JJdJ Dec 15, 05: Bulgarian Miracle
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Dec 15, 2005 Volume 72, Issue 612
Jewish Joke du Jour Table of Content
o "Bulgarian Miracle"
o Links du Jour
Miracles come in many shapes and forms...
May you be blessed with miracles in your
life... May you learn to recognize them...
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A great many Jews know the story of how the Danes rescued 8,000 Jews
from the Nazi's by smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats.
Very few Jews, including me, until yesterday, know the story of how
all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were saved. Not a single
Bulgarian Jew was deported to the death camps, due to the heroism of
many Bulgarians of every walk of life, up to and including the King and
the Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
In 1999, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti Defamation
League flew with a delegation to Sophia to meet the Bulgarian Prime
Minister. He gave the Prime Minister the first Bulgarian language
copy of a remarkable book, "Beyond Hitler's Grasp," written in 1998, by
Michael Bar Zohar, a professor at Emory University. (A Bulgarian Jew
who had migrated to Israel and then to the USA).
This book documents the rescue effort in detail.
The ADL paid for and shipped 30,000 copies to Bulgaria, so that the
population could partake in the joy of learning about this heroic facet
of their history.
This story is clearly the last great secret of the
Holocaust era. The story was buried by the Bulgarian Communists, until
their downfall in 1991. All records were sealed, since they didn't
wish to glorify the King, or the Church, or the non Communist
parliamentarians, who at great personal risk stood up to the Germans.
And the Bulgarian Jewish Community, 45,000 of whom went to Israel after
the War, were busy building new lives, and somehow the story remained
Bulgaria is a small country and at the outset of the
War they had 8 million people. They aligned themselves with the
Nazi's in hopes of recapturing Macedonia from Yugoslavia and Thrace
from Greece. Both provinces were stripped from them, after W.W.I.
In late 1942 the Jews of Selonica were shipped north through
Bulgaria, on the way to the death camps, in sealed box cars. The news
of this inhumanity was a hot topic of conversation. Then, at the
beginning of 1943, the pro Nazi Bulgarian government was informed that
all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews would be deported in March. The Jews had
been made to wear yellow stars and were highly visible.
As the date for the deportation got closer, the
agitation got greater. Forty-three ruling party members of Parliament
walked out in protest. Newspapers denounced what was about to
happen. In addition, the Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church,
Archbishop Kirili, threatened to lie down on the railroad tracks.
Finally, King Boris III forbid the deportation.
Since Bulgaria was an ally of Germany, and the Germans were
stretched militarily, they had to wrestle with the problem of how much
pressure they could afford to apply. They decided to pass.
Several points are noteworthy. The Bulgarian Jews
were relatively unreligious and did not stand apart from the local
populace by virtue of garb, or rites. They were relatively poor by
comparison to Jews in other countries, and they lived in integrated
Additionally, the Bulgarians had many minorities,
Armenians, Turks, Greeks, and Gypsies, in addition to Jews. There was
no concept of racism in that culture. The bottom line here is that
Bulgarians saw Bulgarian-Jews as Bulgarians, and not as Jews.
And, being a small country, like Denmark, where there was a
closeness of community, that is often missing in larger countries. So,
here was a bright spot that we can point to as example of what should
have been. The most famous of those saved was a young graduate of the
Bulgarian Military Academy. When he arrived in Israel, he changed his
name to Moshe Dayan.
"WE ALL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF ONE ROOM......
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