King's Ransom Summary
The story of King’s Ransom begins in modern times but covers past events in flashback: In spring, 1996, Dobri Dimitrov, a former servant to Bulgarian king Boris III, assembles with well-wishers in Alexander Battenberg Square at Sofia to greet the return of long-exiled King Simeon II. Dimitrov remembers events fifty years prior, when he worked in the Bulgarian palace with his future wife, Daria Richetti, a Jew. The story then flashes back to September, 1940, during World War II.
King Boris III discusses the German transfer of Dobrudja to Bulgaria with pro-German Bulgarian interior minister Peter Gabrovski and Prime Minister Bogdan Filov. Both men pressure the king to agree to a treaty that will ally Bulgaria with Germany. The king notes other countries’ military interests in gaining access to Bulgarian strategic resources and stresses that his primary concern is to protect Bulgaria. Frustrated by Bulgaria’s vulnerability, the king travels in the countryside, visiting a monastery, where he stops to contemplate political problems and possible solutions.
In the palace, Dimitrov and Richetti perform their duties for the royal family. Richetti shops in the local market, observing Third Reich visitors who unnerve her because of their clear anti-Semitism. Although she trusts the royal family to protect her, Richetti is concerned for other Bulgarian Jews. Liliana (Lily) Panitza works in the Sofia office of Interior Ministry official Alexander Belev, who assigns her work, including preparing lists of approximately fifty thousand Bulgarian Jews, claiming that these Jews are dangerous Bolshevik supporters. Panitza asks Richetti, whom she befriended at a royal reception, to tell the king about the Interior Ministry’s work targeting Jews.
That November, Metropolitan Stefan, the leader of the Orthodox Church in Sofia, denounces Bulgarian officials for registering Bulgarian Jews. Speaking at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, he warns people not to permit Jews to be persecuted within Bulgaria and instead to embrace tolerance. Stefan bravely states that laws discriminating against groups and officials who create those laws are criminal.
King Boris meets with Adolf Hitler in Austria, where he listens to Hitler’s argument for moving German troops through Bulgaria to assist Italian forces that are attacking Greece. Hitler urges the king to ally with the Axis Powers. When a U.S. representative insists, by contrast, that Bulgaria help defeat Germany, King Boris describes his World War I experiences and devotion to Bulgarians, stressing that protecting his people surpasses all other demands. With the king’s reluctant approval, Prime Minister Filov travels to Germany to sign the Tripartite Pact with Hitler and his allies to avoid being violently invaded like neighboring Yugoslavia. As a result of negotiations with Hitler, Bulgaria occupies nearby Macedonia and Thrace.
Bulgarian officials pass the Law for the Defense of the Nation, planning to deport Jews and creating a Commissariat for Jewish Questions. To delay deportations, King Boris asserts the necessity for Jewish males to serve as laborers to build roads and other projects. Queen Giovanna independently arranges for Italian passports for her Jewish friends.
Working at the palace, Dimitrov and Richetti fall in love. They cautiously develop their romantic relationship while guarding Richetti’s Jewish identity. Panitza continues to share information with Richetti. In early 1943, however, Richetti’s Jewish background is exposed at a gala. She chooses to wear a yellow star of David in public, despite her friends’ protests. Panitza gains access to information regarding deportation plans for Jews in Thrace and Macedonia. Rabbi Daniel Tsion, a prophet, visits Metropolitan Stefan, asking him to warn Jews throughout Bulgaria of an approaching evil. As a result of Jewish resistance and church leaders’ protests, deportations are stopped after boxcars have removed thousands of Jews from...
(The entire section is 1,099 words.)