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.
Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire for almost 500 years (1396-1878). Compared to other societies of the time, Ottoman rulers were far more tolerant to their Jewish subjects. Ottoman Bulgaria was incredibly diverse, its society comprised of Muslims, Armenian Christinans, Bulgarian orthodox observers, Roma, and Tatars. Learn more about Ottoman rule in Bulgaria here.
Compared to other societies in Europe, where the situation for Jews was more dire, Bulgarian society was uniquely lacking anti-Semitism. Read about the history of Jewish life in Bulgaria here.
The history of Bulgaria during the Second World War is complicated and remains a point of controversy today. This article from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provides insight into the history of Bulgaria during the Second World War.