On March 9th, 1943, police arrived at the home of Jacky Comforty’s family in Bulgaria. This was to be the beginning of the end, the start of the journey to Treblinka.
All was proceeding according to the plan drawn up several weeks earlier by Nazi Germany and its Bulgarian allies. At gunpoint Jacky’s grandparents; his aunt, then fifteen years old; and his uncle, age four, all marched to the deportation center set up at a neighborhood school. Jacky’s father, 22 at the time, was not at home when the police came. He laying in hospital, maltreated after a train accident while being interned in a slave labor camp.
The four Comfortys scheduled to depart for Poland that day were among the 8,500 Bulgarian Jews targeted first for extermination. Just a few days before, Bulgaria started rounding up for deportations 11,343 Jews from its annexed territories taken from Greece and Yugoslavia.
On March 10th, the Jews of Plovdiv were brought to the former Jewish schoolyard. In other towns they were rounded up and gathered to await transport. They waited all day. And then, at the end of that day, they were simply sent home.
Forty nine thousand Jews survived, because Bulgarian friends found ways to protect them from their would-be murderers, in defiance of their Nazi-allied government. The Optimists tells their story.
The Optimists explores how different ethnic and religious groups stood by each other in Bulgaria even during the Holocaust. Bulgaria's experience offers valuable insight into how people can build bridges between different communities of different ethnic and religious backgrounds and, in so doing, defend human and civil rights. It is not only a Jewish story. It is a universal one, powerful in its ability to inform and inspire all audiences.
Awards for "The Optimists" include: co-winner of the Peace Prize, Berlin International Film Festival; First Prize for "Documenting the Jewish Experience," Jerusalem International Film Festival; the CINE Golden Eagle; and Best Documentary, Hope and Dreams Film Festival.
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