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February 18, 1930 | Sofia, Bulgaria
Norbert was born to a Jewish family in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. His father, a prominent lawyer, was also active in the Jewish community, heading relief efforts for the city's Jewish orphans. Sofia was home to approximately half of Bulgaria's estimated 50,000 Jews during the mid-1930s.
1933-39: On September 1, 1939, while on a family vacation we heard over the radio that war [World War II] had begun. My parents exchanged worried glances; what would happen to us now? Bulgaria had close ties with the Germans and we were frightened. At the newsstand I saw antisemitic headlines appear for the first time in the papers speaking of the Jews' "international conspiracy." I asked my father to help me understand what was happening.
1940-44: In May 1943 my family was deported to Pleven in northern Bulgaria. It wasn't like the deportations we'd heard about; we lived with relatives and I even attended a public school. The Soviet army arrived on September 9, 1944. The Bulgarian partisans descended from the mountains and started rounding up town officials. I happened to be in the street so I helped. While the chief of police was held at gunpoint, I searched his pockets. I was shaking worse than the police chief.
Norbert finished high school in Sofia after the war. In 1948 he emigrated to Israel and later moved to the United States.