The Bulgarian Exception - a Reassessment of the Salvation of the Jewish Community
The salvation of Bulgaria’s 48,000 Jews from deportation and exportation is only matched by the salvation of Danish Jewry. Three main theses attempt to explain this extraordinary occurrence: the pressure on the regime applied by the Bulgarian masses, the efforts of King Boris III, and a synthesis of many factors. The Jews, mostly Zionists, who constituted a small minority (0.8 percent), played a modest role in the economy and were not actively engaged in the political and intellectual life of the non-Jewish majority. During World War II, Bulgaria was a willing ally of Germany. German troops were given right of passage for which Bulgaria received Macedonia and Thrace. The Bulgarians were never involved in active fighting. In 1940 anti-Jewish laws were promulgated and many restrictions were introduced. The Germans wished to commence applying their plans for the Final Solution and with the cooperation of the Minister of the Interior Petr Grabovski secretly began instituting preparatory arrangements in March 1943. However, an information leak revealed the truth and a bloc of parliamentary deputies threatened the Interior Minister with personal sanctions. The order was rescinded and an alternative plan was issued to resettle Sofian Jewry in the periphery. The death of King Boris in August 1943, the Italian surrender in September, and mounting Allied pressure led to a more moderate attitude and put an end to all plans to deport Jews. In August 1944 all anti-Jewish laws were annulled. In September the Red Army entered Sofia and Bulgaria declared war on Nazi Germany.