North Macedonian Jews: Bulgaria has moral obligation to admit responsibility for WWII atrocities

The Jewish Community of North Macedonia has reaffirmed its position in an open letter regarding the role of the Kingdom of Bulgaria in the Holocaust and the deportation of the Jews of Bulgarian-occupied Macedonia.

You can read the open letter below:

In view of the continuous attempts to impose only one “historical truth” in relation to historical events that happened on the territory of today’s Republic of North Macedonia during World War II, the Jewish Community in the Republic of Macedonia and the Holocaust Fund of the Jews from Macedonia remind everyone of the indisputable and accepted historical facts regarding the role of the Kingdom of Bulgaria in the Holocaust and the deportation of the Jews from today’s North Macedonia, and reaffirm their position:

1. During World War II, around 8,000 Jews lived on the territory of today’s Republic of North Macedonia and was under the direct occupation of the Kingdom of Bulgaria and Italy, which were allies in the Axis. The Jewish population living in Macedonia during World War II was under Bulgarian occupation. The Bulgarian pro-Nazi occupying authorities immediately implemented the antisemitic Law on the Protection of the Nation against the Jews, which deprived the Jews of all civil rights, dehumanized them, introduced the Law on One-off Property Tax, which “legally” robbed the Jews, required them to wear the Star of David, Jewish houses were tagged, shops were closed, businesses and money confiscated.

2. The Bulgarian pro-Nazi government, led by Bogdan Filov and Tsar Boris III, consented to signing an agreement for deportation of the Jews from the territories occupied by Bulgaria, but also from Bulgaria itself. On the 22nd of February 1943, Alexander Belev, as Commissioner for Jewish Affairs, and Theodor Dannecker, representative of Nazi Germany, signed the Agreement that first envisaged expulsion of 20,000 Jews from the occupied territories and from Bulgaria. According to this Agreement, on the 11th of March 1943 the Bulgarian pro-Nazi army and police forcibly evicted the Jews from their homes in Skopje, Bitola, Shtip,… and transported them to the temporary camp, which served as a transit camp, at the Tobacco Factory in Skopje – commonly known as the Monopol. A total of 7,144 Jews, which was 98% of the Jewish population of that time, in three separate transports (22, 25 and 29 March 1943), organized by the Bulgarian occupying authorities and the Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, with logistics of the Bulgarian railways, were deported and handed over to the Nazis at the Treblinka killing center. None of the deported Jews returned alive.

3. The Jewish community and the Holocaust Fund of the Jews from Macedonia hold the Bulgarian pro-Nazi authorities of that time directly responsible for the violent eviction of Jews from their homes, the looting of movable and immovable property, the deportation of Jews from the present-day North Macedonia, East Macedonia and Thrace in modern Greece, and the city of Pirot in today’s Serbia during World War II. More than 11,300 Jews from the occupied territories were forcibly deported into their death by the Bulgarian pro-Nazi government at the time.

4. The Jewish community and the Holocaust Fund recall with gratitude, appreciation and respect the Macedonian citizens of different ethnicities, known and unknown, who risked their own lives and the lives of their families in order to save Jews from certain death, and were declared righteous among the nations:

Aliparmak Boris and Vaska
Ribarev Trajko and Dragica
Siljanovski Stojan
Todorov Aleksandar and Blaga
Hadzi-Mitkov Todor and Pandora
Chekada Smiljan

The Jews from North Macedonia also pay due respect to the Bulgarian Church, the anti-fascist public, the 43 parliamentarians led by Dimitar Peshev and other intellectuals who, with their efforts, managed to stop the deportation and protect the Jews from Bulgaria – but not from the occupied territories — from the pro-Nazi Bulgarian regime.

5. During World War II, the Jews actively participated in the national liberation and anti-fascist war together with their fellow Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, Vlachs, Serbs and Bosnians. Many Jews gave their lives fighting for liberation from the Bulgarian occupation. One of them is Estreja Ovadia Mara, who was killed in 1944 fighting against the Bulgarian occupying army, was later proclaimed a national hero.

6. The current government in the Republic of Bulgaria has a moral obligation to admit the guilt of its predecessor and take responsibility, following the example of many European countries that were on the wrong side during World War II, for the atrocities committed by their predecessors, the pro-Nazi government, against the Jewish population in the occupied territories during World War II.

The Republic of Bulgaria, by repealing the verdicts in 1996 adopted by the People’s Court in 1945 and by abolishing the perpetrators of crimes of World War II, is deliberately whitewashing its dark history and thus distorting the truth about the Holocaust committed by their predecessors against the Jewish population in the occupied territories. This is in complete contradiction with the IHRA definition of Holocaust denial and distortion.

7. We publicly call on the Government (or the officially elected political authorities – Prime Minister, President, Speaker of Parliament) of the Republic of Bulgaria to face the truth about the Holocaust against the Jews in the occupied territories for which the pro-Nazi government in the Kingdom of Bulgaria at that time was directly responsible, and to apologize and accept responsibility. The sooner democratic Republic of Bulgaria faces the painful and dark moments of its past, a reconciliation will be possible, because the denial of crimes is the first step towards their repetition.

8. This standpoint must not be in any way interpreted as anti-Bulgarian towards the democratic Republic of Bulgaria today and its people.


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