Dr. Jacques (Jack) Rosenfeld is the older of the two children of Moritz and Ana Rosenfeld (nee Karman) of Sofia , Bulgaria . His sister was named Judy. His father had a factory producing combs and was also involved in the manufacture of military hats. He attended public school for the first four years and believes he was the only Jew in his class. Then he transferred to a French private school where some other Jewish students also attended. He describes his family as Conservative Jews of Ashkenazic origin, although the majority of Jews in Bulgaria were of Sephardic origin. His larger family consisted of grandparents, several uncles, an aunt, and cousins, also living in Sofia .
Sofia’s minority population of Armenians, Turks, Macedonians, and Jews all got along very well with the majority of Bulgarians, and Dr. Rosenfeld does not recall any anti-Semitism against his family or himself, except for a single case of name-calling in elementary school. The respect by Bulgarian citizens toward Jews is also evident in other parts of Dr. Rosenfeld’s testimony.
In June, 1940, Bulgaria joined with Germany in its war effort and subsequently passed anti-Jewish laws modeled on Germany ‘s Nuremberg Laws. Life for Jews changed dramatically. Dr. Rosenfeld’s father’s factory was closed and his bank accounts frozen. Jews had to wear identification, but unlike the large yellow Star of David sewn onto one’s clothing, or unlike the wearing of arm bands, they only had to wear a round lapel pin with the Star of David on it. This identification was only required of men.
At a later date, under cover of darkness, most of the Jewish population was rounded-up and Dr. Rosenfeld’s father was sent to a Bulgarian concentration camp called Somovit. Dr. Rosenfeld, together with his mother and sister, and many other Jewish families, were sent to a ghetto that was created in Russe, a city on the Danube on the border of Romania . Dr. Rosenfeld believes that the round-up of Jews was done at night so as to be out of sight of the general population who were opposed to it.
At Russe, Dr. Rosenfeld’s family and the other Jews arriving from Sofia were at first accommodated by the existing Jewish residents and then separate housing was found for them. Although Russe was ghetto-like in intent, there were no restraining fences or walls; no guards were used to oversee the residents. To obtain some money, Dr. Rosenfeld went to work digging trenches. Food was available, but rationed. During this period his education was interrupted.
Based on reports received from his father after his father’s release from the concentration camp Somovit, the inmates there were well treated and accommodated. They were used as labor for the construction of a railroad. Food was adequate and supplemented by food brought in by Christian neighbors of camps.
It was pointed during out during this interview that the Bulgarian government refused the request by Germany to have its Jewish citizens deported to Germany for slave labor and ultimate extermination. Dr. Rosenfeld believes that the refusal was the result of objections raised by the Bulgarian church and the people. He also stated that Bulgaria refused the German’s request for troops to fight the Russians.
Towards the end of the war, with Soviet troops approaching, the Bulgarian government released the Jews confined to Russe and to Samovit. and they returned to their former homes. Their homes were as they left them. They were not occupied nor looted by the Bulgarians, and Dr. Rosenfeld’s father’s factory was returned to him. Dr. Rosenfeld continued his education at the French school and subsequently entered medical school in Bucharest , Romania .
After a communist government was installed in Bulgaria , with its nationalization of factories and restrictions on personal property, Dr. Rosenfeld’s family and most Bulgarian Jews emigrated to Israel . He went to work as an orderly in a hospital, then served in the Israeli Army in the Medical Corp and, after his release, was able to continue his medical training, graduating as a physician in 1956.
In Israel Dr. Rosenfeld married in 1955 and had a son, Joel, in 1957. He practiced medicine until 1959 and then came to the United States , with his wife and son, for further training on an “exchange” visa. When his visa expired after four years, rather than returning to Israel he went to Canada since he felt that there was an abundance of physicians in Israel. He passed the required examinations and was able to practice medicine, subsequently specializing in radiology.
In 1971, Dr. Rosenfeld immigrated to the United States and after practicing for several years in Detroit, opened a private practice as a radiologist in Southfield, Michigan in 1976. In addition to their son Joel, the Rosenfeld’s had another son, David , and twin daughters, Dianne and Suzanne.
All of Dr. Rosenfeld’s relatives immigrated to Israel; none perished during the Holocaust. He returned to Bulgaria several times after the Communists left, to show his children their heritage, and had pleasant experiences on each trip. In conclusion he stressed the good relationship between the government and the Bulgarian and Jewish populations.
Interview and Synopsis by: Hans R. Weinmann
Date of Interview: April 5, 2005
Length of Interview: 1 hour 3 minutes