (http://usat.ly/19bLZET) Long overdue!!!

With academic background in applied mathematics and computer science and years of experience in Information Technology it would be incredibly surprising if I didn't know of Alan Turing, or so I thought. Sure, I knew who he was and had a good idea of what he had contributed to the fields of mathematics, logic, cryptography, and of course computer science, which he basically founded; and things like Turing Machine, Turing Test, and Enigma Code-breaking have been widely popularized. I also knew that he died relatively young, but I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know anything about the circumstances surrounding his premature death. That is until I read the following in the book titled "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood" by James Gleick: "Turing's homosexuality r…

Cadres Decide Everything!

About a month or so ago I've glanced through a very interesting article in the Bloomberg Businessweek magazine that talked about SAS,the world's largest privately held software company, and its success in keeping employee turnover rate down to 2.6 percent (in 2010). Compare this to the info-tech industry's average of 22 percent and you will see a monumental scale of this achievement. I find it interesting that SAS doesn't make a big fuss out of the results of its sound retention strategy by flashing it across the website or having it enshrined within corporate motto (like so many IT consulting companies do). Instead, SAS keeps focusing on its core strengths of business intelligence and analytics, but with a clear understanding that every business is, first and foremost, a human endeavor (at least for now); and from that point of view - human capital is priceless.


The bottom line - SAS may sound dusty (conceived in 1966, incorporated in 1976) and may not bring to mind co…

Ten Dirty Little Secrets You Should Know About Working In IT

I like a good "xyz ten" list (where xyz = top, best, worst, ...) as much as the other guy. And though I admit that the notion is, in most cases, rather shallow (oversimplification <> clear and concise delivery of a message) it often makes for an uplifting (funny) read. Here's one:
IT pros frequently use jargon to confuse nontechnical business managers and hide the fact that they screwed upSome IT professionals deploy technologies that do more to consolidate their own power than to help the businessVeteran IT professionals are often the biggest roadblock to implementing new technologiesYou’ll spend far more time babysitting old technologies than implementing new onesVendors and consultants will take all the credit when things work well and will blame you when things go wrongYour nontechnical co-workers will use you as personal tech support for their home PCsCertifications won’t always help you become a better technologist, but they can help you land a better job or a…