The Fragility of Goodness by Tzvetan Todorov
Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust

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Synopsis

With the exception of Denmark, Bulgaria was the only country allied with Nazi Germany that did not annihilate or turn over its Jewish population. Here a prominent French intellectual with Bulgarian roots accounts for this singularity.

Tzvetan Todorov assembles and interprets for the first time key evidence from this episode of Bulgarian history, including letters, diaries, government reports, and memoirs--most never before translated into any language. Through these documents, he reconstructs what happened in Bulgaria during World War II and interrogates collective memories of that time. He recounts the actions of individuals and groups that, ultimately and collectively, spared Bulgaria's Jews the fate of most European Jews.

The Bulgaria that emerges is not a heroic country dramatically different from those countries where Jews did perish. Todorov does find heroes, especially parliament deputy Dimitar Peshev, certain writers and clergy, and--most inspiring--public opinion. Yet he is forced to conclude that the "good" triumphed to the extent that it did because of a tenuous chain of events. Any break in that chain--one intellectual who didn't speak up as forcefully, a different composition in Orthodox Church leadership, a misstep by a particular politician, a less wily king--would have undone all of the other efforts with disastrous results for almost 50,000 people.

The meaning Todorov settles on is this: Once evil is introduced into public view, it spreads easily, whereas goodness is temporary, difficult, rare, and fragile. And yet possible.

 

About Tzvetan Todorov

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Tzvetan Todorov is the author of numerous works, including Facing the Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps. Katherine Golsan is an associate professor of French at the University of the Pacific and translator of Fascism and Communism by François Furet and Ernst Nolte. Lucy Golsan is a retired professor of French. Her translations include Memory, the Holocaust, and French Justice: The Bousquet and Touvier Affairs.
 
Published May 1, 2001 by Princeton University Press. 208 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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At the outbreak of WWII, Bulgaria, an ally of Germany, issued anti-Semitic legislation that allowed for the deportation of 11,343 Jews from the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia;

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