Prominent Bulgarians Were Honored Posthumously as Rescuers of Jews

A man who was Mayor of Burgas 70 years ago and a writer-publicist came out from oblivion

Writer and public figure Petko Rosen became the first winner of the new title “Honorary Advisor of Burgas”

Dr. Dyanko Pravchev, Mayor of the city from 1939 to 1944, received posthumously the title “Honorary citizen of Burgas”

The Burgas municipal council voted unanimously to announce the honorary titles of two prominent citizens and public figures in the city who died decades ago. Such a decision is a precedent, but it gives what is due to two people who have been unjustly neglected, and whose cases, until now, did not found their worthy place in the memory of generations. Now, this injustice is corrected and our conscience can be clean, said Alberta Alkalay, President of the Center for Jewish-Bulgarian Partnership “Aleph“. Alkalay and the Burgas-based center she founded were the main initiators of the idea do declare the former Mayor of Burgas in 1939-1944, Dr. Dyanko Pravchev and publicist and writer Petko Chorbadzhiev – Rosen honorary citizens. The proposal was submitted to the City Council of Burgas by an Initiative Committee of Jews and Bulgarians at the end of 2013. The occasion was the 70th anniversary of the date of the rescue of Bulgarian Jews and the contribution of the two men to prevent Burgas Jews’ sharing the plight of their countrymen during the Holocaust.

The actions and the resistance of Pravchev and Rosen against the anti-human laws during the Nazi dictatorship were resurrected from the oblivion of history and immortalized in the documentary “Let’s Remember” authored by Alberta Alkalay. She is a descendant of rescued Burgas Jews. Alberta researched in the preserved archives and in memories of survivors the names of many Bulgarians – citizens of Burgas – thanks to whom the deportation of the local Jewish community did not happen; people, who are the main asset today of Burgas and Bulgaria, in whom to take pride over their heroism to resist Hitler’s deadly machine in a cruel and bloody time.

The history of Burgas’ society, the collective and individual feats performed by people to rescue Jews and to not allow their humiliation will not be preserved only in the film. The Center “Aleph” has the idea to put a memorial plaque with the names of dozens of citizens of Burgas, who distinguished themselves by their human heroism during World War II against the degrading Nazi laws. Alberta Alkalay has decided to attract the interest of world famous writer and director Steven Spielberg with the unique fate of Jews in Bulgaria, which are the only ones in Europe who were saved as a community from the death camps. Burgas has had his very active contribution for that.

The rescue of Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust is one of the most humane acts in the history of the twentieth century. Several rescue actions were organized in Burgas in 1943. The local community rose to prevent the victimization of Burgas’ Jews. Petko Rosen and Dr. Dyanko Pravchev were especially active. Burgas citizens wrote petitions; sent delegations to the King’s Palace and to the National Assembly; organized petitions, and sabotaged the xenophobic laws. 71 years ago, Bulgarians in Burgas had the courage and strength to resist the evil and to protect the basic human right of life and liberty. In the dark years of World War II, they were not afraid to assert their moral values and risked their lives to defend their fellow citizens of Jewish origin. Petko Rosen and Dr. Dyanko Pravchev used all their influence in the city and the country to rescue their fellow citizens from deportation.

It is impossible to list the names of all who risked everything for life and justice. The recognition, albeit posthumously, of the two public figures is also a recognition of all those who participated and contributed to this supreme act of humanity.

Petko Georgiev Chorbadzhiev, known under the pseudonym Petko Rosen, was a renowned writer, critic, politician, and lawyer. Burgas is proud with the literary heritage he left. However, few people know that in addition to being a talented and just writer, Petko Rosen participated directly in actions to rescue Jews from deportation. He is the founder of the public committee, which brought together the entire community of Burgas and conducted intensive actions to prevent the deportation of Jews from the city.

The Initiative Committee for the nominations has traced all the works of the writer, referring to “the lowest fall of our tribe before the inhuman “perpetrators”. The memories of his fellow citizens, which are a testimony that the great personality of writer and public figure Petko Rosen is an example of humanism and civil courage, have also been collected.

Dyanko Pravchev, a Belgian graduate and Doctor of Law, was Mayor of Burgas from 1939 to 1944. He has large contribution to the advancement of the social and cultural life in the city. In the hearts of the Jews, however, he remained as their savior because of his leadership in protecting them from the deadly Nazi machine. He attracted other mayors from the region to act for the rescue of Jews. They went together to Sofia, where they visited the National Assembly and other government bodies, political parties and influential persons with one sole purpose – to stop the deportation. Their mission was successful and the deportation of Jews from Burgas was canceled.

Dr. Dyanko Pravchev died from stroke while in mayoral office on January 14, 1944, just 55 years old. “The ordered forcible deportation of populations created a chain of new critical issues, requiring the personal involvement of the Mayor. With the price of his health Dr. Pravchev perfectly coped with the new conditions, without abandoning the regular management of municipal services,” is written in the document for accident, drawn by the city of Burgas’ municipal government on February 16, 1944

History remembers the feats of Petko Rosen and Dyanko Pravchev. With the award of honorary titles, Burgas bestows to them their deserved recognition for creating a model of tolerant behavior that we are following ever since.



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