Nissim Mordehay

Born January 8, 1932 - Ihtiman, Bulgaria

Nissim, the son of Mina (Masiach) and Behor Mordehay, was nine years old when Bulgaria allied itself with Germany. He had a younger sister, Lida who was five. Nissim's family owned a large store that sold textiles and clothing. They lived in the largest building in the city. It was so large that they rented out the first floor to the police department. The town jail was even located in their basement. The family was quite well-off. Each child had a nanny, and there were other servants to do the laundry and cleaning. The family was well-respected by their non-Jewish neighbors, and all of Nissim's playmates were non-Jews.

Because there were so few Jews in Ihtiman, Nissim's family did not feel the brunt of the harsh anti-Jewish measures passed by the Bulgarian government in 1941. Life went on much as before. His parents were forced to wear the yellow star required by the government, but Nissim and his sister were exempt from wearing it because they were children. However, Nissim and Lida were not permitted to attend public school during the 1942-43 school year, because they were Jews. Their cousin tutored them at home.

In 1943, the Germans began pressing their Bulgarian allies to deport their Jews to concentration camps in Poland. Over 20,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz from Macedonia and Thrace, areas that had recently been annexed to Bulgaria. The Jews of Old Bulgaria were to be next. The King of Bulgaria ordered all plans for deportations of Bulgaria's Jews stopped. He was, however, unable to prevent the expulsion to the countryside of Sofia's 20,000 Jews. From there, they were to be transported by ship to "the East." The people of Bulgaria protested this action. Nissim's many relatives from Sofia were given shelter in his home. The Bulgarian people began large-scale protests against the treatment of the Jews. Instead of arousing antisemitism, the expelled Jews won the sympathy of the peasants. By January 1944, massive allied bombing of Bulgaria began, and plans to deport the Jews were completely shelved. The Jews of Old Bulgaria were saved due to the courageous defiance of the King of Bulgaria and his people.

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