World War II is known to be one of the deadliest wars in history. With Hitler and his followers in power, they seized and conquered many parts of Germany. But one country in particular stood out from the rest and that was Bulgaria. This country didn’t follow Hitler’s plan and did not allow the exportation of many Jews. Because of Bulgaria’s resistance in sending the Jews to the camps, thousands of them were able to survive.
To begin with, Bulgaria is a small country in southeastern Europe. At the beginning of World War II, it had a population of 7 million and approximately 50,000 Jews in the Jewish community. The government of the country refused to join the the Axis during World War I but they were unfortunately forced too and as a result they had to be allied with the rest of Germany. Following after World War I, Adolf Hitler went around and captured as many Jewish people as he could with the help of his followers. Gaining power and control of many parts of Germany including Bulgaria many people lost their lives. This event became known as World War II.
World war II started in 1939 and ended in 1945 resulting in the death of 6 million Jews. The battle area of this catastrophic war spread from all over parts of Europe to southeast Asia and even the seas. “It killed more people, destroyed more property, and disrupted more lives than any other war in history (“World War” 1).”
The war began when the Germans invaded Poland and later moved to Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, and France. Afterwards the Nazis captured the Jews from all over parts and were deported, later on being put in concentration camps. Bulgaria had imported Jews from Thrace which were later transferred to Vienna and shipped by trains to Auschwitz. King Boris III strongly supported the alliance between Bulgaria and Nazi Germany and prepared the deported of jews. He ruled Bulgaria from 1918 to 1943 and supported the alliance between Germany and Bulgaria. “Most have not explored the complex factors that enabled their rescue or the role played by King Boris III, whose death after a visit to Hitler in Germany left an aura of mystery and maybe even heroism (Dalia, 20).” King Boris III ruled Bulgaria until his mysterious death in August 1943 but before his death, he signed an order that gave the government a free hand in solving the Jewish problem.
Theodore Dannacker was another person who was well known for his historic actions and was sent to Bulgaria by King Boris III to help him with the current situation. “Theodore Dannacker, who gained much experience in the deportation of the Jews in France, was sent to Bulgaria where he began to take the necessary steps prior to the country’s deportations (Dalia, 18).” He decided to go along with the plan to help Bulgaria deport its Jews. Many of them were sent to Treblinka where they were murdered while others were sent to other camps. At that time, there were hardly any attempts to stop or delay the deportation and as time went by the conditions as well as the violence that took place within the camps were not kept in privacy from the public.
Shortly after, Alexander Belev who strongly identified with the pro-Nazi policy, had a plan to deport all the fifty thousand Jews living in the Kingdom and was famous with his anti semitic and strongly nationalistic views. He worked with King Boris III and was able to sign a contract that approved the deportations of Jews. Belev had his plan in detail, focusing on food, health services, police control, and transportation. The trains would transport about 10,000 jews a week and in other places, Jews would be put in camps for a short period of time.
Although they were ready to be deported, they weren’t since many of the Jewish leaders of the community received the news. They were angered and as a result, they started protesting, putting the king on defense. Instead of the Jews being deported to the east, they were asked to leave the the major cities and capitals. Later, they were put in residences. All men and women who worked were put on labor and considering the hardships they had to go through, many of them were relieved from going to the death camps.
In addition, many of the Jews and Jewish leaders were thankful and honored Bulgaria for their heroic duties although the Jewish people went through a lot, they were saved since many stepped up and didn’t want to join Hitler’s team. “Bulgaria’s refusal to heed Nazi orders saved all of its 48,000 Jews from being deported to death camps (“Bulgaria praised for saving its Jews” 4). Because of the effects the enemies put on the Jews, they felt the need to punish those who were involved with Hitler. The Bulgarian Jews were a special case of state rescue. This pushed the government and the king to change their views and policies and help with the rescue. To delay the deportation of Jews, King Boris III and other political leaders decided to spare some of its 25,000 Jews and put the male Jews to work as laborers to build roads and other projects.
In conclusion, Bulgaria had its ups and downs throughout the war, first deporting its Jews because they were forced to and later on delaying as well as halting the deportations due to controversy between people who found it wrong. This made Bulgaria make decisions that saved thousands of Jews, making this country different from others. Although Jewish people had to suffer a lot, a lot of them were happy and relieved because they were saved from being transferred to the death camps as Hitler ordered many countries to do so.