By Nikolay Boyadzhiev*
In April 2019 I was able to comb through hundreds of documents of the International Red Cross at their Headquarters in Geneva. The result of this and so much more work would be probably made available later this year by the incredible team that invited me to Geneva. But as a good FB friend here is a small spoiler especially for you.
Please take a few minutes and travel back in time with a bunch of now yellowish documents speaking diplomatic slang. You know the Schindler’s list, right? It had about 1000 names on it. Ok, here are two lists of no worldwide fame whatsoever with 234 and 239 names respectively for a total of 473 Romanian Jews, traveling with Axis-allied(!) Bulgarian ships (most probably with Bulgarian transit visas) to neutral Istanbul and from there with trains to Aleppo and then Jaffa.
The names of the ships were MILKA and MARITZA. The dates of their respective arrivals in Istanbul were March 31 and April 11, 1944.
A third ship that stirred some diplomatic correspondence was wrongly spelled by the Swiss and American diplomats, as BELLACITTA while in fact it was the BELLASITZA (named after a mountain range in Bulgaria). The letter from Dr. Schwarzenburg is dated April 26, 1944. It states the Bellasitza arrived in Istanbul on March 24, 1944, full of Romanian Jews who were further sent by train to British mandate Palestine. The American legation in Bern, Switzerland responds the very next day to express its perplexity. I will translate and paraphrase for you from Diplomatisch – „Wow, guys, what great news of this ship full of Jews arriving in Istanbul safely. But wait a minute, the date on your letter suggests you didn’t know this had happened last time we spoke, right? So, how did it happen really? Was it you that secured safe-conduct for this ship from the Germans and their allies or what?“
Well, it wasn’t the Red Cross, and no, it wasn’t the Germans who gave a green light for this.
It was Bulgaria transporting with ships Romanian (and other) Jews to safety. It was Bulgaria issuing visas to these people. While still playing the ally of Hitler.
The year is 1944, March and April. King Boris III (the Fox) who prevented the deportation of the Bulgarian Jews had died in August 1943. But Bulgaria was still there saving European Jews.
I may post later the count for BELLASITZA, but it shouldn’t be less than those of the other ships. Let’s opt for 230. This would mean that only from three voyages we had 700 Jews saved. And these ships had many more voyages.
Nobody has ever told this story. Not even Yad Vashem.
The misspelling of a ship’s name is benign. But the misreading or downplaying of daring bravery and perseverance in the right direction of History against all odds while forced to play on the bad side is plain wrong.
Let’s make this known.
* The author has been working as a translator for the European Commission in Luxembourg since 2006, where he lives with his family. His interest in both the facts and the deeper meaning of the salvation of the Bulgarian Jews is largely due to his evangelical faith. Screenwriter and participant in the film series „Covenant and Controversy“, in the second part of which he tells about the rescue of Bulgarian Jews. This second part can be seen as a separate film on YouTube, entitled „The Fox and the Führer: How a Nazi Ally Saved 50,000 Jews.“ In 2018, he searched for and republished with his own preface the memoirs of Rabbi Daniel Zion published in 1945 about the events surrounding the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews. He writes a modest evangelical website www.odolam.eu. He traveled frequently to Israel and Morocco, where he lived as a child.
MORE ON THE TOPIC
„History is indebted to Bulgaria, its Tsar, the government, and the public, who did not receive a fair geopolitical assessment of their most glorious work during the years of World War II. The contribution of this study is to the completion of a real and in this sense a fair geopolitical image of Bulgaria, which during the war, as Tsar, State and People in the domination of the Third Reich not only kept on its territory over 50,000 Jews, to protect them from certain extermination in Nazi concentration camps, but with „almost impossible diplomacy“ through the needles of the Nazis, she helped more than 12,000 Jews emigrate to Palestine, then a British protectorate, where they could find their true salvation. With Bulgarian transit visas and with Bulgarian ships under the Bulgarian national flag.“
Georgi Bozduganov, author of the book „ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE. Kingdom of Bulgaria and Jewish Emigration during the Second World War“, which will soon be published in Bulgarian.