Mayer Rafael Alhalel with fellow camp workers in a Jewish labor camp

Mayer Rafael Alhalel with fellow camp workers in a Jewish labor camp
  • Photo taken in:
    Sveti Vrach
    Year when photo was taken:
    Country name at time of photo:
    Bulgaria, 1878-1944
    Country name today:
This photo was taken in the second labor camp I was in at the village of Sveti Vrach in 1943. I?m the third man from right to left, dressed in a white vest and even smiling. The man with the peak cap, dark clothes and white band first on the right was our smart supervisor, who at first treated us badly and later turned out to be on our side and just putting up a show for his superiors. He is dressed like that here because he was giving away quinine to the people suffering from malaria. I was also down with tropical malaria and was waiting to be given a portion of quinine. I remember that we were around 300-400 people in the first and second camp. We were divided into groups: a Vidin one, a Vratsa one and a more general one including workers of Jewish origin born in Northwest Bulgaria. Of course, each group had its platoon commander, something like a supervisor. Our group, the Vidin one, had a very vicious and cruel supervisor. In the first days of spring 1942, he humiliated us a lot: he hit us, shouted at us, swore at us, called us anti-Semitic names like 'chifuti'. He always punished someone who had stolen the bread of a fellow worker. The psychological attack discontinued after a month. We worked there for around ten months. He made us sweat our guts out, we were his slaves. We had to haul 15 wagons of stones from the excavation site we were digging. It was only after we made it so deep that we couldn't be seen from outside when the strange supervisor gathered us all and said, 'Guys, the sweating was up to here. I trust you now. From now on I will protect you and you will protect me.' So now we worked very slowly and leisurely in the big excavation site because no one from the outside could see what we were doing. When one of us noticed that the head of our supervisor was approaching, he would make a signal and we would all start working very hard, while our supervisor started swearing at us and calling us names. When his boss would leave, we would stop working and start playing belote with the supervisor. But that story doesn't have a happy ending. In summer 1942 we were given five to six days of leave to visit out families. During that time the camp was moved from Sveti Vrach to the nearby village called Belitsa. Many of us were absent and there weren't enough Jews to carry the baggage of the others as well as the common tents. So, our 'rude' supervisor also helped them move the camp. Naturally, at that time his action was more than strange and unforgivable. His chiefs started suspecting him and fired him. He had incidentally revealed his sympathies towards us. That was the end of our holiday. It was only after 9th September that we learnt that our strict supervisor was also a UYW member, just like us. But he became a supervisor in a Jewish labor camp, because he was very poor and needed the money.

Interview details

Interviewee: Mayer Alhalel
Patricia Nikolova
Month of interview:
Year of interview:
Vidin, Bulgaria


Mayer Alhalel
Year of birth:
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Country name at time of birth:
before WW II:
Polygraphic printer
after WW II:
Polygraphic printer

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