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  • Rabbi Pam

Beyond Hitler’s Grasp – The heroic rescue of Bulgarian Jews

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

An award winning story by Biserka Petrova Gramatikova of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, March 2015

,,Mila Rodino (Sweet Fatherland)” - sang thrilled large choir, - „you’re a paradise on earth! Your beauty, your charm, ah, they never end!" Children's voices, hoarse and husky voices, men, women, young, old - hundreds of eyes filled with tears of gratitude, anticipation and sadness at leaving the country, hundreds of saved souls and judgments, united by one salvation. This is thrilled large Jewish choir, which sings the anthem of Bulgaria ,,Mila Rodino", turning back to the last time our country. Because our country is one of the few that during one of the worst times in history when all human stifled when innocent people die in the name of opposing the idea of ​​a cruel dictator, in the midst of the Holocaust, saying, ''No'' to trains for deportation, ''No'' to concentration camps, ''No'' to the slaughter, and ''Yes'' to justice. Bulgaria insists boldly and its ,,YES'' to their Jewish neighbors in the face of Hitler and his killing machine, thus saving a population of fifty thousand Jews.

I've heard this story before. At school I studied for WWII atrocities of Hitler, Bulgaria's role in the global political scene during the war as part of the crossroads and ally of the Third Reich. I know that our country has saved its Jewish population, I know about the Holocaust, I know for deportation to the camps know, I know ...

But really do not know. How can I figure out what is to be a Jew during the Second World War? How can I calm my unencumbered life today to imagine the persecution, the pain and the fear of an entire nation in the past without any guilt? I try. I close my eyes. I see scared people, yellow stars, passing trains filled with Jews from Thrace and Macedonia and horror that those of Bulgaria will follow. I see the whole of Europe, savage war and diminish human lives to a means of achieving power and greatness. Who will save the Jews? Will someone get off the bloody scene, keeping their humanity?

I open the book. Word on which my gaze falls at the outset is ,, courage ''. So used word whose meaning everyone knows. But this word makes me think. Starts gnawing inside me thought of courage. When we, Bulgarians, lastly have shown courage in our history? Not leaving me feeling that still choose to watch the side, not to be sucked into the world's problems and never held a very personal item. Kiting is, so to speak, because we know that the Earth will rotate with us and without us, and is easy to care for their own peace of mind. But this is not courage. Being brave means to risk, to resist injustice, to choose the right over wrong even in times when it seems impossible and if you have no strength. And just when I'm about to decide that in the recent history of Bulgaria such example of a brave act will realize that absolute true courage in the full meaning of the word is our salvation of the Jews. Here, I find risk ideals, fight for justice and pure humanity shown by a small country amid sowing terror and death and war game of the Great Powers.

Turn back next page. ,, Just normal behavior. " If? Is today is normal to resist the stronger and more power? Do us today considered normal when you do something good, refusing to seek benefits then? Or we do not throw one ,,You're crazy!", With a look of scorn and mouth collected in thin sneer. Is not it normal to take care of their own lives, their own interests and not risking too? I think of the news, newspapers and magazines filled with ugly manifestations of inhumanity and greed and how they have become something daily and normal. And I know this is not normal. All wrong from the start. We live in another era in which natural distorted and values ​​are reversed. Normal was then runs there during World War II in Bulgaria, when people are rescued people. It is natural to save innocent lives and thousands of lives, protect from misfortune nearest neighbor, known or completely unknown in the name of humanity. The right to life is natural. Therefore there is nothing more normal than to protect him even entire universe they considered crazy.

Turn back the page. Again. And again. And again ... So many names forever recorded in the heroic part of our history, at a time which hardly find anything heroic. So many political maneuvers manifestations of humanity, rescue, successes, and failures. Continue to read. Individual episodes alternate, individuals do everything in their power to rescue of Bulgarian Jews. Try to choose one of these figures, places it above all else and to say ,, That he / she has played the most important role, "but I can not. This is an impossible task. I can not tell the whole Bulgarian people together, unanimously advocated Jews. Of course, there were many people like Filov, Prime Minister and head of the Commissariat for Jewish Questions, Belev, who supported Hitler's policies against evreite and used their power to prevent their rescue. But the majority of ordinary Bulgarian people accept Jews as their brothers and unite for the sake of their salvation. This salvation is inclusive of Bulgarian clergy in the face of determined Metropolitans of Bulgarian intellectuals like Elin Pelin, Dimitar Peshev himself King Boris III and even Liliana Panitza that put their personal feelings in the name of a just cause, and thousands more Bulgarians have supported their friends Jews. It is not important to a person proclaimed savior of the Bulgarian Jews. Important is the result. The result is that no one Bulgarian Jew was sent to death camps in Poland. The result is that Bulgarian Jews the only increase in number during the Second World War in the country, an ally of the Third Reich. The result is preserved fifty thousand innocent lives.

End. Closing the book ... And a warm, pulsating, vibrant feeling has crashed me. This vague sense makes me smile, infused some energy in me, not leaving me all day. A book is read. The story is told. Finally find the name of this feeling that gripped me and it is pride. At a time in which more and more often hear from different places saying that there's no reason to be proud that we are Bulgarians, I already have a small reason. Yes, I had heard the story before. I knew, but only now realized. I knew what caused that outburst of emotion on the border, accompanied by ,, Mila Rodino " sung in tears. Once I realized I was ready to write this essay. And words are not enough to express all my impressions from reading a book and breath from the case described therein. And as to put sentimentality, not reached and a fraction of the necessary emotions to convey what they have experienced Bulgarian Jews togava- terror and subsequent salvation. I can only imagine how marked with yellow stars then human beings whose only fault was to be born in Europe during the Second World War as Jews, are now in the true stars of the sky and watch us with gratitude, waiting for Our next manifestation of real courage.


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