MINELRES: 60th anniversary of the saving of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Wed Feb 26 07:51:41 2003

Original sender: Roy Freed <freedar@attbi.com>

Dear Friends,

I wonder if it might be possible to include some positive items among
the terribly negative items you carry, if they can be found.  Let me try
to help.

For example, this year is the 60th anniversary of the saving of the
entire 50,000 Bulgarian Jews within the country's pre-WW II borders from
deportation to Treblinka under pressure from its Nazi ally.  The saving
occurred after the secretary of the man in charge of the administration
set up to carry out the deportation is said to have leaked word of an
impending roundup of Jews to start the deportation.  Boats were
assembled on the Danube to transport them to Poland and assembly points
were picked.  When some Jews in the small city of Kjustendil got the
word, they rushed to their representative in the rubber-stamp
Parliament, Dimiter Peshev.  He acted immediately to try to prevent the
deportation and got 42 fellow members of the Parliament to sign a
petition against the action.  The three Metropolitans of the Bulgarian
Orthodox Church, Stefan, Kiril, and Neofit, providing outstanding
leadership against it by going to Tsar Boris III to protest the possible
step and speaking out publicly against it.  Groups of citizens also
protested as professional groups of lawyers, doctors, and the like
through parades and other public manifestations.  As a result, none of
those Jews was killed.  Also, Tsarina Giovanna, the daughter of King
Victor Emanuel of Italy, helped Jewish refugees in Bulgaria escape.  
The story is beautifully told by Prof. Michael Bar-Zohar in his book
Beyond Hitler's Grasp, which is published in the U.S.A., and the
documentary film of the same name.  A translation of the book in
Bulgarian is available.  There are also a number of other books on the
notable subject.

As significant as this event is, it is important largely as an example
of the longstanding traditional civility of the Bulgarian people in
readily accepting ethnic and religious differences, except for the Roma,
in their truly multi-ethnic society.  And they are making serious
efforts to ameliorate the discrimination against the Roma. 
Specifically, the saving is an example of the traditional Bulgarian
unique freedom from significant anti-Semitism.  The Bulgarians are so
different from their neighbors and many other people in many countries.

Appropriate celebrations of the event are taking place this year in many
countries of the world.  In Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., for example,
where there is a significant population of Bulgarian émigrés, many
people interested in community relations see a celebration there as an
outstanding opportunity to encourage people to emulate the Bulgarians in
their very positive inter-ethnic and inter-cultural relations.

If I can be of any further help with this news item, please let me know.

Sincerely, Roy N. Freed