The Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews in World War II

by Rossen Vassilev

1. "ADL Honors Bulgaria for Saving Jews from Holocaust," an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) press release dated February 13, 1998.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. While a lot of Americans seem to know the story of how wartime Danes saved 8,000 Danish Jews from the Nazi occupation authorities by smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats, relatively few appear to have heard of the comparable Bulgarian case.

5. The Central Jewish Consistory was a self-governing council of the Jewish community in Bulgaria, which enjoyed considerable administrative and financial autonomy from the Bulgarian government.

6. Dimitar Peshev (1894-1973) is one of a dozen or so Bulgarians officially honored by the State of Israel (in the so-called "Bulgaria Forest" at Yad Vashem's "Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations") for their role in saving the Bulgarian Jews.

7. For more details about this episode, see Frederick B. Chary, The Bulgarian Jews and the Final Solution, 1940-1944 (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 1974); Christo Boyadjiev, Saving the Bulgarian Jews in World War II (Ottawa: Free Bulgarian Center, 1989); Michael Bar-Zohar, Beyond Hitler's Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews (Holbrook, MA: Adams Media Corp, 1998); and Tzvetan Todorov, The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria's Jews Survived the Holocaust, tr. by Arthur Denner (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2001).

8. Those who defend King Boris and his role in this high drama tend to contradict themselves when they insist, on one hand, that he was powerless to prevent sending the Jews from Bulgarian-ruled Macedonia, Aegean Thrace, and Pirot to their deaths in the concentration camps but that, on the other hand, the deportation of the Jews from Bulgaria proper could not have been suspended without the monarch's blessing and crucial intervention.

9. Many Bulgarian-born Jews were outraged when Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova falsely claimed in a May 1, 2003 speech delivered during the Holocaust Days of Remembrance at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C. that Bulgaria's Jewish population actually increased during World War II and that in those years many Slavic Bulgarians wore the yellow Star of David in a show of solidarity with their Jewish friends and neighbors.