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Students view film, share rememberance

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  • Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
    NEWS http://www.smudailycampus.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2006/02/07/43e84c3ec e671 Students view film, share rememberance By Rachel Lamb, Conributing Writer,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 11, 2006
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      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
      fighting prejudice.

      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
      humanism prevailed."

      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."
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