On June 17, 2015, the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) and American Jewish Committee (AJC) – ACCESS DC partnered up for a special presentation of Ed Gaffney’s documentary film Empty Boxcars at UMD Headquarters in Washington, D.C. UMD President Metodija A. Koloski and AJC Washington Regional Office Goldman Bridge Fellow Cassie Chesley gave brief remarks about the film and UMD-AJC ACCESS partnership, highlighting the first joint event done in June 2014.
Empty Boxcars depicts the history of Jewish people in Bulgaria and Bulgarian-occupied territories during the Holocaust. Over 50,000 Jews in Bulgaria were rescued from murder when King Boris III, under the pressure of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and strong opposition by Parliamentary leaders, rescinded the order to deport all Jews to Treblinka, a notorious death camp in German-occupied Poland. Although 50,000 innocent people were saved from death, 11,393 Jews from Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia and Thrace were murdered in the name of “ethnic cleansing.” The film documents the heroism and difficulties of people who acted against the heinous crimes of the Holocaust to defend those who were being persecuted and the injustice of discrimination against Jews in World War II.
Following the screening, guests had the opportunity to discuss the importance of the film in educating the public on this tragic part of Bulgaria’s history, and preserving the memory of the historic Jewish community in Macedonia.