(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

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...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Bar-Zohar, Michael. Beyond Hitler’s Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews. Avon, Mass.: Adams Media, 1998. The author, a Jew, lived in Bulgaria during World War II. Based on archival documents and interviews with surviving officials, Princess Maria-Louisa, and Liliana Panitza. Includes family photographs.

Chary, Frederick B. The Bulgarian Jews and the Final Solution, 1940-1944. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972. Best scholarly source, providing context and discussing church leaders’ involvement and other factors averting successful Jewish deportation. The king’s role is minimized. Compares Bulgaria with other German-controlled countries where Jews survived.

Todorov, Tzvetan, comp. The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria’s Jews Survived the Holocaust. Translated by Arthur Denner. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001. Originally published in French, includes commentary and transcripts of church documents, letters sent to King Boris III, government officials’ speeches, leaflets, and key figures’ memoirs.