The History of Bulgarian Jewry during the Holocaust

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If 48,000 Jews lived in Bulgaria before the Holocaust and nearly all of them were alive at the end of the Second World War, how could that not be called a rescue?  The answer is fascinating and complex.  Nearly 12,000 Jews in Bulgarian-occupied Greece and Yugoslavia were in fact, deported to their deaths--and it was carried out by the Bulgarian police at the order of the Bulgarian government. 
But when it came time to deport Jews from historic Bulgaria, something happened.  Through a mixture of luck, good friends and civil courage, Bulgaria's Jews were not sent away in March 1943 to the Nazi death camps.  Two months later, however, 20,000 Jews from Sofia were deported internally, where they worked in forced labor, were stripped of their assets, and lived in terrible conditions. 
This short film provides a context to one of the least known stories of the Holocaust.

 
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USHMM article on the history of Bulgaria during the Second World War.

On January 20, 1942, several high representatives of Nazi Germany met in a mansion in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee, to discuss the systematic annihilation of Europe's Jewry. This infamous meeting became known as the Wannsee Conference , and their decisions on the fate of the Jewish people was coined by themselves "the Final Solution". You can read about it here.

An article from Britannica Online Encyclopedia on Bulgaria´s early communist era.

history of the Yellow Badge, which Jews were forced to wear since 1938.

A website with some useful information on Bulgarian Jewish history.

Historical footage of the deportation of Jews from Macedonia, which was occupied by Bulgaria during World War Two.

A brief summary of Bulgaria´s history, provided by the International Business Center at Michigan State University.

Read this article by the Jewish Virtual Library on the history of Bulgaria.

While it is true that Bulgarians saved their Jewish population from deportation to the death camps, the Bulgarian government did round up, and deport, Jews from the two countries they occupied during the Second World War: Macedonia (which had been one of the Yugoslav republics) and the Greek province of Thrace. Here is an essay on those deportations.

After the Second World War, however, Bulgaria's Communist leaders often tried to deny the existence of minority groups by manipulating or suppressing census data or by forcibly assimilating "undesirable" groups. After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, minorities progressed somewhat in self-determination and freedom of expression. To learn more, go to this website by the US Library of Congress and select "Ethnographic characteristics".

 

 
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Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust. An article by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Jewish World and the Holocaust. An article provided by Yad Vashem.

To learn more about the Holocaust remembrance memorial "Yad Va-shem" that is located in Jerusalem, and to find out about the original meaning of the museum´s name, read this article.

To find out more about the Sephardic Jews, read this Jewish Virtual Library essay on Sephardim.

Have a look at the Encyclopaedia Judaica to find out more about history of Bulgarian Jews.

Go on a Jewish History Tour of Bulgaria at the Virtual Jewish Library.

Compared to other countries, there was less anti-Semitic resentment felt in Bulgaria until the Second World War, as Jews were an integral part of Bulgarian society. Find out about the role Jews assumed before and during the Second World War and why the fate of Bulgaria’s Jews was somehow different. Read this excerpt from Manus Midlarsky´s book: "The Killing Trap. Genocide in the 20th Century".

Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust. An article by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

This publication gives an overview of the history of Bulgarian Jewry. 

If you want to find out more about different epochs of Bulgarian Jewish history, e.g. the post-war period, check out this Jewish Virtual Library website.

A history of Jewish life in Bulgaria, from The Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture.

 

 
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A collection of Centropa´s pictures from Bulgaria, showing youth group activities.

Learn more about Macedonia during the Second World War.

Read an arcticle on Greece in the Second World War.

Learn more about Forced labour camps in Communist Bulgaria.

In the following links you will find various different maps: maps of Bulgaria and of Bulgaria during WWII, maps of Macedonia and of Macedonia during WWII, maps of Greece and of Greece during WWII.

 

 

Film Details

  • Duration:
    00:11:01
    Countries:
    Bulgaria

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