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The Deportation of Jews from Bulgarian Held Territories in Thrace, Macedonia and Pirot in 1943

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by Georgi Bozduganov


During the Second World War (WWII) the Bulgarian authorities did not succumb to German pressure and saved all Jews who were Bulgarian subjects and lived within Bulgaria’s borders – a noble act that has bestowed universal acclaim on the country for saving its entire Jewish population. Nevertheless, critical voices accusing Bulgaria of complicity in the deportation of Jews from Bulgarian held territories in the Aegean and Macedonia, and their subsequent extermination in Nazi death camps, have recently become a more frequent occurrence. During this unquestionably despondent period Hitler held sway over nearly all of Europe – the historical background against which the attitude towards the Bulgarian Jewry and the possibilities available to the national government to act in their defence must be appraised in light of surviving documentary evidence.

I. Legislation

The 1940 Law on Protection of the Nation (LPN) prohibited the act of granting Bulgarian citizenship to Jews from other countries but did create solid safeguards for the life of those Jews who already had it. Given the pending threat of occupation by the Wehrmacht and Bulgaria’s coerced accession to the Tripartite Pact, the compromise underlying the newly enacted law was aptly described by King Boris III who is reported to have said that “it is much better that we take the initiative in our own hands rather than wait for others to force [it] upon us”. (1) Years later, Hannah Arendt, in a more critical appraisal, held that “in January, 1941, the government had also agreed to introduce some anti-Jewish legislation, but that, from the Nazi viewpoint, was simply ridiculous”. (2) (*) Anti-Jewish legislation was introduced in France, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and all other territories invaded by Germany. Even neutral Switzerland followed suit, although patently not acting out of any sweeping anti-Semitic sentiment but rather in an attempt to dissuade Hitler from marching across its borders. The Bulgarian law, and the subsequently adopted government decrees, were indeed repressive vis-à-vis the Jewry. Bulgarian Jews were forced to wear a yellow star, observe a strictly enforced curfew, and refrain from practising certain professions. They were dispersed across rural areas, their houses were temporarily placed under government care; most Jewish-owned businesses were confiscated, and able-bodied Jewish men were forced to work on public works projects.

Yet, importantly, none of the cited statutory acts envisaged two specific penalties – firstly, stripping Bulgarian nationals lawfully residing within the kingdom’s borders of their citizenship, and, secondly, the forced deportation of Jews to other countries. (3) Furthermore, the legislation did not envisage creating Jewish ghettos. On the contrary, Jews were dispersed in small groups throughout Bulgaria in order to effectively obstruct attempts to round them up and deport them should the government be forced to step down or in case of a German invasion. There are no grounds for speculation that the LPN, which prohibited granting Bulgarian citizenship to Jews who held foreign passports, was – either in intention or execution – a plan conceived to facilitate the deportation of Jews living within the borders of Greece or Yugoslavia. In any case, the first deportations were undertaken two years later, after the Wannsee Conference, and could not have been reliably foreseen by the Bulgarian authorities. It should be stressed that the territories in Macedonia came under Bulgarian occupation due to a random turn of events – Yugoslavia’s departure from Hitler’s Tripartite Pact after the coup d’état and the subsequent declaration of war on the Reich. The Law on Protection of the Nation was enacted at a time when the internal relocation of Jews in Bulgaria was low on the government’s agenda and merely served to deter Jews from other countries from seeking refuge in Bulgaria in an attempt to prevent potential conflicts with Berlin. Should the ruling Nazi elite come to regard Bulgaria as a safe haven for Jews from abroad, neither the country nor its government could hope for a silver lining, given the political and military state-of-play in 1940 – a situation that created a major headache for all players on the domestic political arena. Despite having regained Southern Dobrudzha from Romania with Germany’s assistance, in September 1940 Bulgaria was striving to maintain a neutral political stance and resisted joining Hitler’s Tripartite Pact. It also stood its ground in the face of German blackmail and enticements, as opposed to Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, which had unconditionally allied with Berlin within the brief space of a month. Bulgaria also resisted Italian pressure to join the war against Greece, which took a highly detrimental turn for Mussolini at the time. In November 1940, Stalin was seeking Hitler’s consent to send Russian troops across the Bulgarian border and embark on the construction of military bases, prior to launching an all-out war on Turkey in an attempt to seize the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. According to the proposition, this would secure the Soviet Union’s accession to the Tripartite Pact, effectively expanding it to a quadripartite format. (4) King Boris and the government conceded that Bulgaria would join the Pact without taking part in any military action only after a 500 thousand-strong German army reached the Danube en route to war with Greek and British troops in Greece. In the meantime, Romania also piled troops along the border, ready to launch an offensive to regain South Dobrudzha. The government thus faced a dilemma – risk Bulgaria’s occupation, along with a new national catastrophe, or join the Wehrmacht, gaining an ally that had already done so along its northern border. The news streaming in from the headquarters of Field Marshal List were unequivocal – the Wehrmacht’s 12th Army stood ready to invade “acting on orders from the Fuhrer and Bulgaria’s reluctance could do little to alter its path”. (5) Given the turn of events, is then the comment of US Ambassador George Earle, who described the LPN as “an act of obeisance to the Germans” not somewhat inapt? “Acts of obeisance” are not to be expected from a country facing the choice of invasion and loss of sovereignty or retaining the prerogative of independent policy-making, albeit within the confines of the Tripartite Pact.

Jews deported from the "new territories", the port of Lom

Jews deported from the “new territories”, the port of Lom

Whilst undeniably repressive in nature by reason of imposing a number of restrictions, the LPN ultimately saved all Bulgarian Jews and its comparison to the Nuremberg Laws is untenable. The Commissary on Jewish Affairs established in 1942 and the government decrees adopted in March 1943 served a similarly repressive function but do not alter the reality of Bulgaria succeeding in keeping its entire Jewish community safe from harm within its borders. (6) Prominent intellectuals, associations of artists of various descriptions, the senior clergy and a group of 43 Members of Parliament, including Dimitar Peshev – the Vice-speaker of Parliament – stood up in their defence. (7) Dimitar Peshev, in particular, was a trusted adviser and confident of the monarch and not likely to have acted on his own initiative. The entire country was gradually gripped by a wave of protests that drew significant numbers of dissenters, forcing the Palace and government to ‘acquiesce’ to public attitudes, although they had already resolutely terminated the first attempt to deport Bulgarian Jews on 9 March, i.e. 8 days before the first organised protest took to the society. After the cancellation of deportation on orders from the Bulgarian monarch, all further Nazi attempts in this regard were thwarted. The King’s intervention was resolute yet discreet. The Papal Nuncio Monsignor Roncalli knew Boris III well, including the fact that he did not espouse anti-Semitic views. The future Pope John XXIII noted in his memoirs that “He acted”, and as if to remove all doubt added in long-hand “I repeat. The King acted”. (8) Monsignor Roncalli saved hundreds of thousands of Jews single-handedly and on 27 April 2014 was sanctified by the Vatican. Bulgaria contributed to saving scores of Jews living in different countries in Europe through its diplomatic missions.

Comment made by Jacob Bar-Or about King Boris III before the Associated Press, cited in the US press

Comment made by Jacob Bar-Or about King Boris III before the Associated Press, cited in the US press

Bulgarian embassies were issuing transit visas enabling passage through its territory en route to Palestine to Jews from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Poland, despite strong German protests. Few documents survive from the period, but in his memoirs Monsignor Roncalli repeatedly noted that thousands of Jews from other countries were saved owing to the direct intervention of King Boris III. (9) His actual role in these events is corroborated by the testimony given by court advisors before the so-called People’s Tribunal. (10) Architect Jordan Sevov, special adviser to the King, recalled the monarch’s action in response to German pressure to ready a portion of Bulgarian Jews for deportation to Poland as follows: “He sped me on my way to Filov [then Prime Minister] to warn him to refuse. I told Filov that the King had refused to grant his consent and would not allow the plan to proceed. I advised Filov that the King did not intend to grant Adolf Beckerle [then Ambassador of Germany to Bulgaria] an audience, but should he raise the matter again the King would refuse”. (11) The Bulgarian Prime Minister, Bogdan Filov, received word from the King in the early hours of 9 March and on the next day the German Ambassador, Adolf Beckerle, wrote the following in his diary: “I have learned from Danneker and Wipper that Gabrovsky has ordered the immediate release of all Jews from the old Bulgarian territories and that the Commissioner for Jewish Affairs, thereupon tendering his resignation.” (12) In a summary report compiled by the German Embassy dated 5 April he added the following: “It is not unreasonable to assume that the Minister of Home Affairs called off the planned deportation of Jews from Old Bulgarian territories, acting on the highest orders’. (13) At the time, the highest orders could have only come from Bulgarian monarch. In order to forestall further attempts at deportation on the part of Germany, Boris III invited the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs, Peter Gabrovsky, to a meeting to discuss the Jewish Question. Recalling the meeting, on 13 April Bogdan Filov wrote: “The King appears to think that able-bodied men should be called to compulsory community service as a safeguard against the deportation of Jews from the Old Territories to Poland”. (14) The following is noted in the follow-up report of the Reich Security Service of 17 April: “The most important argument put forth by Boris III is the need to use Jewish labour in public works projects that require compulsory contribution. …In conclusion, it should be stressed that the attempts of the Bulgarian government to use compulsory community service is all too transparent and merely an attempt to obstruct the desired deportation”. (15) The Israeli Deputy Prosecutor-General Yaakov Bar-Or conducted extensive research of voluminous German records in the run-up to the trial against one of the main organisers of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, in 1961. His unambiguous conclusion about the role of the Bulgarian monarch in these events was that “Boris was a hero. He absolutely blocked Eichmann and protected Bulgarian Jews. …King Boris stood firm against deporting Jews of Bulgarian citizenship.” (16) To allege that in a time of war anyone but the Head of State could have decided the fate of tens of thousands of people is a plainly ridiculous proposition.

Although newly enacted legislation was undoubtedly repressive in nature, it is important to recognise its actual effect within Bulgaria and consider its applicability and enforceability within the ‘New Territories’.
We may dwell at length on the requirements laid down in the Law on Bulgarian Citizenship (LBC), which does not contain any express anti-Jewish provisions, but does stipulate that an applicant for citizenship must have lawfully resided in Bulgaria for a period of at least ten years (Article 9(1) of the LBC). (17) We may equally consider the respective definitions of an act applicable in an individual case and one that is generally and indiscriminately applicable, although Article 4 of the Decree on Citizenship in the Newly Liberated Territories “does not apply to persons of Jewish origin”. Similarly, the extent to which the restrictions imposed by the Law on Protection of the Nation contravene the semi-suspended Constitution at the time is a further point for speculation. (18) It would likewise be reasonable to question the legitimacy of the law passed by Parliament on 9 July 1942, which grants powers to the government to take any and all measures necessary to arrange the Jewish question and any related matter, effectively transforming the government into a legislative body. (19)

Yet another logical query would be to explore the reasons for adopting a host of decrees in lieu of a comprehensive law – similar to that laying down the rules on granting citizenship to the population in Dobrudzha – that would have enabled Greek and Macedonian Jewry from the New Territories to obtain Bulgarian citizenship. The Law on the New Population of the Dobrudzha was promulgated on 21 November 1940, only one month before the LBC and the commencement of Parliamentary discussions prior to the adoption of the LPN. (20) In the former, neither the King nor the National Assembly discriminated between different minority groups of non-Bulgarian origin in the newly acquired territories on the basis of ethnicity or religion. According to Article 1 “As from 15 September 1940 all citizens of the Kingdom of Romania of non-Romanian origin who, prior to that date resided in the territories conceded to Bulgaria under the Treaty of Craiova, shall be granted Bulgarian citizenship”. The approximately 600-strong Jewish community, which was mainly concentrated in Silistra and Dobrich, acquired the same rights and obligations as those of all other ethnic Bulgarians, Turks, Armenians, Roma, Tatars, etc. The law clearly demonstrates that the authorities had no intention of expelling Jews from Southern Dobrudzha, which Bulgaria had regained. No single Jew was deported from the area, which was subsequently recognised as part of Bulgaria by international powers, thereby enabling Bulgarian legislation to come into full force and effect.

In order to properly address the matter, the new obstacles to the continued pursuit of the same policy on the part of the Parliament and government that had arisen in the interim period must be identified.

II. Statute of the New Territories

After the German invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia in April 1941, the armies of the two countries suffered total defeat, effectively suspending the countries existence as sovereign States. As a result of being taken over the Wehrmacht, all territories and their population came under Reich jurisdiction. The Bulgarian army did not at any stage take part in military action. Germany and Italy, which had launched a military offensive against Greece in 1940, i.e. a year earlier, asserted their supreme military power and installed puppet governments, respectively headed by Tsolakoglou, Logothetopoulos and Rallis in Greece and Milan Nedić in Serbia.

A letter of intention handed over by Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to the Prime Minister, Bogdan Filov, on 1 March 1941 in Vienna. According to the letter “at the time of drawing the new borders on the Balkans, Bulgaria will receive access to the Aegean Sea—a territory stretching approximately from the mouth of the Struma Rive in the west up to the mouth of the Maritsa River in the east.”

A letter of intention handed over by Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop to the Prime Minister, Bogdan Filov, on 1 March 1941 in Vienna. According to the letter “at the time of drawing the new borders on the Balkans, Bulgaria will receive access to the Aegean Sea—a territory stretching approximately from the mouth of the Struma Rive in the west up to the mouth of the Maritsa River in the east.”

Acting on Bulgaria’s request, the Reich ceded parts of Western Thrace and Macedonia, allowing Bulgaria to occupy them until the end of the war. The territories in question, which belonged to Greece and Yugoslavia at the time and Bulgaria had consistently claimed on the grounds of having being unjustly severed from its territory as a result of the Balkan Wars and the First World War, were primarily populated by ethnic Bulgarians. Bulgarian diplomacy attempted to reunite them with the rest of the country by a binding international treaty to form an integral part of the protocol on accession to the Tripartite Pact, but its hopes remained unfulfilled. On 1 March 1941, in the wake of Bulgaria’s formal accession to the Tripartite Pact, the Prime Minister Bogdan Filov wrote in his diary: “We yet again stepped out into the anteroom. Taking turns, Ribbentrop and Ciano handed me the letters delineating in the future the Balkan borders and recognising Bulgaria’s exit on the Aegean – an area approximately stretching between the mouths of the rivers Struma and Maritsa”. (21) The exchange did not take at the official ceremony but in the anteroom. According to the letters “upon deciding the new borders of Balkan States, Bulgaria will be granted an exit to the Aegean – approximately between the mouths of the rivers Struma and Maritsa to the West and East, respectively”. (22) These were effectively letters of intention that had absolutely no legally binding power. Nevertheless, their content was to remain undisclosed without the express consent of the Axis powers. It is particularly important to note that the Bulgarian authorities let the Wehrmacht army troops cross the country’s territory not because of the promise of territorial gain in Western Thrace, but because they had no other choice. Military confrontation would have been tantamount to a national catastrophe.

A memo signed by Carl Clodius and the Council of Ministers setting out Bulgaria’s obligations vis-à-vis Germany and implicit arrangements are made for the entry of Bulgarian army troops and placing parts of Macedonia under Bulgarian administration. /p. 1/

A memo signed by Carl Clodius and the Council of Ministers setting out Bulgaria’s obligations vis-à-vis Germany and implicit arrangements are made for the entry of Bulgarian army troops and placing parts of Macedonia under Bulgarian administration. /p. 1/

5. A memo signed by Carl Clodius and the Council of Ministers setting out Bulgaria’s obligations vis-à-vis Germany and implicit arrangements are made for the entry of Bulgarian army troops and placing parts of Macedonia under Bulgarian administration.  /page 2/

A memo signed by Carl Clodius and the Council of Ministers setting out Bulgaria’s obligations vis-à-vis Germany and implicit arrangements are made for the entry of Bulgarian army troops and placing parts of Macedonia under Bulgarian administration. /p. 2/

The Wehrmacht defeated the Yugoslavian and Greek armies and on 17 and 21 April, respectively, the two countries signed deeds of surrender. (23) The German and Italian armed forces dislocated across their territory acquired the rights and obligations of conquerors as defined in the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare. (24) Bulgaria did not take part in the military offensive and was not have the status of a conqueror. On April 17 Hitler gave verbal orders to the High Command of the Wehrmacht allowing the Bulgarian troops to enter Thrace. (25) Following the surrender of Yugoslavia and Greece, on 24 April Carl Clodius arrived in Sofia. A lower-ranking civil servant (Deputy Head of the Commercial and Economic Affairs Department of the Foreign Office of the Reich), he was authorised to make arrangements for Bulgaria’s presence in the Aegean and Macedonia. Clodius met with the King without delay and followed up the meeting with the following report to Ribbentrop: “…Tomorrow, in a meeting with the Foreign Minister, I will work out the precise content of the written agreement. In my opinion, signing an official agreement at this stage is to be avoided. For this reason, I intend to solely exchange initialled notes with the minister’’.(26)(*) The “document” signed on the next day provided sound safeguards for German interests in Macedonia and on 27 April an additional protocol on the Aegean, much in the same spirit, was signed. Full agreement was granted for the unlimited exploitation of industrial resources, the provision of full range of accommodation, subsistence and other services to the Wehrmacht and mandatory exchange of Allied military currency, which had not value whatsoever outside occupation zones, payment for the use of different types of equipment and property, and taking over Yugoslavian and Greek debt to the Reich. Then, to shatter any lingering illusion that material benefits were to be received against these obligations, he added: “all confiscated property will be held in the name of Germany’’. Further down, in point 4, Clodius noted the following: “In the territories under Bulgarian occupation enemy property is to be placed under German management”. These musings are highly suggestive of the manner in which the temporary Bulgarian occupation (the German word “besetzen” was used) in the two areas was arranged. In the texts the word “occupation” was used a total of 8 (!) times, whereas expressions such as “the territories, which under a final settlement, will be given to Bulgaria” – 3 times. The sheets signed by Clodius and the Foreign Minister Ivan Popov (and countersigned by the Council of Ministers) were not drawn up in standard diplomatic format, i.e. on official letterhead, bearing the signature of the Head of State or endorsement by ratification by Parliament. However, they do reveal a blatant incongruity in rank – the signature of the deputy head of a department sits opposite those of a Foreign Minister and all members of the then Bulgarian government. The nature of the document will remain a cause for speculation in that it may refer to an agreement or simply to initialled notes expressing an intention that were to be signed as explained by Clodius in the report. They bear no similarity whatsoever neither to the Treaty on Bulgaria’s accession to the Tripartite Pact nor to the Agreement with Romania on the return of Southern Dobrudzha to Bulgaria.
Although it later became known as the Clodius-Popov Agreement, the “document” does not in any respect settle Bulgaria’s status in Macedonia and the Aegean. A more important question is whether a clerk of such low rank could, in principle, enter into an agreement conferring sovereignty over the territories in question. The notes effectively reveal the extent of the burden that had to be shouldered in exchange for allowing Bulgarian army troops and administration in the new territories. (27) The signed papers are in violation of Art. 17 of the Constitution because they were not approved by the National Assembly and practically are not legaly bindig for Bulgaria. However, for Hitler the provisions of the main law of the Kingdom are trashy details – the Wehrmacht’s force can guarantee the implementation of the signed documents. (28)(*)

4. Report drawn up by Carl Clodius for Minister Ribbentrop and sent form Sofia on 24 April 1941 in which he notifies the Minister that would not sign an agreement regulating the Bulgarian occupation of the “new territories” but would solely “exchange initialed memos” with Minister Ivan Popov to ensure German interests were protected.

Report drawn up by Carl Clodius for Minister Ribbentrop and sent form Sofia on 24 April 1941 in which he notifies the Minister that would not sign an agreement regulating the Bulgarian occupation of the “new territories” but would solely “exchange initialed memos” with Minister Ivan Popov to ensure German interests were protected.

The so-called “agreement” with Berlin had never effectively constituted an international treaty settling the status of the two areas. The conditionalities of the text were highly convenient for the Germans. It is effectively a guarantee for Bulgaria’s loyalty to the Pact on the strength of the promise of territorial acquisitions after the war, without as much as a mention of the rules of occupation. Put more simply, the conqueror could revoke each and every concession granted at any time. It is difficult to provide more compelling evidence of the party ultimately in command and having the power to decide the fate of occupied territories, which the Wehrmacht and German military forces never fully relinquished control of. German press and maps at the time designated them as “territories under Bulgarian governance”. (29) The political declarations and publications calling for “national unification” that appeared in the Bulgarian press at the time solely reflected the desire and intention to reintegrate the new territories into the Kingdom. Bulgaria invested billions in constructing roads, railways, ports, schools etc. with the hope that the greater the investment in the two areas the higher the likelihood that they will be permanently reunited with the rest of the country. No single state, including Germany, recognised Bulgaria’s ownership rights over the territories in Western Thrace and Macedonia. The frequently cited argument that land acquisition treaties are neither signed nor respected during times of war is untenable. Southern Dobrudzha was returned to Bulgaria at the height of the war and was recognised by all Great Powers. The fact that Bulgaria joined the Tripartite Pact, albeit acting under duress, does not fully rule out the possibility of territorial gain. At the time, Bulgaria refrained from declaring war on Great Britain, declared neutrality in the war between the Reich and the Soviet Union, did not take part in military action against other countries and effectively desisted from joining the countries at war against each other. So, the country should not be considered as belligerent. (30)(*)

The King and the government fully realised that the ultimate goal to be achieved was not temporary occupation but international recognition of the two areas as integral part of Bulgaria’s territory. After the war took a turn for the worse, they sought similar assurance from the Western allies and commenced secret negotiations in preparation for Bulgaria’s departure from the Pact without passively waiting for the adverse outcome of a post-war peace conference. Their efforts fell through. According to Great Britain and the United States the territories in question were unjustly conquered and Article 3 of the Cairo Conciliation Agreement tabled in 1944 contained an express condition: “Bulgarian forces, officials and nationals, to withdraw forthwith from all Allied territory at present occupied by Bulgaria.” (31)(*)

A number of historians point out that in 1941 the New Territories were de facto under dual governance. This is indeed the case with one important caveat – during the war the supreme power in conquered territories was in the hands of the Supreme Command and administration of the conquering army. The Reich was willing to share that power by turning over territories to be temporarily occupied by Bulgaria, without relinquishing its military primacy. Despite the theft of thousands of Bulgarian government and army documents by the Soviet Army in the wake of the country’s occupation by Red Army troops in 1944, which remain inaccessible, a handful of surviving written records reveal the German position on the status of the “New Territories”.

Fully cognizant of the uncertain grounds for the Bulgarian occupation of the two areas, the commanding officer of the Wehrmacht forces in the Aegean, General Eugen Ott, issued the following imperative orders to be followed by the Second Bulgarian Army: “Jurisdiction. Any crimes conducted by civilians within the occupied territories fall under the jurisdiction of German military courts which retain the right to hand over cases to be tried by Bulgarian courts solely after a review of each case has been conducted and to the appropriate extent”. He further had a firm opinion on occupation: “In the urban areas occupied by German and Bulgarian forces, command clearly belongs to the German army”. Other requirements included retaining the Greek police and allowing it to continue to carry weapons. It was further noted that the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander of the German Army had issued an order to treat Greek prisoners of war amicably and allow officers to continue to carry their sabres. (32)(*)

The hazy promises received in Vienna on paper [letters of intend] did not contain any legally binding covenants but enabled Hitler to freely interpret the future of the territories in question. The Fuehrer had decided to retain control over the territories in the Aegean to the East of the Svilengrad – Dedeağaç line and use them at an opportune time in order to persuade Turkey to join the Axis powers. A year later, on 31 March 1942, he made the following statement before the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht and the German Ambassador to Ankara, Franz von Papen: “We must win Turkey over as an ally – it is much more valuable to us than Bulgaria as it belongs to the Pan Slavic world. Following its accession to the Tripartite Pact Turkey would be our cheapest ally – a guardian of the Dardanelles.” (33) Wary of an Ally troops landing on the Balkans, Hitler clearly demonstrated that he had no intention of loosening his grip on the Peninsula. In Directive 47 issued in December 1942 the following special provisions were made: “The Commander-in-Chief of Army Group E (Süd-Ost – author’s note) will be subject directly to me” (i.e. to Hitler). (34)
Although the Bulgarian authorities gradually occupied territories in Western Thrace and Macedonia, the underlying tension and conflicts with the German forces persisted throughout the occupation. Existing problems were compounded by the loosely delineated border between the Bulgarian and Italian occupation zones in Macedonia – the so-called “Vienna line”, drawn at the meeting between Ribbentrop and Ciano, which was not attended by Bulgarian representatives at the “Imperial Hotel” in Vienna. The division line became a permanent source of contention between Sofia and Rome but has no bearing on the status of the area. (35)

A statement made by Hitler, describing Turkey as a much more valuable ally of Germany than Bulgaria, allegedly on account of the latter being ‘Pan-Slavic’.

A statement made by Hitler, describing Turkey as a much more valuable ally of Germany than Bulgaria, allegedly on account of the latter being ‘Pan-Slavic’.

The diplomacy of the Reich intervened unhesitantly in all matters relating to the citizenship of the local population, when Bulgaria’s actions affected the interests of Berlin. In an official memo the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Religious Affairs Dimitar Shishmanov wrote the following: “On 11 August 1942 I met with Mormann, the counselor of the German Legation. He handed over a telegram received from the German Southeast Command, which contained protestations against the Decree on citizenship in the new liberated territories, from 5 June this year. The telegram primarily questioned Bulgaria’s right to grant citizenship to the population in the newly-liberated territories before a dedicated peace treaty has been signed…the German Southeast command insists that the Decree be revoked”. The document had been signed by the Prime Minister Filov on 12 August 1942. (36) The German protestations concerned persons of Greek and Yugoslavian origin because the Decree did not a priori apply to Jews living in these lands. However, it clearly shows that the Reich did not wish to grant the Bulgarian occupation authorities the right to make independent arrangements, albeit they applied solely to the two ethnic groups.

In conclusion, the Reich had granted Bulgaria the right to temporarily occupy territories in Thrace and Macedonia without undertaking any commitment by signing a formal, legally-binding document to this effect, be it a treaty, agreement or protocol. The government in Sofia continually attempted to expand the remit of its power in the two areas, fully aware that Germany would allow it not because it cared about the historical claims of the Kingdom, but in order to keep Bulgaria in the Pact and use the Bulgarian Army to defend the Aegean coastline and maintain public order in Macedonia. The fact that the state leadership appropriates the right to introduce legislation is only possible due to the silent consent of the Germans, which by no means limits their right to revoke it whenever they deem appropriate. However, given the absence of any international legal framework, Bulgarian policy was fully dependent on the goodwill of the Reich and the power of the Wehrmacht.

Any concept of national sovereignty since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 to the Declaration on Principles of International Law, adopted with Resolution 2625 of the UN General Assembly in 1970, contains at least three fundamental criteria: supremacy, independence and international recognition of the state power over a certain territory. The secondary occupation of Thrace and Macedonia does not meet any of these three criteria.

German map of the Balkans showing the territories “under Bulgarian governance” (administration)

German map of the Balkans showing the territories “under Bulgarian governance” (administration)

Many historians ask the logical question whether the Bulgarian people was deceived by the multiple declarations made by politicians at the time, which could easily lead to assuming the ideal of national unification had been achieved. Regrettably, this question must be answered in the positive. A reality that was desired was presented as a reality that had been achieved. Records from this period comprise extensive photographic material showing the occupation armies and stamped documents on official letterhead, which makes the absence of any records relating to the status of the Bulgarian presence in the occupied territories even more conspicuous. The letters from Ribbentrop and Ciano to Prime Minister Filov, received after Bulgaria joined the Pact and the “Clodius Agreement” will remain deeply buried in the archives of the Foreign office on the grounds of a “strictly confidential” classification due to their content revealing that the Kingdom undertook a host of obligations to the Reich in exchange for an implied promise to obtain the occupied territories at an unspecified point in the future. The articles published in the Bulgarian press and the speeches made in the national Parliament at the time were completely irrelevant as far as the powers that be in Berlin were concerned. The lack of official documents governing the Bulgarian jurisdiction over the “New Territories” became the most closely guarded secret during the War whilst the government continued to act in the hope that they will be partially incorporated into Bulgaria’s territory after the final peace settlement.

III. Deportation of Jews from the New Territories

At the Wannsee Conference, which took place in Berlin in January 1942, the Nazi Programme on the “Final solution of the Jewish question” was approved. The programme provided for the deportation of all Jews in the European countries that Germany had invaded in the East and was effectively a plan to commit genocide. Up to this point Jews could still travel to countries where their human rights were not at risk, with the last ones to travel arriving in Portugal in the autumn of 1941. According to the conference protocol Bulgaria was required to turn over 48 000 people. (37) King Boris III and the government refused to comply with the demand. Despite mounting pressure not a single Jew was deported. This does not apply to Jews living in Macedonia and the Aegean for the deportation of which Bulgaria had not received any demands. The Jews living in the two provinces were under the jurisdiction of the Reich and their fate was effectively decided in Berlin. The Jews living in Greece and Yugoslavia could not be granted Bulgarian citizenship not only because of the prohibition laid down in the Law on Protection of the Nation, which had been enacted two years earlier, and the absence of any provisions in the Decree on Citizenship that would have made this possible. The Reich had no interest in the domestic legislation of the Bulgarian Kingdom, its main concern and argument being that the lands in question were conquered by German weapons, which entitled the conqueror to dispose of the territories and their population as it saw fit. It was Berlin’s benevolence that enabled Bulgaria’s occupation and the introduction of Bulgarian civil service and law. As already pointed out, at the same time the Germans retained the position of an arbiter of last resort on citizenship matters, even in the case of citizens of Greece and Yugoslavia of non-Jewish origin. The cited office memo written by D. Shishmanov is an accurate summation of the German position.

Terror set in across all territories under the Reich’s military control, followed up by deportations and cloak and dagger Jewish extermination in concentration camps. The campaign proceeded, regardless of whether puppet governments had been installed by the Nazis or Nazi-administered territories emerged, such as Austria, Bohemia and Moravia and Poland. Ethnic cleansing in neighbouring Serbia was a quick affair and in 1942 the country was declared free from Jews. During the same year, preparations commenced to deal with the Greek Jews living in the German occupation zone. Across Europe, the invading avant-garde of the Wehrmacht was followed by the special SS forces and the Gestapo, tasked with mobilising taskforces of local collaborationists. In addition, the German troops were backed up by military authorities and police, which were responsible for disciplinary matters in the German army but also maintaining order amongst the local population, particularly insurgent elements of special interest, including resistance movements and Jewish groups.

It is frequently pointed out that Italian and Hungarian Jews, and those living in other countries under Italian occupation, were spared. This is partially true in that during the first years of the war, i.e. until German army troops were dislocated in the territories in question and they passed under the Fuehrer’s command. In 1941, the Italian troops used the advance of the Wehrmacht on the Balkans to conquer parts of Greece and Yugoslavia, which remained under Italy’s full control until the autumn of 1943. In July King Victor Emmanuel and Field Marshal Badoglio overthrew the Mussolini government and in September they signed a peace treaty with the Western Allies who were advancing into the Apennines after a successful landing. The Reich army responded by staging a countercoup, returning Mussolini who became Head of State of the new puppet Republic of Salò and proceeded to immediately implement the “Final solution”. The scale of the deportations remained limited largely owing to the German troops being engaged in heavy fighting on the peninsula and thus unable to devote significant resources to this task – approximately 12 % of the Jewish population were sent to the death camps, with some being killed in Italy. Mass deportations were also undertaken in the former Italian occupation zones in Greece and Yugoslavia. Following the unsuccessful attempt of Hungary to join the Western Allies, in March 1943 Hitler’s troops invaded the country and brought down the government of Admiral Horthy, installed a pro-Nazi government and launched a retaliation campaign. Despite the intervention on the part of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, the Catholic Church and a handful of intellectuals, by the end of the year hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported and exterminated in death camps, with others brutally killed and their bodies dumped in the Danube. These events are well known and extensively documented and stand as a living testimony to the merciless brutality of Heinrich Himmler, Adolph Eichmann, Theodor Danneker et al. in enforcing the “Final solution”.

In the spring of 1943 King Boris launched a series a secret talks with the Western Allies seeking a total withdrawal from the war, along with potential recognition of the occupied zones in Thrace and Macedonia as Bulgarian territory. (38) The stance of the United States government, which strongly condemned German policy on the Jewish question, was well understood by the Bulgarian monarch as well as the fact that he would not be able to rely on a positive outcome of the negotiations should Bulgarian Jews be given to the Nazis. Despite Washington’s disagreement to recognise Bulgaria’s claims over the New Territories after the end of the war, the talks were proceeding in an encouraging manner. The Head of the US Office of Strategic Services, General William Donovan, drafted a Plan for Bulgaria’s withdrawal from the war, which was subsequently approved by the State Department and President Roosevelt. Setting off on a mission to seek Washington’s support for Bulgaria’s withdrawal from the war, King Boris would hardly have contemplated making a bad impression with heavy-handed repressions against the Jews or the deportation of people to the Eastern territories occupied by the Reich where it could be reasonably assumed they would be subjected to unspeakable terror. According to the opinion of the State Department, signed by the Secretary of State Cordell Hull and communicated via the Swiss Legation, the Bulgarian government was to refrain from “scoring points, which in the future would be resolutely detrimental to its reputation”. (39) The fact that in the US note reference is made solely to Jews with Bulgarian citizenship speaks for itself. At the same time, the King was forced to be cautious with the Germans, unless he was willing to put up with tanks and German troops parading, Swastikas in hand, in front of the Royal Palace. At the time, and throughout the war, the main concern of King Boris III and the government in Sofia was the possibility of inflicting a new national catastrophe on the country that would inevitably occur in three cases – a pro-German coup d’état along with the occupation; Soviet occupation or the country becoming a theatre of war. In March 1943, the situation on the Eastern front had reached a deadlock, the Red Army remained far from Bulgaria’s borders, and persistent rumours were circulating that Hitler and Stalin were engaged in secret talks over a separatist peace treaty. The Western Allies did not have the capacity to mount a landing on the Balkans, which meant that Sofia’s great concern was to preclude the possibility of Hitler taking an aggressive stance. According to Russian intelligence sources the threat of a coup and the subsequent installation of a reactionary pro-German government was real – a position that is clearly reflected in the following report to Moscow: “…the fascist movement Union of the Bulgarian National Legions led by General Lukov is plotting against the King and the Filov government in order to install a legionnaires government, proclaiming Lukov Leader of Bulgaria and removing the King from the helm of State affairs.” (40)(*) No coup was eventually mounted but given the strong apprehension of a Soviet concerns, it is easier to see the reason for General Hristo Lukov’s assassination in February 1943. The general was shot dead in front of his home on orders from Moscow. Colonel Atanas Pantev, Lukov’s trusted aide, was also assassinated by a militant group. The political assassinations were carried out by the Communist party in order to prevent Bulgaria from joining the war against the USSR. (41) King Boris III and the Prime Minister suspected the legionnaires of intentions to overthrow the government and aimed to limit their contacts with German officials or, in the least, pursue them in Berlin. In his diary, Bogdan Filov reports that the King “…Considers it appropriate that the ground work for a change in government will be done with assistance from Germany. In that contingency he would not remain in Bulgaria and play the role of the Danish King. The apprehension stemming from the possibility of the Bulgarian government being overthrown were magnified by the information he was receiving from his father”. (42) King Ferdinand had earlier sent warning of a potential complot on the part of the legionnaires and Berlin party circles, acting through Princess Eudoxia, and insisted that “we should do all that is necessary to prevent Lukov and Pantev from travelling to Germany”. (43) The regrets expressed by Beckerle on the occasion on Lukov’s death are strongly suggestive: “The assassination is regrettable because – although, as well known, we do not maintain (official) contacts with the national opposition – the existence of these absolutely reliable pro-German circles is of crucial political importance”. (44)

The emerging threat was particularly significant because it largely motivate the actions of the King and the Cabinet, which both justifiably anticipated such a turn of events, knowing how uncompromising Hitler and the Berlin elite were. The nightmare events that subsequently unfolded across Europe in the wake of pro-Nazi governments seizing power only confirmed what they feared. Regardless of the initial intentions of these governments, their countries effectively lost their sovereignty and their policy because an extension of that of the Reich. Armies retreated and fought within their own countries, cities were buried under ruins, and victims ran into hundreds of thousands. Hitler’s programme for Jewish deportation came under speedy execution.

When discussing the terrifying plight of the 11 343 Jews deported from the Aegean and Macedonia in light of the political and military state-of-play at the end of 1942 and the beginning of 1943, answers to at least three questions should be sought:

1. Were any possibilities available to Bulgaria to prevent deportations from the occupation zones?

2. Were Bulgarian statesmen aware of the terrible plight that awaited the deportees?

3. What was the role of Bulgarian officials in the deportation?

1. The deportations were initiated by the Reich. In a meeting between Joachim Ribbentrop and Minister Popov in November 1941 the German Foreign Minister stated the following: “He can be told even now that all Jews must leave Europe after the war. This was allegedly the irrevocable will of the Fuehrer and the sole available solution to the problem – a total solution, as partial measures were of little use”. (45)(*) As stated in a memo of the German Foreign Office dated 3 April: “Bulgaria has responded to our initiative for the deportation of Jews to the Eastern territories and accepted our offer of assistance”. (46) On the next day, in a strictly confidential telegram, the German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop informed Ambassador Beckerle about the outcome of the discussions with King Boris: “As regards the Jewish question in Bulgaria, the King said that to date he had solely consented to the deportation of the Jews from Macedonia and Thrace to Eastern Europe”. (47) After the end of the war, whilst interrogated in the dungeons of the Soviet People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), Ambassador Beckerle, who had been taken prisoner of war, stated that “Acting on order received by telegraph from Himmler, togather with Dannecker, a senior German official responsible for Jewish Affairs, and acting through Minister Gabrovsky, I completed the deportation of (some 14 000–15 000) Jews from Macedonia and Thrace who, in accordance with my instructions, were sent to Poland”. (48) Beckerle unambiguously identified himself as a main actor in the deportation. Subsequently, at the Frankfurt trial, he and the von Hahn, an legation counselor, were charged for the crime, without any charges being brought against Bulgarian officials.

In summary, the initiative came from Germany and the King granted his consent. It then remains to clarify whether any possibilities were available to the government in Sofia to oppose and what chain of events such opposition may have unleashed. There were essentially two paths to opposing the deportation – by relying on the instruments of diplomacy and by taking up arms. The diplomatic route was underlined by the rights grated to Bulgaria over the territories in question. In effect, Germany had temporarily ceded it rights to make use of the occupation zones until the end of the war, albeit those rights were never formally specified. The Bulgarian State did not acquire ownership rights, which takes us to the question who the party responsible for the population in the conquered territories was. Although the answer to the question may appear straightforward – responsibility clearly lay with the conqueror – it is compounded by the fact that it had granted rights for the temporary occupation of parts of the conquered territories to another State. The Bulgarian State had made consistent efforts to expand the scope of its authority and powers, including through the Decree on the citizenship of the population in the territories liberated in 1941, thereby effectively restricting the right of the conqueror to decide the fate of the population and met with strong opposition. (49) Germany strongly objected to Article 4, which stipulated a timeframe in which Greek citizens could apply for Bulgarian citizenship. In addition to the meeting at which Mormann stated that “according to the Reich whether Bulgaria had the right to grant citizenship to individuals residing in the recently liberated territories was a matter that could not be decided before a peace treaty on the territories in question was signed”, the diplomat made yet another unambiguous statement in the presence of Shishmanov on 9 December 1942, according to which: “Berlin, the Commander of Southeast and the German Ambassador to Athens believe that the Bulgarian government must amend Article 4 of the Decree on citizenship in the newly liberated territories by extending the timeframe envisaged therein by one year. …Mr. Mormann noted that he preferred an immediate and voluntary extension of the timeframe, rather than being forced to do so later as it would make it impossible for us to deport the Greeks who had opted to regain their Greek citizenship – a contingency that would inevitably arise for the simple reason that the German Southeast Command will refuse to release the deportees headed to the Thessaloniki-Aegean area.” (50) Under pressure from Berlin, well documented in three meetings between Mormann and the Secretary-General Shishmanov and a conversation between Bogdan Filov and Beckerle, the government was forced to give in and extend the period until 1 November 1943. These diplomatic manoeuvres did not specifically concern the Jews holding Greek citizenship because they were not covered by the provisions of the Decree, but categorically show the party that was in charge where the Wehrmacht had gone, even where the discussion solely concerned the citizenship of ethnic Greeks. It should be noted that Germany’s mouthpiece, Mormann, was a career diplomat who always chose his words carefully; was not ill-disposed towards Bulgaria; was not a member of the National Socialist Party nor did he ever involve himself in the war crimes; and became Ambassador of the FDR to Columbia after the war. The German insistence was clearly and succinctly stated in a letter from the Commander of the Inland II Group to Himmler’s Deputy, Ernst Kaltebrunner, who wrote: “The Central Security Service of the Reich has repeatedly put pressure on the Bulgarian government to deal with the Jewish question so that we can arrive at a solution both within the shortest possible period and to the possible extent by means of evacuating these Jews to the East”. (51)(*)
At that time, the national policy pursued by King Boris was to continue to maintain diplomatic relations with the USSR, despite the repeated insistence of Berlin that relations were suspended; ensure that the army did not take part in military action and refrain from displaying any degree of willingness of turn over Bulgaria’s Jews to Hitler. All this sparked discontent and gave rise to suspicions amongst the German elite. On 25 January 1942 Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of propaganda, wrote in his diary: “Several reports indicate that anti-German sentiment in certain Bulgarian Government circles is slightly on the increase. Especially Czar Boris is said to be playing a somewhat doble-faced game. He is sly, crafted fellow, who, obviously impressed by the severety of the defensive battles on the Eastern front, is loocking for some back door by which he might eventually escape”. (52)

In the spring of 1943, Berlin received word that rekindled its suspicions. The German intelligence intercepted contacts of the salesman Lyuben Pulev, who was travelling on a diplomatic passport, with the US Ambassador Earle who had travelled specifically for the meeting in Turkey. Pulev had been sent on an errand by the King in order to assess the possibilities for Bulgaria’s withdrawal from the war and the monarch was forced to play down the episode when Ribbentrop directly demanded an explanation. (53)
Having pressured the government to alter the provisions on the citizenship of Greek nationals and against the backdrop of Berlin’s suspicions, it is reasonable to assume what the Reich’s reaction to the all-important “Jewish question” would be in case Bulgaria decided to amend the LPN or the adopted Decree and attempt to grant citizenship to the Jews in the Bulgarian held territories without Germany’s blessing or independently decide to enforce a law similar to that enacted about the population of Dobrudzha without the benefit of ownership rights. Can a reasonable assumption be made that the powers that be in Berlin, gripped by dark anti-Semitism, would recognise and accept the act of granting citizenship on any grounds given the circumstances? The conclusion that the King and the government were attempting to deport the Greeks from the occupation zones and grant Jews Bulgarian citizenship and allow them to remain would probably cause the paranoid Fuehrer to suffer a nervous breakdown. Much less significant acts of opposition had exhausted his patience at the speed of light in the past. The backlash would hardly have been limited to stripping Bulgaria from the right to administer the new territories, given that the Wehrmacht’s tanks could travel the distance from the Western border to Sofia in less than one hour and the Luftwaffe planes – in approximately 15 minutes. A bevy of admirers and supporters of the National Socialist Party was waiting in Sofia, ready to be elevated to government and unquestioningly carry out Hitler’s orders. Bulgarian authorities were clearly aware of the limits of that, which they could achieve. The Bulgarian army numbered some 300 000 soldiers, with the potential to reach 500 000 in case of full mobilisation. Comprehensive studies show that during the WWII years more than 18 200 000 soldiers and officers served in the Wehrmacht. (according to the data presented by Rüdiger Overmans). This means a ratio of 60(40) : 1 in favour of Germany, excluding the armies of Italy, Romania and Hungary, which stood in readiness close to the Bulgarian borders. A comparison between the number of airplanes, tanks, armoured vehicles, trucks and other military equipment is all the more striking—approximately 100-150 : 1 in favour of Germany. If we take into account that the most advanced equipment was available to the Wehrmacht at the time, whilst Bulgarian arms were diverse and, in some cases, obsolete (the artillery dated back to WWI), we can exclude even a theoretical possibility for serious resistance, regardless of how small an army the Reich were to send against Bulgaria in the spring of 1943. Given the balance of military powers, repulse would be suicidal.
There is no single sound argument that may give rise to speculate that, if the Wehrmacht reclaimed or re-conquered the Bulgarian held parts of Thrace and Macedonia, the Jews there would not have perished in the death camps. On the contrary, the Nazis made a convincing demonstration of the fate that awaited the Jews in the European countries under the boot. In this context, the consent of the King can be seen as a purely formal act to developments that nothing could have possibly prevented. He showed a preference for introducing anti-Jewish legislation whose severity does not stand comparison to the Nuremberg Laws on discrimination and keep Bulgarian Jews within Bulgaria rather than open a direct line of confrontation with Hitler and set in a motion a chain of events that would either result in further territorial loss or a new national catastrophe. In either case the fate of the Jews would be placed solely in German hands with all known consequences. King Boris III shared the following with Queen Johanna, and Ivan and Marionne Stanchioff: “I will tell you what these poor people who I could do nothing to help were. They were former Greek nationals from the Thessaloniki area over whom I have no jurisdiction whatsoever and thus had my hands tied. But know this, ours will never be deported. I was afraid this may happen and took measures to prevent it: our Jews are dispersed throughout the country, in the remotest areas where their safety is assured, and will probably have to live in deprivation for a while. But there was no other choice!” (54)
The comparison to Italy and its policy of deterrence towards the Jews is inappropriate because Italy was one of the founders of the Tripartite Pact and was considered a Great Power by the standards of the day. Furthermore, it had fought its way to the occupation of Greece and Serbia. The Italian troops fought alongside the German Army on all fronts and its word weighed incomparably more as compared to that of Bulgaria, which had been forced to join the pact and did not send a single soldier to battle in neighbouring countries.

2. Hitler’s speeches and those of all senior ranking officials of the National Socialist Party consistently referred to the deportation of Jews to the East, outside of Europe, where they would be given jobs. Even the “Final Solution” agreed in Wannsee does not contain a hint about the forthcoming extermination. In its issue of 24 March 1943 the New York Times published the following: “According to present plans, roughly one-half of the deported Bulgarian Jews will be employed in agriculture in Greater Germany and one-fourth, reported to be semi-skilled laborers, will be allowed to redeem themselves by “volunteering for work” in the war industries of the much-bombed Ruhr. The remaining one-fourth will be transported to the Gouvernement General [German-occupied Poland] for employment in “work directly connected with the war”. (55) The Reich was in desperate need of workers, the military industrial complex had exceeded its capacity, thousands of workers from all countries in Europe were being hired, including from Bulgaria, and a rational use of deportees was a reasonable assumption to make. Society in Europe was clearly unaware of the extermination in progress in death camps and was not even aware of their existence. They operated under the direct control of Himmler and the SS in total secrecy and the terrifying rumours that would occasionally make their way into the outer world were dismissed as anti-German propaganda. The alleged extermination of Jews in death camps in the East was not supported by a shred of credible evidence and was likened to the allegations made during WWI, when the Allied press ascribed numerous terrifying crimes to the Germans. Subsequent investigations did not find any evidence supporting the publications that pregnant women were being disembowelled, children had their arms cut off, etc.

All parties involved in the saving of the 48 000 Jews in Bulgaria acted on the understanding that they were sparing their fellow countrymen from slave work in degrading conditions, which many would probably not survive, oblivious to the threat of death in the gas chambers. Even the Dimitar Peshev, the MP who launched the petition candidly wrote in his memoirs: “…we had information about the strict measures imposed by the Germans in occupied countries, although we had no idea about the scale of persecutions, the concentration camps and the horrors that took place inside their walls – all this we learned only after the war”. (56) It is therefore unreasonable to claim that Bulgarian authorities consciously saved Bulgarian Jews from a certain death. Likewise, it may not be alleged that the authorities helped the Germans in sending Greek and Yugoslavian Jews to their death. This is so because the saviour was clearly unaware of the pending death threat. The fact that the Nazis lied to the Bulgarian government and society, repeatedly assuring them that the Jews would be used as a labour force as opposed to being exterminated, according to a pre-conceived plan, soon after their arrival in Poland, does not in any mean that the Sofia political elite was complicit in the act of their killing. It is beyond the power of the author’s imagination to conceive a situation in which a Bulgarian statesman stands up to Hitler, Himmler or Ribbentrop with the accusation that a plan had been put into execution to commit mass murder without sound and specific proof of intent. It is nevertheless easier to imagine the consequences for Bulgaria of throwing such allegations against the backdrop of the balance of powers at the time. Italy did not deport the Jews within the Italian held occupation zone but it never even contemplated opposing Germany by offering a safe haven to the Jews from the Aegean and Macedonia, despite being a Great Power. Even Mussolini, a close friend of Hitler, was not privy to the deadly intent underlying the Final Solution. The new, Berlin-appointed governments in the former independent kingdoms of Greece and Yugoslavia also failed to display any measure of sympathy, although – at least on paper – the deported Jews were citizens of the two countries and nominally under their care and responsibility.

In a situation complex in the extreme, Bulgaria achieved all that it could. It retained its national sovereignty, averting the possibility of an occupation or a coup. Albeit dependent on the Reich, it also preserved its political dignity as a country capable of defending its own decisions. It saved its Jews but was unable to do the same about the Jews who were Greek and Yugoslavian nationals.

3. A further point to be clarified is whether Bulgarian officials were involved in the deportation of Jews from the occupied territories. To avoid speculation, the question should immediately and categorically be answered in the positive – yes, they did. However, that answer merits a qualification by looking at their role in the process.

The 1907 Hague Convention does not prohibit the relocation of large groups of civilians when necessary by reason of war. This is neither a crime per se nor has it been qualified as an intolerable act in Section III Military authority over the territory of the hostile State (Articles 42-56). (57) Killings and terror over the civilian population however constitute a crime. This is the reason why the Nazis, having found grounds for the deportations – albeit purely formalistic – in international law, maintained total secrecy about the subsequent extermination of deportees. The description of Jews by some authors as “hostile population” in the military sense is highly inappropriate. The Jews had never displayed any measure of hostility towards Germany. On the contrary, many fought in the German Army during WWI alongside ethnic Germans and thousands lost their lives. They fell victim to the “hostility” mantra due to Hitler’s paranoia and the raging mass psychosis that the National Socialist movement set in place. The analogy to the Great Britain and the US sometimes used (temporary internment of ethnic Germans and Japanese soldiers to camps) is also inappropriate, although used even by German propaganda during the war. The Reich and Japan were at war with the two countries whereas the Jews were neither a hostile nor a belligerent party; had no army; and certainly did not mount any armed resistance.

Established on 29 August 1942, the Commissariat for Jewish Affairs (CJA) under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Public Health was the principal regulatory body responsible for the enforcement of all anti-Jewish measures (excluding those provided for in the Single Tax Levy Act and the Counter Market Speculation Act). (58) The Commissariat was headed by Alexander Belev who was half Italian and a law graduate from Sofia University who had briefly specialised in Germany on the application of the Nuremberg Anti-Jewish laws.

The deportation operation commenced after the arrival of the SS Hauptsturmführer Dannecker. In his report to Gabrovsky, the Minister of Home Affairs, Commissioner Belev wrote: “On 2 February 1943 Mr. Dannecker came to visit me, accompanied by the Police attaché at the German Embassy. Dannecker introduced himself as the party authorised by the German authorities to arrange the deportation of the Jews from the Aegean and Macedonia.” (59) In his report Belev noted the willingness of the Reich to accept the Jewish population, the timeframes for deportation, the rounding up of Jews in camps situated close to certain railway stations where they would be turned over to the Germans, the timetables of the special trains to be provided by the Reich, and the baggage allowance (50-60 kg comprising solely clothes, blankets and food), etc. On 8 February Dannecker reported by cable to Adolph Eichmann, recounting his conversation with Gabrovsky, who “had expressed willingness to deport the Jews living in Thrace and Macedonia to the East with German assistance….Gabrovsky made it clear that the deportation of Jews residing within Old Bulgaria was out of the question at present. He intended to make intensive use of the Jews on public works projects. According to Gabrovsky, there were ten to twelve thousand Jews (including their family members) who did not hold Bulgarian citizenship… The task was the deportation of Jews from Thrace and Macedonia and undesirable Jewish elements from Central Bulgaria. According to the latest census data, there were approximately 14 000 Jews in the two provinces. Belev had made advance plans for the deportation of 20 000 Jews… it is strongly desirable that the handover be handled by German guards on Bulgarian territory”. (60) The report reveals that as early as 8 February the King and the government had decided that the deportation of Jews from Old Bulgaria was out of the question at the moment, yet Belev had plans to deport an additional 6 000 people from the country. Dannecker confirmed the Commissioner’s intentions, which he had skillfully suggested, in a new report to Berlin dated 16 February: “In order to reach the figure 20 000, in line with my proposal, Belev will resort to the so-called “undesirable Jews’”, adding “Even before the Council of Ministers adopted a decision, Belev – on his own initiative – sent representatives in Thrace and Macedonia to examine the possibilities to round up the Jews in camps”. (61) In an attempt to leave the government with no choice in the matter, on 22 February Dannecker and Belev signed a preliminary Agreement on the deportation, in the first place, of 20 000 Jews from the New Bulgarian Territories in Thrace and Macedonia to the East German provinces. The goal was to thus force the Cabinet to subsequently accept the total number of deportees to be increased to 20 000 by deporting Jews who held Bulgarian citizenship. (62) Census data revealed that the Jewish population in the occupation zones did not exceed 14 000 people. However, the Germans, with Belev’s assistance, attempted to force the Cabinet into changing its stance by fixing the number to 20 000 so that they could subsequently insist on that target being met, regardless of the citizenship of the Jews to be deported. The government managed to avert the trap that had been laid and on 2 March adopted a Ministerial Decree according to which: “The Commissioner for Jewish Affairs shall deport from the territory of the country, in agreement with the German authorities, up to 20 000 persons of Jewish origin residing in the new-liberated lands”. (63) The operative phrase was “up to 20 000”, which imparts a totally different meaning to the provisions of the Dannecker-Belev Agreement. The meaning of the provision remained “misunderstood” by Dannecker, Beckerle and the Bulgarian Commissioner. Taking swift action, Belev organised camps for the Bulgarian Jews residing in Plovdiv, Kyustendil, Ruse and Varna in order to prepare them for deportation to Poland. These actions prompted a response from the government – on 9 March Gabrovsky, without notifying the Commissioner, issued an order on the release of all Jews in the camps, which was carried out on the next day. (64) The provision in question removed the possibility to supplement the number of deportees from the New Territories in Thrace and Macedonia with Jews holding Bulgarian passports. It must be noted that the petition started by Peshev and his fellow MPs, which unleashed the protests that followed, was dated 17 March, i.e. 8 days after the order of the Minister of Home Affairs issued on instructions from King Boris III. In this sense, the Parliamentary protest and the ensuing protests organised in defense of the Bulgarian Jews had an important preventative role and were a strong argument against a potential new Nazi initiative.
Then the efforts of the Germans were focused on the deportation of Greek and Yugoslav Jews. With Belev’s assistance, Commissariat agents, police officers and other officials, they were turned over to the Germans at the exit railway stations agreed at the end of March/beginning of April. After the war, whilst being interrogated by the NKVD, Mormann clarified the chain of command: “To ensure that the deportation was properly supervised, Dannecker from the SS, arrived from Berlin to Sofia as special representative, and took control of the entire operation”. (65) On 5 April the German Embassy sent the following report to Berlin: “We can now report that 11 434 Jews have been transported. Out of these, 4 221 Jews from Thrace were sailed on ships from Lom to Vienna and 7 122 Macedonian Jews were shipped by train from Skopje. Ship convoys were accompanied by Bulgarian police, including two German Ordnungspolizei, and train convoys were escorted by German police.” (66)(*) Berlin was convinced that the fate of Jews with Greek and Yugoslav nationality was fully in their hands, with or without Sofia’s consent. This is the reason why they are not specified as a category whose deportation was imperatively required from Bulgaria in the text of the “Wannsee Final Solution”. Despite this, the Bulgarian authorities succeeded in freeing several dozen doctors and pharmacists. (67)

Belev had no warning of the forthcoming extermination of those Jews sent to Treblinka. In fact, he did not even know the name of the camp. He was not one of the small circle of insiders who included the most senior Reich officials, senior-ranking SS officers and staff at the death camps. Anyway, the zealous efforts of the Commissioner are shameful and inexcusable. His failed attempt to manipulate the government’s decision in order to do the German’s bidding by adding 6 000 Bulgarian Jews to the list of deportees is a repulsive crime – in both moral and legal terms.

In the surviving copy in Bulgarian of the Dannecker-Belev agreement the phrase relating to the new territories – Thrace and Macedonia – has been crossed out in ink. It remains unclear whether the document was falsified by Belev himself in an attempt to justify the higher number of Jews to be deported. The redaction sparked many a dispute, but it is hardly the Bulgarian Commissioner’s doing for the following reasons:

1. No paragraphs have been crossed out in the German copy (68)

2. The agreement was written on a typewriter by his secretary at the CJA and the Commissioner could have ordered the first page to be copied without a mention of the text that was edited out;

3. Dannecker did not know any Bulgarian and would have jumped at any opportunity to deport more Jews;

4. Belev himself had no one to show a document with part of the text being crudely struck off as it would have compromised its authenticity and validity;

5. Whilst being interrogated before the Seventh Panel of the People’s Court, CJA officials did not mention any text redaction.

The text was most likely redacted after the Fatherland Front seized power in an all-out smearing campaign against the Commissioner.

The Anti-Jewish sentiments of Belev cost him his job, despite his close connections with the Germans. He was dismissed in September 1943. His successor, Hristo Stomanyakov, did not exhibit any of his predecessor’s enthusiasm for the ideas of National Socialism.

An earlier change of the Commissioner, for example in the spring of 1943, would have only served to magnify German suspicions that the policies pursued by the government were not thoroughly inspired by loyalty to the Reich, with all attending and potentially dangerous consequences for the stability of the State and the future fate of Bulgarian Jews this realisation carried.

A draft peace treaty drawn up by the USA and Great Britain as at 31 August 1944, which stipulates an express requirements for Bulgaria’s withdrawal from all occupied territories.

A draft peace treaty drawn up by the USA and Great Britain as at 31 August 1944, which stipulates an express requirements for Bulgaria’s withdrawal from all occupied territories.

We thus have to ask ourselves whether the Nazis would have still succeeded at their task without assistance from the Commissioner and his staff. The answer must be categorically answered in the positive. At the same time the SS officers Dieter Wisliceny and Alois Brunner launched the deportation operation in Thessaloniki and the area [neighboring parts of Greece under direct German occupation]. With assistance from local collaborators, including Jews, they showed remarkable efficiency in loading 54 000 people in 25 German trains bound for Auschwitz. (69) The governments headed by Georgios Tsolakoglou, Constantinos Logothetopoulos and Ioannis Rallis, which came to power consecutively in the period 1941-1944, fully collaborated with the Reich. Different paramilitary groups of collaborationists emerged on German initiative. After the Security Battalions [Tágmata Asfalías] were set up in 1943, they increasingly grew in number, reaching some 25 000 – 30 000 recruits. The members took an oath of allegiance to Hitler and operated under the command of SS General Walter Schimana, taking an active part in the persecution and deportation of Greek Jews. (70) The National Socialist groups clashed with the Bulgarian occupation forces and plundered Bulgarian villages but were not sanctioned either by the Germans or the Italians.
The deportation of the Thessaloniki Jews is well known and has been well documented by the legendary revolutionary of the Supreme Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation Raphael Kahmi. (71)(*) The Logothetopoulos government did not take any action, despite the sharp protest letters in defence of Greek Jews from the Greek Patriarch, the President of the Greek Academy of Sciences, intellectuals, prominent public figures, etc. (72) Wisliceny and Brunner would hardly have encountered any difficulty in obtaining 5 additional trains to add the Jews from the Bulgarian held occupation zones to those from Thessaloniki, given the lack of assistance on the part of the CJA.

Deportation experience in Europe had shown that SS officers could rely on the necessary assistance from collaborationists in all countries and amongst all nationalities without exception. Hannah Arendt also wrote about the collaboration of Thessaloniki Jews (Judenräte) with the Nazis. (73) Subsequently, they were transported to Bergen-Belsen – a transit camp – from where most departed for Spain.
Dwelling on this tragic episode does not aim to justify the actions of Belev and his staff, but to reveal the true capabilities and the determination of the Nazis to follow through on their plan.

All subsequent demands from the Reich for the final settlement of the Jewish question in Bulgaria through deportation of the Jews outside the country were rejected by the King and his government. The last serious attempt is made in spring 1943. On May 20 Gabrovski went to King Boris with a plan prepared by Belev containing two options regarding the deportation of Jews from the capital: a) deportation to Poland, and b) resettlement in the province. After Gabrovski’s audience at the Royal Palace, the German ambassador reported to Reich Security Head Office (RSHA): “The King’s decision is to begin the resettlement of Jews in the province. Currently Plan “A” is abandoned”.(74) A new wave of protests follows in difense of Jewish population, and on 18 August Beckerle wrote to Berlin: “However, to date the Bulgarian government has resolutely opposed all of our suggestions in this regard and would not give in at present, even if we were to put strong pressure on it, particularly as this is a tangible expression of the policy that it follows’. (75)
In Bulgaria, unlike in other countries in Europe, the establishment of an anti-Semitic nationalist party was prevented, but even more importantly there was no clique with national socialist leanings in politics. After the deaths of General Lukov and Pantev, the more prominent public figures that tended to affiliate themselves with Hitler’s regime were isolated and unpopular. The government continued to maintain diplomatic relations with the Reich’s principal enemy – the USSR – and refused to sever them, despite unrelenting pressure. Berlin’s invitations to join the war, at least symbolically, fell on deaf ears – not a single Bulgarian army unit was sent to the war theatre. In the meantime, the staging of an alleged threat from Turkey – a performance that was mutually beneficial for both countries and was used as the main excuse to keep the army away from military action, was becoming increasingly more transparent for the German services. The suspicions that the King was looking for a “back door” in order to leave the Pact were magnified by the initial contacts with Western Allies in Istanbul by which Bulgarian was seeking a peace treaty. The Cabinet even discontinued discussing the repetitious German insistence to resolve the Jewish question by deporting the Bulgarian Jews to Poland.

Given the entire constellation of facts and circumstances, it is surprising that the Germans allowed Bulgarian to sweet talk them by the mere exchange of benign letters that produced no consequences whatsoever. Professor Michael Bar-Zohar recalls that Bulgaria was but a tiny bite for Hitler. (76)
Bulgarian national policy was able to mount a flexible yet passive resistance against the Reich. The King and the government defended sovereignty within the Kingdom but had neither diplomatic nor military means available to engage in an all-out conflict with Hitler’s regime in order to assert full power and control over territories that were effectively not under Bulgarian jurisdiction.

Bulgaria failed in the attempt to regain the territories that it had lost in Thrace and Macedonia, but can be proud that it is the only country in the Tripartite Pact that saved the lives of its Jews. The official statistical records of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem indicate the number of Jews that perished in each country in Europe. For Bulgaria that figure is zero. (77) Furthermore, during the war years the Jewish population in Bulgaria increased, reaching 49 172 people. (78)(*)



1. Държавен вестник, бр. 16, 23 януари 1941; ЦДА, Ф. 95, Оп. 1, а.е. 1, л. 120.

2. Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality Of Evil. New York: The Viking Press, 1965. P. 185 -187.
(*)In her book Hannah Arendt mentions, albeit briefly Bulgarian Jews and the government’s policy on the Jewish question. She assessed the anti-Jewish measures as follows: …”in January, 1941, the government had also agreed to introduce some anti-Jewish legislation, but that, from the Nazi viewpoint, was simply ridiculous: some six thousand able-bodied men were mobilized for work; all baptized Jews, regardless of the date of their conversion, were exempted, with the result that an epidemic of conversions broke out; five thousand more Jews – out of a total of approximately fifty thousand – received special privileges;”…“When these measures had been put into effect, Bulgarian government officials declared publicly that things were now stabilized to everybody’s satisfaction. Clearly, the Nazis would not only have to enlighten them about the requirements for a “solution of the Jewish problem,” but also to teach them that legal stability and a totalitarian movement could not be reconciled.” …”they take the first step in the direction of “radical” measures – the introduction of the Jewish badge. For the Nazis, even this turned out to be a great disappointment. In the first place, as they dutifully reported, the badge was only a “very little star”; second, most Jews simply did not wear it; and, third, those who did wear it received “so many manifestations of sympathy from the misled population that they actually are proud of their sign” – as Walter Schellenberg, Chief of Counterintelligence in the R.S.H.A., wrote in an S.D. report transmitted to the Foreign Office in November, 1942.”……“Under great German pressure, the Bulgarian government finally decided to expel all Jews from Sofia to rural areas, but this measure was definitely not what the Germans demanded, since it dispersed the Jews instead of concentrating them.”…

3. Ibidem.; Държавен вестник, бр. 16, 23 януари 1941 г.

4. АВП РФ. Ф. 059. Оп. 1. П. 339. Д. 2315. л. 29–30. Автограф. ; Българо-съветски политически и военни отношения 1917–1941. Статии и документи. С., 1998. с. 178; АВП РФ, ф. 06, оп. 2, д. 135, п. 13, л.8–9.

5. Бойдев, В. От юнкер до генерал. Спомени. – Летописи, 1994, No 7–8, 93–106. ; ЦДИА, ф. 1077, Оп. 1, а.е. 1, л. 77.

6. ЦДА, Ф. 284, Оп. 1, а.е. 8105, л.32-37 ; Държавен вестник бр. 192, 29 август 1942, ПМС №70, 26 август 1942 г., Пр. 111, Чл. 1, Гл. 1.

7. Пешев, Д. Спомени, С., 2004

8. Груев, С. Корона от тръни. С., 1991. сF. Documents on Angelo Roncalli provided by prof. Alberto Melloni, October, 2010. Doc. # 4.; България е моят кръст: http://www.24chasa.bg/Article.asp?ArticleId=1331074

9. PA. A A, Bestand: inland IIg. Bd. 183, Bl. 486304-486305. ;
www.raoulwallenberg.net/wp-content/files_mf/13106…ENGLISHcorrected.pdf; Коен, Д. Оцеляването, София 1995. С. 266-269.

10. Архив на МВР II, НС-10. л. 1–101.

11. Архив на МВР I, НС – 10, л. 1- 101. ; публ. Шарланов Д., Мешкова, П. Съветниците на Цар Борис III – Народен съд, С., 1993 г. С. 110.

12. Тошкова, В. Из дневника на Бекерле. С., 1992. с. 90.

13. PA.AA, Bestand: Inland IIg, Bd. 183, Bl. 486316-486319

14. Филов, Б. Дневник. С., ОФ, 1990. с. 568.

15. PA.AA, Bestand: Inland IIg, Bd. 183, Bl. 486341-486342

16. The News and Courier, Monday, May 22, 1961, Charleston, SC ; Eichmann 1961: Eichmann Trial To Point Up Aid For Jews By Boris. Herald-Journal, 22.05.1961. https://news.google.com/newspapers nid=1876&dat=19610522&id=74csAAAAIBAJ&sjid=W80EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6308,3032690&hl=en; The Trial of Adolf Eichmann. Session 47 /Part 3 of 8/. The Nizkor Project, 1991–2012.

17. Държавен вестник. бр. 288 от 20 Декември 1940 г.

18. Търновска конституция, чл. 57, 60, 65

19. Държавен вестник. бр. 148, 9 юли 1942 г.

20. Държавен вестник. бр. 263, 21.ноември 1940 г.

21. Филов, Б. Дневник. С. 271; Виж също: Протокол за присъединяване на България към Тристранния пакт, Виена, 1 март 1941 г., ЦДА, ф. 284 к, оп. 2, а. е. 216, л. 1. Оригинал. Машинопис. ф. 250 б, оп. 1, а. е. 48, л. 5. Превод. Машинопис.; www.archives.government.bg/[email protected]=59
22. Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik : 1918 – 1945 ; aus dem Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes.,1937 – 1941 ; Die Kriegsjahre, 5, 1. Februar bis 5. April 1941, Document № 114. S.167, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen, 1969.

23. Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, Bd. 1, (1. August 1940 – 31. Dezember 1941) Bernard & Graefe, Frankfurt am Main, 1965. S. 380-382, 383-386.

24. Hague Convention: www.opbw.org/int_inst/sec_docs/1907HC-TEXT.pdf

25. Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, Bd. 1, (1. August 1940 – 31. Dezember 1941) Bernard & Graefe, Frankfurt am Main, 1965. S. 381.

26. Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik : 1918 – 1945 ; aus dem Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes.1937–1941 ; Die Kriegsjahre, 5., 6. April bis 22. Juni 1941. Document № 393, S. 519, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen, 1969
(*) From the Clodius report dated and transmitted in the late hours of 24 April we learn that the ‘agreement’ with Minister Popov would be signed on the following day. However, that date does not tally with available Bulgarian records, which indicate that the agreement was signed on 24th April. This controversy gives rise to speculation the Clodius drew up the agreement himself, on the night of 24 April, and on the following day – 25 April – Minister Popov signed the backdated agreement without objection, so Bulgaria did not play role in drafting the text presented for signature. The proposition that the agreement had been drafted on 23 April and sent on the following day is highly doubtful.

27. ЦДА, Ф. 250 Б, Оп. 1, а.е. 48, л. 6-7, 13-18, 21-22.

28. Конституция на Българското Царство. С., Държавно книгоиздателство, 1945. http://www.hadjinikolov.pro/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Търновска-конституция-ФТП.pdf ; ДЦДА, ф.250, оп. 1, а.е. 48, л. 33.
(*) In November 1944 the Secretary-General of the Foreign Office, Constantine Sarafov, sent an opinion to the State Security Department of the People’s Militia in which he explained the anti-constitutionality of the agreement and the right of Bulgaria to refuse to obey its provisions.

29. Боздуганов, Г. България – военният трофей на Сталин, С., 2014. See: “Приложения”; Das Reich. Deutsche Wochenzeitung, Nr. 42, 18 Oktober 1942.

30. Tripartite Pact: avalon.law.yale.edu/wwii/triparti.asp
Hague Convention: HYPERLINK “http://www.opbw.org/int_inst/sec_docs/1907HC-TEXT.pdf”www.opbw.org/int_inst/sec_docs/1907HC-TEXT.pdf
(*) Following the occupation of territories in Macedonia and Thrace in April 1941, Bulgaria neither joined nor did it declare war on any State until 13 December 1941. After joining the Tripartite Pact the country gained the official status of an ally, which according to its obligations and the clauses laid down in the 1907 Hague Convention did not automatically make it a belligerent State. Its commitments in this respect were specified in Article 3: Germany, Italy and Japan agree to co-operate in their efforts on aforesaid lines. They further undertake to assist one another with all political, economic and military means when one of the three contracting powers is attacked by a power at present not involved in the European war or in the Chinese-Japanese conflict.. Put in simpler words, Bulgaria had no obligation to join the war waged by Germany and Italy on Great Britain and Greece, and do not did it.
The subsequent entry of the Soviet Union into a coalition of States at war with most countries in the Tripartite Pact did not automatically mean that it was at war with Bulgaria. After the German-Soviet war broke out Bulgaria declared neutrality and the USSR largely regarded it as a neutral, non-belligerent State, representing the interests of Germany, Romania and Hungary in its territory. Diplomatic relations were severed much later – on 5 September 1944 – when the Red Army invaded and occupied Bulgaria.
Similar precedents occurred with respect to the involvement of Japan and Finland in the war. The USSR was not declared a belligerent State by any of the Western allies, including at the time of its joint invasion of Poland with Germany or the invasion of Finland.
The extent to which Bulgaria can be described as a belligerent State after 13 December 1941 remains an open question, because the country did not join the military offensives against Great Britain and the USA despite having declared war on both.

31. Foreign relations of the United States diplomatic papers, 1944, Government Printing Office. Washington, 1965. Volume III, 367– 369, 378.
The exiled governments of many countries in Europe, including Greece and Yugoslavia, were seen as fully legitimate by the Western allies. Although the territory of their countries was under foreign occupation, there was an agreement that they should be reinstated immediately after the end of the war.

32. ЦДИА, Ф. 890. Оп.1. а. е. 22. л. 127-128.
(*) This document was used by the official Bulgarian delegation at the Paris peace conference in 1946-1947. Bulgaria’s post-war government presented a number of documents in order to demonstrate the supremacy of German power in the occupied territories, despite its highly negative attitude towards the country’s previous government. It is well know that most Cabinet ministers and many Members of Parliament were executed by the so-called “People’s Tribunal”.

33. Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, Bd. 1, (1. August 1940 – 31. Dezember 1941) Bernard & Graefe, Frankfurt am Main, 1965. S. 371.

34. Hitler’s War Directives 1939-1945 Trevor-Roper, H.R., London 1966. ;
Kriegstagebuch des OKW, Frankfurt am Main, 1963.

35. Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik : 1918 – 1945 ; aus dem Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes.1937 – 1941 ; Die Kriegsjahre, 5., 6. April bis 22. Juni 1941. Document № 378, S. 496 Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen, 1969

36. Дипломатически документи по участието на България във Втората световна война. Билярски Ц., Гезенко И., ИК “Синева”, С., 2006. С. 326 ; ЦДА, ф. 176 к, Оп. 1 ш, а.е. 385, л. 1-243.

37. www.ghwk.de/? lang=gb

38. From Hitler’s Doorstep: The wartime inteligence reports of Allen Dulles, 1942–1945. Penn State Press, 2010. p. 115. ;
Joint Chiefs of Staff/JCF/,Microfilm, Roll 51, File #108–118/117/ LO – LZ, “O.S.S. Plan to detach Bulgaria from the axis”, August 2,1943, ABC 384 Bulgaria/August 3, 1943/, Record group 165, Modern Military Branch, National Archives and Record Administration /MMBNARA/.

39. NARA DS, 874, 4016/69A, Telegram # 765.

40. Българо-съветски политически и военни отношения 1941–1947, Документи. С., Военно издателство, 1999. с. 48; АВП РФ, ф. 074, Оп. 32, д. 1, п. 112, л. 5.
(*) General Hristo Lukov was a former Defense Minister, who had distinguished himself during the wars and commanded great influence amongst army officers. He was the Head of the nationalist organisation “Alliance of Bulgarian National Legions”, which had more than 50 000 members and followers

41. Марков, Г. Покушения, насилие и политика в България 1878–1947. С., Военно издателство, 2003. 292–295.

42. Филов, Б. Дневник. О.Ф. София,1990. С. 521-523

43. Ibidem, с. 522

44. ZStA, DDR, Film 13307, Bl. 173816- 173817. ; България – своенравният съюзник на Третия райх. Документи. С., Военно издателство, 1992. Документ No 83. С. 114.

45. Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik 1918-1945. Göttingen Bonn -Frankfurt/M., Serie D, Bd. XIII-2, 686-689. ; PA.AA, Bestand : Inland IIg. Bd. 183, Bl. 486176 – 486179.
(*) At the meeting the exchange between Popov and Ribbentrop about the difficulties encountered by the government in the enforcement of anti-Jewish measures are frequently interpreted by some researchers as an invitation to Germany to step up the repressions against Jews holding non-Bulgarian passports. The actual words of the Minister were: “Many a Jew living in Bulgaria hold Hungarian, Romanian, Spanish or other passports. These countries, however, accord the same rights to their Jews as those of their other subjects and oppose the enforcement of the measures envisaged in anti-Jewish legislation. This is obviously a matter to be taken up with other European countries”. Popov knew that at the time the deportations were not under way in the countries in question and he was trying to avoid direct German pressure on Bulgaria, framing the issue as a matter to be addressed by a common solution. It is well known that in the bureaucratic hallways of diplomacy, agreeing on such a solution would be very difficult or practically impossible. For this reason, seven months later – on 19 June 1942, the German Foreign Office renewed its insistence that negotiations on the matter be resumed. See: Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik 1918-1945, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen, Е3, 16 juni – 30 September 1942, Document # 16, S. 24.

46. PA. A A, Bestand: inland IIg. Bd. 183, Bl. 486304 – 486305

47. PA. AA, RAM, F1, Bl. 0161-0159

48. Тайны дипломатии Третьего рейха. 1944–1955. М., Международный фонд „Демократия”, 2011. Стр. 46–54. ЦА ФСБ России. Н–20808. л. 34–44. Подлинник. Машинопис. Автограф.

49. Държавен вестник. бр. 124/10. VI. 1942 г. и бр. 59/17. III. 1943 г.

50. Дипломатически документи по участието на България във Втората световна война. Билярски, Ц., Гезенко, И., ИК “Синева”, С., 2006. С. 326, 337-338, 349-350, 352 ; ЦДА, ф. 176 к, Оп. 1 ш, а.е. 385, л. 1-243

51. This document was published in: HYPERLINK “http://holocaustteaching.eu/”http://holocaustteaching.eu/
(*) The request was probably sent by the SS General Otto Ohlendorf, a HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_people”German HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel”SS- HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gruppenf¸hrer”Gruppenführer and head of Department II/III of the Inland-SD at the Reich’s Ministry of Security. This is the department Eichmann developed the Final Solution with. Ohlendorf was tried, convicted and executed at the Nuremberg Trial for the murder of more than 90 000 people, mostly Jews, in the Ukraine.

52. Тhe Goebbels Diaries 1942–1943. Doubleday & Co. New York, 1948. P.47.

53. PA.AA, RAM, F1, Bl. 0161-0159

54. Станчов, И. Д. Дипломат и градинар. Мемоари. С., 2000. с. 153.

55. The New York Times, March 24, 1943.

56. Пешев, Д. Спомени, С., 2004, С. 216

57. HYPERLINK “http://www.opbw.org/int_inst/sec_docs/1907HC-TEXT.pdf”www.opbw.org/int_inst/sec_docs/1907HC-TEXT.pdf

58. Държавен вестник. бр. 192 от 29. VIII. 1942 г., ПМС №70 от 26. VIII. 1942 г.

59. HYPERLINK “http://www.bulgarianjews.bg/institutions/3/”www.bulgarianjews.bg/institutions/3/

60. PA. A A, Bestand: inland IIg. Bd. 183, Bl. 486285

61. PA. A A, Bestand: inland IIg. Bd. 183, Bl. 486293

62. ЦДИА, ф. 190, Оп. 1, а.е.8518, л.1-3.; http://www.bulgarianjews.bg/institutions/3/

63. ЦДИА, ф. 284, Оп. 1, а.е. 8105, л. 37.

64. PA. A A, Bestand: inland IIg. Bd. 183, Bl. 486316 – 486319; Тошкова, В., Из дневника на Бекерле. С., 1992. с. 90.

65. Тайны дипломатии Третьего рейха. 1944-1955. М.: Международный фонд “Демократия”, 2011. Стр. 379-384. ; ЦА ФСБ России. Н-20805. Л. 16 – 25.

66. НА БАН, Ф.111, Оп.1, а.е. 31, л. 1-3; А copy of the original German document.
(*) Ordnungspolizei (Оrpo) was the name of the centralised German police during the period 1936 – 1945. It was part of the Imperial Security Service headed by Himmler and at the beginning of 1943 practically became part of the SS.

67. PA. A A, Bestand: inland IIg. Bd. 183, Bl. 486309 – 486312

68. Коен, Д. Оцеляването, С.,1995. С. 205.

69. ru.wikisource.org/wiki Стенограмма_допроса_Дитера_Вислицени

70. Kalyvas, S. N. Armed collaboration in Greece, 1941–1944. Department of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, December 2007. Еuropean Review of History, Vol. 15, No. 2, April 2008, 129–142. ; The Two Greek-Jewish Holocausts 1821 and 1943-1944., Matsas M., Lecture that was part of the Yom Hashoa Event at the Sephardic Center, Forest Hills, New York on April 15, 2007. HYPERLINK “http://www.theopavlidis.com/reprints/matsas_3/YHLecture.htm”www.theopavlidis.com/reprints/matsas_3/YHLecture.htm

71. archives.bg/jews/82-СПОМЕНИ_НА_СПАСЕНИ_ЕВРЕИ ;
(*) Raphael Kamhi, military pseudonym Skander Beg, was one of the most prominent citizens of Thessaloniki. Recognising his honorable service to Bulgaria, King Boris personally intervened and obtained his release. Kamhi lived in Sofia until the end of the war. In 1949, he immigrated to Israel but continued to think of Bulgaria аs his second homeland.

72. HYPERLINK “http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/greekbishop.html”www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/greekbishop.html

73. Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report On The Banality Of Evil. New York: The Viking Press, 1965. P. 188-189. ; Виж също: Bernstein R. J. Hannah Arendt And The Jewish Question, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996. P.160-167.

74. Yad Vashem, К 207639 – 207645 ; НА БАН, ф.111, оп. 1, а.е. 38, л. 1-7. (Personal archive of David Cohen)

75. Yad Vashem, URO 190-192.; НА БАН, ф.111, а.е. 41, л. 1-3. (Personal archive of David Cohen)

76. Interview with Michael Bar-Zohar in the movie “49 172”. Plamen Petkov, director, scenarist Vladimir Ignatovski. Production of Bulgaria and the United States. 2015

77. Yad Vashem. The Holocaust Resource Center.
Faqs>How many Jews were murdered in each country?; HYPERLINK “http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/resource_center/faq.asp”http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/resource_center/faq.asp

78. Меyer, P., Weinryb, B., Duschinsky, E., Sylvain, N. The Jews in the Soviet Satellites. Syracuse Univusity 1953, The American Jewish Committee, P. 575.
(*) Statistical data from the 1945 Central Consistory of Jews in Bulgaria reveals that in 1945 there were 26 921 male and 22 251 female Jews in Bulgaria, or a total of 49 172 people.


Some abbreviations and words:

Süd-Ost – Southeast

SD (Sicherheitsdienst) – Third Reich Security Service inside the SS.

SS (Schutzstaffel) – protection squadron. Built upon the Nazi ideology, it is one of the largest and most powerful organisations in the Third Reich. Chosen to implement the Nazi ”Final solution” for the Jews.

NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del) – The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs. Soviet secret police during the era of Joseph Stalin.


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