Bulgaria

Historical Background

Bulgarian soldier supervising Jews boarding the deportation train, Thrace, March 1943 Bulgarian soldier supervising Jews boarding the deportation train, Thrace, March 1943

In March 1941 Bulgaria allied itself with Nazi Germany and was rewarded with parts of Greek Thrace and Yugoslavian Macedonia, which both had Jewish populations. Following its patron’s lead, the Bulgarian government promulgated racial laws against its Jewish citizens. Although these laws were not strictly enforced, the Bulgarian authorities deported Jewish men to forced labor camps around the country and in the middle of 1942 required Jews to wear the Jewish star. In early 1943 the government acceded to Germany’s demands to deport the Jews of Thrace and Macedonia to the extermination camps in Poland and prepared for the first deportation from Bulgaria itself. A group of parliamentarians, church leaders, public figures and ordinary citizens came together and pressured the king and his government not to comply.

On May 24 the plan for the deportation of 48,000 Bulgarian Jews was revoked and Bulgaria’s Jews survived the war. At the same time, over 11,000 Jews of Thrace and Macedonia were deported by the Bulgarians to Poland. Only a few hundred of them survived.