Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bulgarians and the Holocaust

One of the things most striking about the Holocaust is how the nations of the world turned their backs on us. Jews were prominent citizens of the European nations - many of them patriotic who contributed to their nation’s prosperity and welfare.

When World War II broke out, Bulgaria joined the Axis powers allying itself with Hitler and his anti-Semitic Nazi philosophies. Much like most of Europe, the Bulgarian government leadership couldn’t care less about the fate of its Jewish citizens. So they started enacting anti Semitic laws themselves – acting much the same way other countries did toward its Jewish citizens at that time.

One might think that is the end of the story. But it isn’t. Sometimes people can rise as a group to the challenge. This was true in individual cases in many countries where righteous gentiles risked their lives to help us. But in those countries, the vast majority of citizens did nothing, or worse – actaully cooperating with the Nazis - some of them with relish. This was not the case with the Bulgarian people.

Someone just sent me a page from something called Candles – Holocaust Museum. Here is an excerpt:

At the beginning of 1943, the pro Nazi Bulgarian government was informed that all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews would be deported in March. The Jews had been made to wear yellow stars and were highly visible.

As the date for the deportation got closer, the agitation got greater. Forty-three ruling party members of Parliament walked out in protest. Newspapers denounced what was about to happen. In addition, the Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Krill, threatened to lie down on the railroad tracks. Finally, King Boris III forbade the deportation. Since Bulgaria was an ally of Germany , and the Germans were stretched militarily, they had to wrestle with the problem of how much pressure they could afford to apply. They decided to pass.

I guess in some cases it was more the rule than the exception to help the Jewish people. Bulgarians obviously never heard of the oft quoted Rashi  “Eisav Sonei L’Yaakov”. 

Imagine that! The Bulgarian Archbishop of the Orthodox Church was willing to lay down his life for us. If only the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Rome had done the same…


  1. An important book on this subject was published about 10 years ago:

  2. This is not a well known story of the Holocaust. It should be. Thanks for the information.

  3. historical anomaly -- the "bishop of rome" is the pope. thats his official title.