The Stolen Narrative of the Bulgarian Jews and the Holocaust collects narratives of Bulgarian Jews who survived the Holocaust. Through the analysis of eye-witness testimonies, archival documents, photographs, and researchers’ investigations, the authors weave a complex tapestry of voices that were previously underrepresented, ignored, and denied. Taken together, the collected memories offer an alternative perspective that counters official accounts and corroborates war crimes.
Jacky Comforty is an award-winning filmmaker, oral historian, and media creator who has worked for over thirty-five years creating films and videos in the United States, Germany, Israel, and Bulgaria.
Martha Bloomfield is an award-winning author, oral historian, photographer, and independent scholar who has written several books about immigrants, migrants, and the formerly homeless.
List of Figures
Foreword by Omer Bartov
Part 1 Identity - Who We Are
01 The Jewish Diaspora
02 The Jews of the Iberian Peninsula
03 The Jews of the Balkans
04 Jewish Migration waves to the Balkans
05 Jewish Life 15-19th centuries
Part 2 Collective Memory of the Balkan Jews
06 Multicultural Multi religious and multi ethnic Balkans
07 Shared History
08 Religious Tolerance and Freedom of Conscience
09 The Balkan Wars and World War I
10 Bulgarians and Jews
11 Jewish Traditions, Heritage and Community
12 How Life Was
13 Zionism And Patriotism
Part 3 The Bulgarian Jews during Hitlerism 1933-1945
14 Clouds on the Horizon
15 Growing Threats
16 Escaping Anti-Semitism
17 Law for the Defense of the Nation
18 The Fox in the Chicken Coop
19 Life under the Swastika: Deteriorating Conditions
20 Jewish Forced Labor
Part 4 The Final Solution and Bulgaria
21 Bulgaria Prepares for the Final Solution
23 Friends and Neighbors
24 Roundups and Continued Resistance
25 Train to Treblinka
26 My Father’s Injury Story
27 Between Deportations
28 Deportations and Ghettoization
29 Meanwhile in Labor Camp
31 Concentration Camps
32 Game of Nerves
Part 5 The Silenced Narrative of Bulgaria’s Victims
33 "Instincts of an Animal"—Jennie Lebl’s Survival Story
34 "To and Through Hell and Back" - Israel Behar’s Survival Story
35 "Burdensome to this Moment"--Rudi Abarbanel’s Escape Story
Part 6 The Aftermath of the Holocaust
36 Rivers of Tears--After the War 1945-1948
37 "We Overcame It!" Bulgaria in Jaffa
Part 7 The Stolen Narrative of the Bulgarian Jews
38 A Myth is Born
39 “Who Saved the Jews?”
40 The Balkan Fox
41 Territory and Accountability
42 Wheeling and Dealing Memory
43 Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial
Part 8 The Reclaimed Narrative
44 Reflections--Mixed Accounts
45 The Moral Lesson
46 “To Be a Mensch!"
Epilogue: Tribute to Decency
Appendix I: List of Interviewees
Appendix II: Timelines
Appendix III: Further Reading
About the Authors
The Stolen Narrative of the Bulgarian Jews and the Holocaust, a compilation of eyewitness testimonies, archival documents, photographs, and researchers’ investigations, debunks a Holocaust myth that not only were the Jews of Bulgaria spared but it was thanks to a sympathetic government. This book provides a fresh
perspective on that time and place. This title is recommended for all Holocaust collections.
Comforty, an award-winning filmmaker and oral historian, has written a counter narrative of Bulgarian Jews and Bulgaria’s role in the Final Solution, challenging the belief that the Bulgarian government prevented the deportation of its Jews to Auschwitz, except for those in the newly occupied lands of Thrace and Macedonia. Based on primary sources and interviews with more than 60 Bulgarian war survivors, Comforty argues that Bulgaria was an ally to Nazi Germany, and King Boris III, far from being the “Bulgarian Schindler,” was prepared to deport the Jews of mainland Bulgaria to the death camps. Moreover, the Bulgarian parliament passed the Law for the Defense of the Nation in 1941 (effective until 1944), which applied Nazi racial laws to Bulgaria's Jewish population. The deportation law, which would have initially deported some 8,000 Jews from Bulgaria to Auschwitz, was temporarily suspended because of the intervention of Bulgarian parliamentarians and members of the Orthodox hierarchy. Comforty notes that Bulgarians were not as anti-Semitic as their government, and in 1943, the king's death and the war's turning tide in favor of the Allies saved the Jews of Bulgaria from being sent to their deaths. The book includes valuable pictures, a time line of events, and an extensive bibliography. Recommended. General readers through faculty.
Drawing on a rich collection of oral and visual sources, most previously unknown, this book presents an account of Bulgarian Jews and Bulgaria’s role in the Final Solution like no other book on its subject. First-person oral testimonies and accompanying graphics make for engaging, gripping, reading. An historical narrative at its best!
This valuable contribution to the history of Bulgarian Jews and those under Bulgarian rule during the Holocaust offers a patiently assembled and processed collection of individual voices which blend into a telling polyphonic narrative. The myriad personal memories convincingly demystify well-established canonical stories and pay a deserved tribute to human decency.
An excellent combination of rich documentation, critical study, responsible research and grounded insights. A flowing, important, fascinating historical narrative--the results of years of diligent work. Highly recommended!
Jacky Comforty is not only an avid collector of historical memories and visual sources of the Jews of Bulgaria, but also—as this book proves—the voice of the survivors. The book tells a story on the Shoah in the Balkans which is much more complex than the established varieties: a story of deportation and annihilation, but also one of solidarity and rescue.
A compelling and very personal book whose rich, poignant testimonies provide a welcome addition to recent scholarship on writing and remembering Jewish history in Bulgaria. Alongside Jewish witness accounts, a wealth of photographs bring back to life the experiences of Jewish persecution during World War Two and successfully reclaim the Bulgarian Jews’ roles in their own ‘rescue.’ The social lives of this collection of testimonies may also invite scholars to consider this volume as an object of research in its own right.
Documentary filmmaker Jacky Comforty explores this heartwarming story in The Stolen Narrative of the Bulgarian Jews and Holocaust, which he wrote with Michigan writer Martha Aladjem Bloomfield. Comforty traveled the world to interview historians, political scientists, military analysts and other experts to develop an unvarnished picture of Bulgarian actions during the war.
The Stolen Narrative of the Bulgarian Jews and the Holocaust fills a lacuna in Holocaust history and in Bulgarian collective memory. It serves as a reminder of both the fragility of memory, its susceptibility to reshaping, and the gravity of memory, its ability to affect a population’s view of itself and even affect a nation’s international and political standing. Altogether, the book is an essential record of a narrative, the memories of the survivors –that have been repressed for far too long.
Jacky Comforty and Martha Bloomfield have done a service for the rest of us in shining a light on the dark and complex history of the Balkans. In an era of disinformation and fake news, their painstaking research has reclaimed this terrible episode in Jewish history for a wider audience and pushed aside those adept at manipulating it. It is an accessible and interesting read.
4/21/20, Hava Pinhas - Cohen: Jacky Comforty talked about his book in this interview (in Hebrew).