Oral History

Norbert J. Yasharoff describes the trial and sentencing of a Jewish man falsely charged with economic crimes

Anti-Jewish measures took effect in Bulgaria after the beginning of World War II. In March 1941, Bulgaria joined the Axis alliance and German troops passed through Sofia. In May 1943, Norbert and his family were expelled to Plevin in northern Bulgaria, where they stayed with relatives. After the advance of the Soviet army in 1944, Norbert and his family returned to Sofia.

Transcript

The Bulgarian government brought to trial a Jewish industrialist, the only one who was allowed to continue working under the anti-Jewish legislation, uh, as a...as a manager of his expropriated plant, a textile plant, was suddenly brought to court on the charges of economic crimes. They were trumped-up charges. My father, who had been his lawyer for many, many years, uh, began defending him in this case. Well, for all those who...for all Jews who were watching the trial and knew about what an economic crime charge meant and what it would bring, it was obvious that the man will not...his life will not be spared. But my father invested all of his juridical talent in the hope that maybe through effective...an effective defense, he could save him. Well, he did not. And not only that he was sentenced to death, but my father was...I mean the client was sentenced to death, but my father was forced to observe the actual execution through hanging. And I will never forget this man and his face when he came back from that execution that, uh, afternoon. I had never seen him more devastated...totally, totally devastated and blaming himself for not having done enough when everybody knew that it was...this was just a show trial. The Bulgarians had to have something to show both the Germans and also the general populace that the Jews were economic exploiters and...and criminals, uh, who in spite of all the legislation against them were still prone to commit crimes.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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