Bulgaria Marks Uneasy Anniversary of Jewish Community’s Rescue in WWII

Lawyer, Speaker of Parliament and Minister of Justice Dimitar Peshev, one of the major figures to oppose the deportation of Bulgarian Jews. Photo: Bulgarian National Television.

On March 9, Bulgaria marks the 80th anniversary of the rescue of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from threatened deportation to Nazi Germany during World War II - but members of the Jewish community complain that the memory of the thousands of Jews who perished nevertheless is disregarded. 

The day commemorates King Boris III of Bulgaria's decision to stop deportations to Nazi concentration camps under pressure from parliament, local intellectuals and the Orthodox Church.

The ruling on March 9 1943 was made despite Bulgaria being an ally to Nazi Germany in the war, over the promise of border enlargement, and despite previously enacting the anti-Semitic Law for Protection of the Nation. 

This led to a dispute with Nazi Germany, as well as internal political tensions in Bulgaria. Later the same year, on 28 August, King Boris died unexpectedly after returning in Sofia from a heated meeting with Adolf Hitler on August 8, with his death prompting much speculation.

Numerous commemorative events, including marches, exhibitions, screenings of documentary movies and historical conferences will take place in various towns on Thursday under the patronage of President Rumen Radev.

But Bulgaria's benign version of those events from World War II has been challenged, as over 11,000 Jews from the Bulgarian-occupied zone in present-day North Macedonia were sent to the concentration camps in the first days of March 1943, before King Boris halted further deportations.

Some argue that the silence around those who were handed over to German custody casts a shadow over the...

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