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The Dartmouth
February 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Hillel remembers Holocaust victims

Dartmouth Hillel premiered a 35-minute documentary about its spring 2005 service trip to Eastern Europe Wednesday night at Collis Commonground.

The showing was part of a Holocaust-remembrance event put on by Hillel and the International Student Association that began Tuesday night with a talk by Israeli historian Michael Bar-Zohar.

The documentary, "From One Generation to the Next: Remembering the Jews of Lunna," tells the tragic story of the Jewish population of the small village of Lunna, Poland (now Belarus), during World War II. The movie follows 19 Dartmouth students as they visit Auschwitz and then meet and work with the villagers of Lunna.

The students' main project involved the restoration of a Jewish cemetery that was abandoned when the Jews of the town were sent to German concentration camps.

Hillel has worked on cemetery restoration during its past four student trips because of the importance of remembering the past, trip participant Andrew Klein '08 said.

"We figured that restoring the cemetery would be the most effective way to bring back the memory of those that were lost in the Holocaust," he said.

The documentary followed Bar-Zohar's Tuesday speech about the little-known saga of the 50,000 Bulgarian Jews who survived World War II.

The story of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews by their government was the topic of Bar-Zohar's 1998 book, "Beyond Hitler's Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews," which was partially based on his own experiences as a child in Bulgaria.

Bar-Zohar said the story of the Bulgarian Jews stands out as a bright point in a dark time.

"I'm going to tell you a different kind of story, which is completely opposite to everything we know and have heard about the Holocaust," he said.

Bar-Zohar described how the Jews of Bulgaria found themselves on the verge of deportation to Nazi concentration camps when their king, Boris III, motivated by territorial aspirations, allied Bulgaria with Nazi Germany. The price of this alliance, Bar-Zohar said, was Jewish lives.

But when the Bulgarian government ordered the Jews to prepare for deportation, opposition broke out across the country, leading the government to rescind the order.

Bar-Zohar described how later the Bulgarian government created their own work camps for Jews so they could escape far worse treatment in Nazi camps. These camps, one of which contained Bar-Zohar's father, provided their residents with a good life and allowed them to go home for much of the year, Bar-Zohar said.

"The Gestapo tried to find out exactly what is happening in these camps. They found out this is all a ploy, but the Germans wanted to preserve good relationships with the Bulgarians, so they did not shut them down," Bar-Zohar said.

The two-day Holocaust-remembrance event was largely the idea of ISA member Ivan Marinov '08, who said that he wanted to help commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.