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Details how the Jews in Bulgaria were rescued from deportation to Nazi concentration camps by a crew of public and private individuals
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During World War II, hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported from the Balkan states to labor and extermination camps in Germany and Poland. Bulgaria, with a Jewish population of only 50,000, sided with Hitler's government early on, its king having become convinced that only with German aid could he successfully press his territorial claims to land lost to Greece and Romania. Yet, in the face of constant German demands, Bulgaria's government refused to deport the nation's Jewish citizens. Instead, as the Bulgarian-born Israeli politician Michael Bar-Zohar writes in this fine contribution to Holocaust studies, "the Bulgarian Jews became the only Jewish community in the Nazi sphere of influence whose number increased during World War II." Bar-Zohar attributes the Bulgarian government's successful resistance to a general absence of anti- Semitism among the populace: most Bulgarian Jews were of the working class and had long since been culturally assimilated; even many of the ardent fascists in the government opposed their being murdered. To be sure, Bar-Zohar writes, the Jews of Bulgaria were persecuted--yet thanks to the efforts of leaders like the parliamentarian Dimiter Peshev and the cleric Metropolitan Stefan, they were spared the terrible fate of so many other Jews in the region. Bar-Zohar's book recounts an almost unknown episode of World War II history through a well-told, fast-paced narrative. --Gregory McNameeFrom Kirkus Reviews:
A fast-paced account of the dramatic rescue of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from probable annihilation during the Holocaust. Former Israeli Knesset member Bar Zohar vividly describes the Bulgarian effort to keep Bulgaria - s Jews beyond Hitler - s grasp. Despite deportation orders, not one Bulgarian Jew is known to have been delivered to the Nazis. Providing a historical backdrop to this largely unknown story, the author disputes allegations of anti-Semitism in Bulgaria. The Bulgarians, he asserts, were unusually tolerant of Jews, Greeks, and other minorities; pogroms weren - t a native tradition. Other interesting facts: Bulgarian Jews were for the most part a nonobservant lot, not set apart in public by distinct garb or by rites and dietary habits. Nor were they wealthy. They were modest workers - largely craftsmen and peddlers - who lived alongside Christians in the poorest sections of Bulgarian towns. Despite their firm Zionist leanings (90 percent immigrated to Israel after the war), they ``felt so strongly for their homeland they were willing to die for it.'' Unsurprisingly, then, the Bulgarian people remained mostly indifferent to the extreme right - s attempts to incite hatred against the Jews. Rather, Bulgarian society - especially the cultural and political elite - was determined to protect its Jewish minority. Standing particularly firm against anti-Semitism was the Bulgarian Church itself. Bar Zohar documents how, time and time again, the Church confronted the government and challenged anti-Semitic measures. But the Jews of Thrace and Macedonia were less fortunate: he describes the vicious treatment and deportation of these 11,343 forlorn people through Bulgarian territory to the death camps of Treblinka and Majdanek. Weaving elements of romance and espionage into a dramatic tale of redemption, Bar Zohar intrigues and informs us. (b&w photos) (First printing of 40,000; author tour; radio satellite tour) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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