The Optimists

Jacky Comforty's unexpectedly uplifting documentary about the plight of Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust begins with an all-too-familiar scenario. In the early morning darkness of March 10, 1943, all the Jews in the Bulgarian town of Pazardjik were roused from their beds, ordered to pack a few of their belongings and marched at gunpoint to a schoolyard...read more

Where to Watch

Available to Stream

  • Watch on
Reviewed by Ken Fox
Rating:

Jacky Comforty's unexpectedly uplifting documentary about the plight of Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust begins with an all-too-familiar scenario. In the early morning darkness of March 10, 1943, all the Jews in the Bulgarian town of Pazardjik were roused from their beds, ordered to pack a few of their belongings and marched at gunpoint to a schoolyard to await deportation. Bulgaria had allied itself with Germany's Nazi regime, and Bulgarian Jews living in Nazi-occupied territories such as Greece and Macedonia had already been rounded up and sent to death camps at Auschwitz and Treblinka. But something totally unexpected happened to Pazardjik's Jews: Instead of being packed into trains that would transport them to their deaths, they were simply sent home after an agonizing, day-long wait. In the coming months, Bulgaria's 50,000 Jews, including Comforty's family, were miraculously saved. But why? Digging deep into the past, Comforty tells the fascinating story of Christian and Muslim citizens who refused to abandon their friends and neighbors, even after their government instituted anti-Semitic laws similar to Germany's and made it clear that it was willing to sacrifice Jews to their fates. Comforty outlines the roots of this age-old camaraderie — bonds cemented in the egalitarian language of the country's 1879 constitution — then tells a number of inspiring stories of rescue and extraordinary courage. The vice president of the Bulgarian parliament demanded the deportations be postponed; a humble baker hid Jews in his bread ovens. The bishop of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church threatened to join his friends on the trains if any of Pazardjik's Jews were deported. Ten thousand demonstrators who had gathered in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital, rioted when they learned that the city's Jews were to be sent north to Poland and Germany. This is the rare Holocaust documentary that ends on an optimistic note, and Comforty's film might even help reinforce one's faith in humankind, even as it begs the troubling question of why such courage and resistance was in short supply in other European countries.

Cast & Details See all »

  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Jacky Comforty's unexpectedly uplifting documentary about the plight of Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust begins with an all-too-familiar scenario. In the early morning darkness of March 10, 1943, all the Jews in the Bulgarian town of Pazardjik were rous… (more)

Show More »