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Beyond Hitler's Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews Paperback – October, 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

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 McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Having lived through the events in this book, Bar Zohar (Suez Top Secret) is motivated by his desire to commemorate the Bulgarians who saved his family and Bulgaria's nearly 50,000 Jews from deportation during WWII. Much of the documentation of this rescue mission was sealed during the country's Communist rule?in part to grab all credit for Communist partisans?but Bar Zohar was able to search the archives and interview survivors after 1991. What emerges is a complex story of heroism mixed with fear. Although the historically weak-willed King Boris III hoped to regain lost territories by collaborating with the Germans, he feared the alliance and played a dangerous game of equivocation until his death under mysterious circumstances in 1943. Boris's part in the rescue of the Jews has been a matter of some contention; Bar Zohar makes a reasoned attempt to restore credit to the king, without denying the heroism of others. Bulgarian politicians, business leaders and clergymen protected the country's Jewish citizens long enough for the tide of the war to turn against the Germans, ensuring the Jews' safety. Although dismayed that Bulgaria did nothing to stop the extermination of Thracian Jews, Bar Zohar recognizes that the ultimate costs of open resistance might have been total annihilation. Ultimately, this is a moving history of many individuals whose heroism was discredited during the Communist regime.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Adams Media Corporation (October 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158062541X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580625418
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Mr. Bar Zohar intricate and well researched study of the rescue of Bulgaria's Jews is an insightful look into how a nation saved its own citizens from the death camps. The book is well written and at times flows like a novel. It is a must for any serious student of the holocaust or of Bulgaria.
What I found most interesting is the juxtaposition of the treatment of Bulgarian's own Jews with their abandonment of the Jews of Macedonia to the Nazis. While the Bulgarians, from the King down to common citizens stood up and placed their lives in jeopardy in order to save the Jewish citizens of Bulgaria, they hardly lent a hand to save from deportation to the death camps the Jews of the territories that they annexed. Bar-Zohar does not extensively discuss this dichotomy, even though it reenforces his central thesis that Bulgarians saw Bulgarian-Jews as Bulgarians and not as Jews.
The story of the rescue has a larger message beyond that of a single nation. It makes one question what might have happened had more leaders had the courage of King Boris III in standing up to Hitler. It is a pity that Bar-Zohar did not spend more time discussing the wider implications.
Finally, the book is worth reading if only to remind one that there were people when faced with the Nazi horror who did the right thing. That there were Christians who stood up, and based on their religious beliefs, rescued non-Christians because their faith compelled them to do so.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Bar-Zochar has written a well researched detailed account of the Bulgarian resistance to shipping off the 50,000 Bulgarian Jews to certain death in Eastern Europe (Poland). The book has political, historical, religious, sociologic, personal and emotional layers of understanding of Bulgaria, its people, king, church, and even its fascists. As an example it teaches how Bulgaria became an ally of Germany (to recapture provinces lost to Greece, Yugoslovia and Romania after World War I) but never declared war on Russia (who had liberated Bulgaria from Turkish rule half a century before World War II)
An exciting part was the ability to hang the reader on the edge of the chair as the deportations approached and then were stopped at the last moment.
An emotional part was a Holocaust story in which the righteous Christian Bulgarians (with some help from communists and even some Bulgarian Fascists) stood up for decency, for democratic principles, for protection of the minorities, for behavior that wouldn't shame their country after it was done...I cried.
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Format: Hardcover
This book takes the reader beyond the usual Poland-Western Russia Holocaust to a German ally,Bulgaria, and the actions of the citizens of Bulgaria in saving all the Jews in their country. Mr. Bar-Zohar details how an entire country from King Boris III to the various Metropolitans, working in unison, were able to stop Hitler's demand for the deportation of Bulgarian Jewry. This book is well written, well researched, and ranks as one of the very best stories dealing with the Holocaust. The heroic deeds presented in this book are a turn from the usual Holocaust writings in that they present the difference a people can make in preventing what so many other countries failed to do. The reader is left with a strong feel for the Bulgarian people, and with questions for the countries where large segments of the population cooperated with the Nazi plan for the extermination of the Jews. I strongly recommend this complete story of the Holocaust in Bulgaria as must reading for anyone with an interest in the Holocaust, as a comparison of where prejudice can lead or not lead if absent,and where real heroes take their actions for granted.
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Format: Hardcover
Beyond Hitler's Grasp is a fine account of Bulgaria's position during the Holocaust. Michael Bar Zohar gives a good summary of the events that led to Bulgaria's controversial alliance with Hitler's Germany. However, there were certainly enough humanitarians in Bulgaria to spare the Jews of the fate that their bretheren in other countries suffered.
What is certainly captivating is King Boris' role in trying to appease all sides. He want Bulgaria to recapture the land it lost to Turkey therefore leading to the temporary alliance with Germany. However, there were still some common relations with the Russians that kept Bulgaria from fully participating in Word War II on a military basis.
King Boris never had any problem with the Jews. The King had many Jewish associates. Furthermore, many of the Jews blended into Bulgarian society without calling attention to themselves except when being persecuted by Belev and his cronies. Even though Boris was described as weak willed, somehow his non-confrontational atitude held Hitler at bay to save the lives of 50,000 Jews. Its too bad he did not extend himself for the Jews of Thrace and Macedonia.
Nonetheless, its a shame and a travesty that more of an attempt to thwart Hitler's reign of terror did not occur. Countries like Poland and France could have learned something from Bulgaria's unique relationship with its mainland Jews.
This is an easy to read but detailed account of this critical period of World History. I would highly recommend this Bulgarian perspective as a comprehensive overview of the events of the Holocaust.
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