Students view film, share rememberance
By Rachel Lamb, Conributing Writer, rlamb@...
February 07, 2006
Students gathered Tuesday night in the McCord Auditorium of Dallas
Hall to watch Jacky Comforty's documentary "The Optimists: The Story
of the Rescue of the Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust."
The event was sponsored by the SMU Office of the Chaplain and the
American Jewish Congress, an 85-year-old institution dedicated to
Comforty is an Israeli born to Bulgarian survivors of the Holocaust.
Historically, Bulgaria was the only country under the Nazi regime
that did not deport its Jews, and no Jews were murdered as a result
of Hitler's "Final Solution."
According to the film, the compassion and humanitarianism of the
Bulgarian Christian and Muslim communities prevented Bulgarian Jewish
genocide from occurring. When the Nazi regime took over and Jews were
curfewed and forbidden to leave their houses after 9 p.m. or own
radios, Christians and Muslims took to the streets to protect Jewish
friends' houses and businesses and also to burn Nazi flags and erase
Nazi graffiti on walls.
The film portrayed that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church had a profound
influence on preventing the deportation of Bulgaria's 50,000 Jews in
Christian Orthodox Bishop Kiril of Bulgaria told authorities that if
they deported Bulgarian Jews, they would have to deport him as well.
As one Orthodox priest said in the film, "If we, the Church, allowed
the Jews to be deported, we would have betrayed our most sacred
obligation. No one should violate the intimate, spiritual life of
One Bulgarian baker who hid Jews in his bread oven summed it up best
in his interview, saying, "At the last moment, common sense and
After the movie, Edith Baker, a Bulgarian Holocaust survivor from
Sofia who moved to Dallas in 1951, shared her experiences and
feelings to the auditorium filled with students and community
Well known for her Dallas gallery, which she owned until 2000, Baker
said the film brought back many memories for her.
"I was there," she said. "I remember."
Baker went on to say, "So little can be learned from this because the
tragic events were so inexplicable."
She shared that she felt Bulgarians did not know what anti-Semitism
really was. Even though she and her family heard the derogatory names
for Jews, there was no hateful connection with what they said.
For the most part, Baker said, Bulgaria's countryside was filled with
honest, simple people and the cities were populated with well-
educated universalists, where it was common for the average citizen
to speak two to four languages.
Baker said she has always been amazed at how little is known about
the 50,000 Jews who were saved by Bulgaria citizens. This information
was buried under the Bulgarian Communist regime that took over after
WWII and did not fall until 1991.
It is in the past decade that concealed documents and information
about the national rescue have been discovered.
Baker agreed with the film that the influence of the Christian
Orthodox Church was the main reason Bulgarian Jews were saved from
being deported to Poland under Hitler's regime.
And, while Baker said the film brought back so many memories, she
concluded by saying, "It all seems so far away."