Portrait of a Jewish family in Kyustendil, Bulgaria.
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Bulgaria
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Israel Borouchoff
Portrait of a Jewish family in Kyustendil, Bulgaria.
Pictured are Pinkas and Miriam Baruch (the grandparents of Israel Baruch) and their eight children. Standing from left to right are: Samuel, Joseph and Victoria Baruch. Seated in the middle row, from left to right, are: Kadena, Pinkas, Miriam and Yako Baruch. Sitting on the floor, from left to right, are: Fidel, Oretta and Leon Baruch.
- Israel Borouchoff (born Israel Baruch) is the son of Yako and Lisa Baruch. He was born in Kyustendil, Bulgaria in 1929, and has one older sister, Marietta, born in 1925. Israel's mother passed away when he was four years old. His father, Yako, was a successful lawyer and Zionist activist, who served as president of the Theodore Herzl Zionist Organization in Bulgaria in the interwar period. During World War II when Zionist organizations were banned by the fascist government, he served as chief representative of the clandestine Jewish Agency in Bulgaria. Yako had seven younger siblings: Kadena, Samuel, Victoria, Joseph, Oretta, Leon and Nissim (Fidel). In 1933 the family moved to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. There, Yako started a new law practice, and the following year married Rachel Farhi. Israel attended the prestigious American Grade School. The family's situation changed drastically with the enactment of the antisemitic Law for the Defense of the Nation in January 1941. Yako no longer could practice law; all Jews were forced to wear the yellow star and to display "Jewish residence" signs at the doors of their homes. Later, the family was forced to move from their elegant apartment on Moscovska Street to a ghetto in the impoverished Yuch Bunar neighborhood. Following Bulgaria's declaration of war on the United States in December 1941, the American school closed, and Israel transferred to the Hebrew school housed at the Central Synagogue of Sofia. The situation of Bulgarian Jews reached crisis level on February 22, 1943, when Eichmann's assistant, Theodor Dannecker, called for the deportation of the Jews of Bulgarian-occupied Thrace and Macedonia as a first step in the implementation of the "Final Solution" in Bulgaria. On March 2 the Ministry Council approved the plan to deport the 12,000 Jews of the occupied lands and another 8,000 Jews from historic Bulgaria. Despite efforts to keep the deportation plans a secret, news leaked, and Yako heard from his brother Samuel in Kyustendil that preparations were underway. Yako, who had connections in the Ministry and knew many other top government officials, met with every one of them. They, however, were reluctant to offer help out of fear of retaliation by the Nazis. On March 7, 1943, Yako pursued his last option and called on his former law school classmate, Dimitar Peshev, now Vice-President of the Bulgarian National Assembly. At first Yako had been reluctant to approach Peshev because he was well known for his pro-Nazi sympathies and admiration of Hitler. However, Yako had grown up with Peshev in Kyustendil. Their families had lived only a few houses from each other and had celebrated Christian and Jewish holidays together. Moreover, Yako's brother Samuel had been a close friend of Peshev's in high school. Upon hearing Yako's blunt presentation of the facts, Peshev's first response was one of anger at not having been apprised of the deportation order as Vice-President of the National Assembly. Jolted from his complacency, Peshev, who had heard rumors of the impending threats, but refused to believe them, took a day to process the news, and check the veracity of Baruch's information. The following day, Yako's brother Joseph called Peshev to remind him of the urgency of the situation. Peshev assured him that no member of the Baruch family would be deported; he had secured safe conduct passes for them. Joseph replied that the issue was not about saving his family but the entire Jewish population. When Yako informed Peshev that a delegation from Kyustendil was on its way to Sofia, Peshev asked to meet with them. The delegation consisted of four non-Jews from Kyustendil, Yako Baruch, Avraham Tadjer (a Bulgarian Jewish war hero), and a few other Sofia Jews. They met with Peshev at his home on March 9, the day set for the deportations. Peshev and ten other delegates confronted Minister of the Interior Gabrovski and forced him to suspend the deportation order by threatening to unleash a political scandal. After consulting with higher officials, Gabrovski lifted the order, and Jews in several cities were told they could return to their homes. Fearing that the deportation would be renewed, Peshev prepared a forceful letter protesting the policy of deporting Bulgarian Jews. This letter was signed by 43 deputies and handed to Prime Minister Bogdan Filov. Peshev's actions resulted in his forcible removal from his position in the National Assembly. In May, the government expelled the entire Jewish population of Sofia to the provinces. The extended Baruch family moved to Kyustendil, where fifteen family members crammed into the home of Yako's parents. At the end of 1943 Yako secured laissez-passer documents and Palestine immigration certficates for groups of Bulgarian Jewish children. He also obtained similar documents for his brother Samuel's family, and for his son Israel. Together with his uncle and cousins, Israel left Bulgaria on December 31, 1943. They traveled overland via Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, finally arriving in Palestine in January 1944. After attending the Ben Shemen agricultural school for a year, Israel transferred to the Ludwig Tietz preparatory school for the Israel Institute of Technology. While attending school Israel lived in a dormitory that was located at the neighboring Kibbutz Yagur. On June 29, 1946, the day that came to be known in Israel's history as "The Black Sabbath", the British invaded Yagur and arrested Israel, among many others, for aiding illegal immigrants and destroying his ID card. Israel and the others were imprisoned in Athlit where they went on a hunger strike. Looking younger than his 16 years, he was released while the others were sent to camps in the Negev. Upon returning to Yagur, he discovered that British troops had destroyed much of the settlement. With nowhere else to go, Israel decided to rejoin his family in Bulgaria in August 1946. After completing high school and a course of study at the Music Conservatory of Sofia, Israel returned to Israel in 1949. He joined the Israeli Army, where he became a solo flutist in the army symphony and band. He also played and recorded with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1955 he went to the United States on a grant to study at the Julliard School of Music. Israel remained in the US, where he pursued a musical career that included positions as a solo flutist at the St. Louis Symphony (1958-1966), the Chamber Symphony of Philadelphia (1966-1968) and professor of flute at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Michigan State University.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Israel Borouchoff
Record last modified: 2010-07-01 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1145889