(March 2, 2011) — New College of Florida and the AJC (American Jewish Committee) West Coast Florida will collaborate to present a free community showing of the film, Empty Boxcars, the story of the rescue of Bulgarian Jews during World War II and the murder of Jews from the Bulgarian-occupied territories. Ed Gaffney, the producer, director and writer of the film, will speak about the making of his documentary on the triumph and tragedy of Bulgaria’s response to the “Final Solution,” 1940-43.
The event is scheduled for April 14 at 4 pm at the Sudakoff Conference Center on the New College Campus (5845 General Dougher Place). The film lasts 90 minutes and will be followed by remarks from Gaffney, a question-and-answer session and an informal reception. While the event is free, reservations are highly recommended. For information, directions and reservations, please call the New College Events Office at 941-487-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The film had its world premiere screening in Sofia, Bulgaria in October 2010 and its American premiere screening in December 2010 at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.
Empty Boxcars depicts the mass rescue of over 50,000 Bulgarian Jews and the mass murder of 11,393 Jews from northern Greece and southeastern Yugoslavia, then under Bulgarian control. By 1943, there were over 63,000 Jews in the “unified” or “greater” Bulgaria (which comprised pre-1941 Bulgaria and the conquered territories of Macedonia, Aegean Thrace and Pirot), constituting nearly one per cent of the population. Whole areas were to be ethnically cleansed, leaving, as Holocaust chronicler Michael Berenbaum describes it, “the absence of presence and the presence of absence.”
The film features interviews with Holocaust survivors as well as relatives of those who perished at the hands of Bulgarians working to deliver Jews in Greater Bulgaria to the Nazi death camps. “Empty Boxcars” pays tribute to the courage of those Bulgarians who stopped the deportation, but also candidly looks at the country’s role in the annihilation of others.
Ed Gaffney is a professor of international law and genocide studies at Valparaiso University in Indiana. He studied theology in Rome at the time of the Second Vatican Council, and has been engaged in efforts to improve Jewish-Christian relations for over forty years. In 2000 he led an effort to contribute a Torah scroll to the Jewish community in Skopje (Macedonia) when it inaugurated the first synagogue to be restored in the Balkans since the Shoah, and to support the small Jewish community of Kavala (Greece) in its efforts to restore its Jewish cemetery. These activities inspired him to undertake extensive research on the Shoah in Bulgaria and its occupied territories: Macedonia (former Yugoslavia) and Thrace (northern Greece).
This is the third year that the AJC and New College have partnered in a free community presentation. In 2010, they presented the screening of the Holocaust documentary by Claude Lanzmann, Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4 PM, introduced by Aviva Weintraub, Director of the New York Jewish Film Festival and Associate Curator at The Jewish Museum. In 2009, they hosted scholar Dr. Ernestine Bradley, who spoke on “The Re-Emergence of Jewish Voices in Contemporary Germany.”
The AJC is the nation’s oldest human rights organization. The AJC has worked for over a century to promote democracy, pluralism and mutual understanding, and defends the rights of Jews and non-Jews the world over. More information is available at ajc.org or by calling the West Coast Florida Regional Office at 941-365-4955.
New College is the honors college of the state of Florida and a national leader in the arts and sciences. Consistently ranked among the nation’s leading public colleges and universities, the College attracts bright, self-motivated students from throughout the United States and many foreign countries. More information is available at ncf.edu.