Things changed for Dr. Jacques (Jack) Rosenfeld, eventually of Southfield, and other Jews in Bulgaria in 1940.
Dr. Jacques (Jack) Rosenfeld, eventually of Southfield, was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. His mother was Ana Rosenfeld, and his sister’s name was Judy. His father, Moritz, owned a factory that produced combs as well as military hats. He originally attended public school, where he was believed to be the only Jew in his class, and later transferred to a French private school where other Jewish students attended. Except for a single case in elementary school, Dr. Rosenfeld did not note any anti-Semitism against him or his family.
The same can be said for many Jews living in Bulgaria. While there were Jews of Ashkenazi origins, such as the Rosenfeld’s, the Sephardi who started to arrive in 1494 absorbed the older communities. At that time, Bulgaria, along with the rest of the Balkans, was part of the Ottoman Empire. Jews who lived in the Ottoman Empire were treated favorably by the Muslim sultans (rulers). Even when Bulgaria became an autonomous state in 1878, the Jewish community retained a special status with substantial self-administration. The Treaty of Berlin, which recognized Bulgaria’s autonomy (as well as the independence of Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro), included a clause for the recognition of all citizens regardless of creed.
Things changed for Dr. Rosenfeld and other Jews in Bulgaria in 1940. As allies with Nazi Germany, Bulgaria passed anti-Jewish laws similar to the Nuremburg Laws. Moritz’s factory was shut down and had his bank accounts frozen.
One night, much of Sofia’s Jewish population, including Moritz, were sent to Somovit, a Bulgarian concentration camp. The rest of the Rosenfeld family was sent to the ghetto in Russe, near the Romanian border. Unlike the ghettos set up by the Nazis, the Russe ghetto had no walls, fences, or guards. Food was available, but rationed. In Dr. Rosenfeld’s opinion, the Jews were rounded up in the night so that the general population, who were opposed to the idea, would not find out. When Moritz returned from Somovit, he noted how the inmates were treated well and accommodated. They were used as labor for the construction of a railroad. The food was adequate, and the inmates received additional food from the Christian neighbors of the camp.
Despite the cases of Somovit and Russe, Bulgaria refused to deport its Jews to Germany for forced labor and extermination. The possible reason for Bulgaria’s refusal, according to Dr. Rosenfeld’s testimony, was due to objections from the Bulgarian church.
With the Soviet army moving into Bulgaria in 1944, the Jews in Somovit and Russe were allowed to return to their homes, left untouched by the Bulgarians. Moritz’s factory was returned as well. Dr. Rosenfeld returned to his French school, then entered medical school in Bucharest, Romania.
With the rise of communism in Bulgaria, Dr. Rosenfeld’s family went to Israel. He worked at a hospital there, then later served in the Medical Corp of the Israeli Army. After his tour of service, he continued his education, and graduated as a physician in 1956. He married his wife, Masal, in 1955. They had their first child, Joel, in 1957. He came to the United States in 1959 for further training on an exchange visa. When his four-year visa expired, he continued his training in Canada, where he studied to specialize in radiology.
In 1971, Dr. Rosenfeld immigrated to Detroit. Years later, he opened his own private radiology practice in Southfield, where he lived until his death in 2012.