Bulgaria, the Jews and the Shoah #general


Leon Taranto
 

The Bulgarians were feeding you propaganda. The true story is far more complex
and there are few heroes in the story - certainly not the wartime Bulgarian
Government or its people generally. I'm not the best person to provide the
explanation, but perhaps some of the following will shed some light on the issue.

The fascist Government that ran Bulgarian collaborated with the Nazi plans for the
Shoah. Bulgaria arrested all the Jews in the areas of Thrace (northeast Greece)
and Macedonia that it occupied - and handed them over to the Germans, for shipment
to the death camps where most perished (especially at Treblinka) or in transit
(sinking of barges on the Danube). Bulgaria had agreed to allow the Germans to
deport thousands of Bulgarian Jews to the death camps as well, and the plans were
cancelled at the last minute, virtually on the eve of the first scheduled
deportation, because of the heroic intervention of the Deputy (#2 man) in the
Bulgarian parliament and a member of the ruling fascist party. His name was
Dimitar PESHEV. Others were involved as well, including two leaders of the
Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Eventually the King switched >from accomodating the
ruling fascists in the planned deportations to frustrating the effort by saying he
needed to keep his Jews in Bulgaria for labor work.

Bulgaria Jews were sent to work camps even before the deportation plans were
underway, and thousands of Jews were forced to leave Sofia, the capital. Also,
there was much confiscation of property. Though Bulgarian Jewry survived the war
intact, the entire experience was harrowing and bitter enough to prompt the vast
majority of them to leave for the newborn state of Israel after the war.

You can read a bit more about this on the site re Peshev:
www.peshev.org

There are also several books, including one by Michael Bar-Zohar ("Beyond Hitler's
Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews") which makes for great reading
(though it has been criticized as putting the Bulgarian people, etc., in a more
favorable light than historically warranted). There are a couple of other books
as well, and a number of articles, though I'm conversant with little of that
literature. But there is no question though that Dimitar PESHEV was a hero,
assembling a strong minority of the parliamentarians >from the ruling fascist party
to press against the deportations, and that two of the Church leaders also tried
to stop the deportation of the almost 50,000 Jews of old Bulgaria. But Bulgaria
was responsible for the deportation (and ultimately the Germans' execution of)
over 10,000 Jews of Macedonia and Thrace (the number might be closer to 20,000 -
somehow I'm thinking between 12,000 and 18,000 but can't recall offhand).

Leon Taranto
Rockville, Maryland

In an 8 Oct 2005 post on Bulgarian Jews, Stan Golembe <ocstan@...> wrote

"in WWII Bulgaria was on the side of Germany. When Hitler sent orders that the
government should round up all Jews for deportation, the Bulgarian people and
government refused. The head of Bulgarian government said he would lie down across
the tracks himself to prevent a train >from leaving.
Thus the Jews of Bulgaria were saved"

Does anyone know whether this is true or were we just being handed some
propaganda? >>

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