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
"A complex story of heroism... a moving history." -Publishers Weekly; "Well researched and clearly written; imparts the surrealistic horror of the times and the courage of a few." -Booklist
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