On the night of December 3, 1940, at the Black Sea port of Varna, Bulgaria, the Salvador - a rickety, old, sail-powered coal freighter - is finally towed out to sea. 352 Bulgarian Jews begin their voyage on the high seas after many long and wearying months of waiting. Ten hellish days later, the tiny old vessel is heavily buffeted by a storm, running aground on a reef not far from Istanbul. The Salvador is shattered to pieces, and most of its passengers are lost at sea. While some of the survivors return to Bulgaria, most struggle on towards their original destination - Palestine. The courageous story of the Salvador immigrants, never before presented to the public, is the focus of this documentary; set against the background of the extraordinary rescue of Bulgarian Jewry during World War II. With emotional personal accounts from survivors, the film reenacts the voyage of the Salvador - beginning with preparations on land and continuing through the tragedy at sea.
A Jewish Film Festival for the Other Other - New York:
" Salvador achieves its goal of relating the facts to you with interviews, photographs and found footage. Through all of it, a small group of “Salvador” survivors meet and journey, for the first time in over a half century, back to their homeland of Bulgaria. The tale itself is full of intrigue and adventure. As the Nazis gained power in Bulgaria, it became increasingly difficult for Jews to leave the country. Enter Dr. Confino, an accidental one-man Zionist enterprise. After receiving little help from the Zionist movement, whose resources were stretched thin, he took matters into his own hands to purchase ships and organize clandestine voyages to Palestine, where the Jewish homeland was being built. After many successful journeys, things get a bit hazy depending on how you look at the facts. Confino replaced his best ship, which had trafficked many a Bulgarian Jew, for the “Salvador”, a vessel considered shoddy at best. Intended to take around 100 Zionist youths across the sea, the manifest more than tripled before it left for Palestine, creating a recipe for disaster, which occurred off the coast of Turkey.
About 5 kilometers south of the Turkish fishing town of Silivri, the boat capsized and the struggle for shore began. 238 of the 352 people on board drowned. So harrowing was the event that to this day, local fisherman refer to the waters where the ship went down as “the sea of the Jews.” What’s so amazing is that this is only where the adventure begins. Remember, these Jews who were fleeing from the Nazis now find themselves shipwrecked in Turkey. Many did make it to the Jewish homeland eventually, and the film clearly tells their tale. Early on, one of the survivors proclaims that no one cared about the story back then, and that this film is the first to take on the subject of the Salvador. It’s true; in 1940 a shipwreck in Turkey is but a footnote to the ground-shaking news that came out every day. The story of the Salvador is so riveting it sounds like it would make a great movie