This section features the true experiences of Holocaust Survivors we see and visit today. This is to fulfill their requests,
“Remember us! Tell others of our experiences so we are not forgotten!”
Cecelia arrived in Israel in 1948 with her husband and 3 year old daughter. They had fled from Bulgaria. At that time 48,400 Sephardic Jews lived in Bulgaria. They had come there when they were evicted from Spain in 1492.
During WWII, King Boris of Bulgaria had signed the pact with Hitler along with the neighboring country of Romania. The Jews were being deported from the countries around Bulgaria and King Boris signed the agreement to deport 11,000 Jews from his country. But when the truth was discovered by some of the Ministers of the government and the clerics of the church, the people unified. Demonstrations, petitions soon made King Boris and the other government agencies realize the sentiment of the people lie with the Jewish citizens. Three quarters of the government ministers signed a letter refusing to comply with the evacuation of the Jews.
King Boris signed the order to have thousands of Jews evacuated anyway, but meanwhile all the clergy in Bulgaria opened their homes, parishes and churches for the Jews to take refuge, especially the Bulgarian Independent Orthodox Church. The public were sympathetic to the Jews and helped them too. King Boris answered Hitler that he could not evacuate any of his Jews as he needed them for road work in their country.
In August 1943 King Boris went to Germany for a meeting with Hitler. When he returned to Bulgaria, he suddenly died of a heart attack. Since his son was still a minor several ministers took temporary control.
As a result, many Jews were placed in ghetto situations and some were harsh. But the majority of the Jewish people were cared for by the citizens of Bulgaria. The Jews worked for the government, building roads and such, but not one Bulgarian Jew was deported to the camps or killed.
Cecelia speaks of how they were confined to one area but each day they went to work in a factory and the people in that town fed them. They never suffered other than not being allowed to leave.
At the time they left Bulgaria Jews were under a curfew and only allowed out at night and not even allowed in public places at all. But they were still cared for by the people.
When they left all their money was confiscated. They went through Greece to get to Israel.
When they arrived in Akko there was nothing but the Old City which was all Arabs. There was still daily fighting between the Arabs and the Jews. She and her family were placed in a house with 3 other families and they all shared the one kitchen.
Also, when Cecelia arrived in Israel and was being processed to get her passport, they asked her name. Being Sephardic, she gave them her formal name: “Senora Cecelia Franco” which is MRS. Cecelia Franco. On her passport they wrote her name as “Senora Franco.” Even today she is known by Senora, not Cecelia.
Cecelia is in amazing good health and does not look her age of 90 years old. She still does her own shopping and just got some part time help to clean her home. She is a very organized person and her closets and drawers are all neatly folded and labeled.
Cecelia’s husband died a few years ago and her daughter married a man who came to Akko a few years before them. They also live in Akko. Cecelia receives mail from her Adopter and whenever we visit, she is very hospitable and has a sweet smile.