|Jewish women speaking to Bulgarian officials before deportation.|
Kudos go to Shelomo Alfassa who, by carefully combing through archives and historical records, has finally documented the dirty secret of Bulgaria: 13,000 Ladino-Speaking Jews deported to Nazi death camps.
There was full knowledge of this horrible act, yet Bulgaria had the chutzpah to stand before our Congress and testify that they never deported Jews. Shame on them for the deportation, and double shame on them for the lies!
Did they think this truth was so well buried, these victims so completely silenced that it would never come out?
Can the deaths of 13,000 be cleansed from history without anyone noticing??
Members of my dear husband's family were likely among those deported from Macedonia.
I have wept over the pictures of his relatives in the holocaust archives--many who looked so much like my husband, his sisters, and our children that I am still haunted by their eyes, their gentle smiles, and the way they stand in their pictures: a young man dressed fashionably leaning against a table and looking into the camera, an old man dressed in traditional clothes posed with his books, a young woman demure and quiet with her hands folded in her lap, two beautiful toddlers dressed in white with their dark eyes shining.
I think of them, in the quiet times in my day, and I wonder what horrors they went through at the end of their lives--Were the children cruelly separated from their parents? Was that young woman raped? Was the young man tortured, or killed trying to defend his family? Did the old man live to see his library burned and his family scattered, or was he spared those horrible moments?
They died in Treblinka. Now I know why.
Bulgaria--it is time to admit what you did.
On March 1, 2011, the International Committee for Bulgarian Holocaust-Era Truth, in cooperation with the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry, National Association of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, Kahal Kedosha Janina, The Sephardic Temple and the International Sephardic Leadership Council, will hold a public program in New York, which will call on the government of Bulgaria to halt their continued whitewashing of history.
Please visit alfassa.com/bulgaria.html for more information.
Revealing the Truth, that Bulgaria Sent 13,000 Jews to their Death
By Shelomo Alfassa / February 10, 2011
Chair, International Committee for Bulgarian Holocaust-Era Truth
On April 13, 1941, Bulgaria, a full Axis ally to the Nazis, launched a massive celebration in “Gratitude toward Germany for the liberation of Macedonia and Western Thrace, as well as other Bulgarian lands.”
The streets were lavishly decorated with German, Italian and Bulgarian flags for the “festive occasion” while 100,000 patriotic students marched to the German and Italian Legations, passing by the Royal Palace where King Boris III received the ovations of the crowd. The Bulgarians demonstrated their excitement and their loyalty to Germany by renaming streets in Sofia after Adolf Hitler and his top military generals.
A massive campaign of ‘Bulgarisation’ soon followed. The Bulgarians quickly deported Greek officials, they changed the names of towns and places to Bulgarian spellings, they swiftly invested large amounts of money into infrastructure changes including the introduction of all-Bulgarian courts of law, schools, churches and made Bulgarian the only legal language to be spoken.
They also commissioned, printed and issued nearly 7,000,000 commemorative postage stamps in 1941, celebrating their new lands. The Bulgarians proudly made Thrace and Macedonia, their ‘New’ land, their own.
Within two years, Bulgarian police and soldiers would force their way into Jewish homes, dragging men, women and children from their beds in the dark of night. Barely dressed, in sub-freezing conditions, they were placed into warehouses where they were brutally treated, starved, raped and terrorized, until they were loaded into box cars and deported via rail to Treblinka, where they were immediately exterminated. All of this occurred with the full knowledge of the Bulgarian government.
While it is frequently retold that the Bulgarian government elected not to deport some 50,000 Jews from Bulgaria to German death camps in Poland--what is generally not revealed, is that Bulgaria was directly complicit in the murder of some 13,000 other Jews from their lands of Bulgarian Thrace and Macedonia--mostly, Judeo-Spanish speaking Jews of Greek and Ottoman-Turkish descent.
Annually, through concerts and press releases, the Bulgarian government promotes the fact that they "saved" (did not deport) one group of Jews (50,000), while not disclosing the fact they indeed deported another group of Jews (13,000). This suppression of the truth makes a mockery of the 2005 United Nations General Assembly resolution (A/RES/60/7) which designated an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
This resolution—which, ironically, Bulgaria was a co-sponsor of—called for U.N. Member States (including Bulgaria) to “develop educational programmes to instill the memory of the tragedy” as well as take “measures to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education.” Conscious suppression is a form of denial—and on the eve of the second International Day of Commemoration, U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, declared that denying the Holocaust is tantamount to approving genocide.
The website of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria, provides nothing more than a simple 18-word sentence in regard to the Jews,“King Boris III supported the public pressure and did not allow the deportation of about 50,000 Bulgarian Jews.”
There is an even shorter sentence on the government website of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Tsar Boris III stood by public pressures and did not allow deportation of about 50,000 Bulgarian Jews.”
The Bulgarian government websites are silent about their brutal treatment, forced relocation and imprisonment of the Jews of Sofia and other ‘Old’ Bulgarian cities, and remains quiet about the 13,000 deported Jews from ‘New’ Bulgaria.
In the mid-2000’s, on more than one occasion, Elena B. Poptodorova, the Ambassador of Bulgaria to the U.S., made remarks before Members of the U.S. Congress, praising her country and how they “saved” 50,000 Jews. Yet, she never mentioned the 13,000 Jews Bulgaria deported to Nazi death camps.
There is only one way a politician of such stature can continually omit atrocities and responsibilities of her country, and that is by intentionally overlooking them. Until it gained membership status in 2007, Bulgaria desperately sought to be accepted into the European Union. On the world stage, it regularly revisited the claim that it had “saved 50,000 Jews” and that Bulgaria was “humanitarian” and that they must keep up their “respect for human life and human dignity.”
The Bulgarians used the story of the Jews they elected not to deport to their deaths as part of their supporting evidence that they were “humanitarian.” However, what the Republic of Bulgaria suppressed, is that they directly sent 13,000 Jews to their deaths when they deported them to Treblinka. Suppression of the truth continues to undermine the legitimacy of the Bulgarian government in their sincerity on human rights issues, even today, as it remains a member of the European Union.
The Bulgarians have done such a good job praising and promoting themselves, that several dozen Congressmen and many leaders of national Jewish organizations have fallen for their dishonesty, and today know nothing of the 13,000 Jews Bulgaria deported to the Treblinka death camp.
Very often, the contemporary media reports how ‘Bulgaria saved her Jews,’ but this is not correct. For the sake of history, the sake of accuracy, and the sake of the sacred memory of the Jewish men, women and children that were indeed killed, the truth must be told.
In Bulgaria, the Jewish community suffered, lived in tremendous fear, and many indeed died— just like their brethren in other parts of Europe. Yes, it was in lower numbers, and yes, there was intervention, but the outright untruths saying that Bulgarian Jews were unharmed during the war and during the Holocaust, is a total injustice.
It’s a shame of the highest magnitude, when preposterous remarks are repeated, such as: ‘Bulgaria refused to surrender a single Jew,’ and sound bites in the media indicate: ‘The Bulgarian Jewish community thrived while across Europe Jews were persecuted.’ These short comments are all too often repeated without revealing in full disclosure that Bulgarian Jews were indeed rigorously persecuted by Bulgaria during the war, and that while Bulgaria resisted deporting 50,000 Jews from what was considered ‘Old’ Bulgaria, it deported 13,000 Jews from ‘New’ Bulgaria to Nazi death camps in Poland. In the latter, ‘New’ Bulgaria, Thrace and Macedonia, Bulgarian soldiers and Bulgarian police officers sent these defenseless people on their final journey—to Treblinka, Poland where they were murdered.
Seventy years have passed since the Bulgarian government signed the fatal pact with Nazi Germany. It’s time the Bulgarian government ends their continued whitewashing, conscience suppression and inaccuracies regarding Bulgaria its treatment of the Jewish people during the Holocaust-era.