KEV – Komisarstvo za Evreiskite Vaprosi: The Bulgarian “Commissariat for Jewish Affairs”

Established to institute anti-Jewish legislation in Bulgaria, 1942-1944.

The Commissariat was set up following the “law to assign the government all necessary means to solve the Jewish problem and all the questions associated with it,” passed in July 1942, and government decision No. 70 (protocol 111 of 26 August 1942), which approved the regulation advertised in the government newspaper on 29 August 1942.

On 3 September 1942, Alexander Belev was appointed Head Commissar, and a council was established that approved the set of rules for the management and finance of the Jewish communities and the management of the “Jewish Community” Fund.

The internal organization of the Jewish population was based on that which had existed before the war: the central consistoria and the local Jewish community consistorias (forty in total during the war, including the communities in the “new areas”), with a special representative of the KEV in each consistoria.

The work carried out in the institution was divided into four departments: administrative, personal standing and professional activity, economic, and accounting for the “Jewish Community” Fund.

The aims of the Commissariat were to implement and enforce the anti-Jewish legislation (removal of their basic rights, imposition of economic and social restrictions, liquidation of businesses, confiscation of property and imposition of penalties, including the establishment of the concentration camp). In regards to economic affairs and the recruitment of men for the forced labor battalions, the KEV was assisted by the police force and other government institutions.

The main purpose of the Commissariat was to prepare the deportations of Bulgarian Jewry and to provide aid to, and coordinate with, the Germans. The peak of this policy was the 22 February 1943 Belev-Dannecker agreement to deport 20,000 Jews from Bulgaria, and the actual deportation of the Jews of Macedonia, Thrace and Pirot in March 1943 (11,434 Jews were deported according to the German report of 5 April 1943).

After the failure of Belev’s efforts to continue the deportation in two extra phases by the summer of 1943, the Commissariat continued to busy itself with the persecution of Bulgarian Jewry until 9 September 1944. With the entry of the Red Army into Bulgaria, all anti-Jewish legislation was annulled and preparations were made to put on trial those who had committed crimes against the Jews. The trials took place in 1944-1945.