(Since 1979 involved with issues concerning saving of Bulgaria’s Jews including Prof. Michael Bar-Zohar’s book “Beyond Hitler’s Grasp” and Essay program in Bulgaria on the rescue based on Bar – Zohar’s book).
It becomes very evident that efforts are made to ignore the role of King Boris III during the events in Bulgaria marking the 70th anniversary of Saving Bulgaria’s Jews from the Nazi Holocaust. It was also clear that when honors were bestowed they were directed to the following: Dimitar Peshev, Civic leaders from Kustendil, Exarch Stefan, and Petriarch Kiril. The Tsar was left in a total shade.
Those undeserving tendencies are linked to the totalitarian period. It is probably, the only embryonic cord that still connects Bulgarians to the Communist time, the anti – King Boris III attitude, which is impossible to up-root.
After November 10th 1989, in every major city in Bulgaria streets were named after King Boris III, including the central garden in Sofia, “Borisovata Gradina”. But when a forest in Israel was erected with a simple marking for King Boris III in 1996 it resulted in its destruction following protests made by Bulgarian politicians and by then President Zelu Zhelev.
The only time when it seemed that King Boris’s fate begun to improve was in 1998, when President Petar Stoyanov made his first official visit to the US. During his visit to the Museum of the Holocaust in Washington DC he mentioned positively King Boris’s role for Saving Bulgaria’s Jews as well as he introduced the late King’s daughter, Princess Maria Luisa, who joined him on that Presidential visit.
However, later, same President has refused to honor King Boris with “Stara Planina”, similar state honors he bestowed earlier on Peshev and the rest of the Kustendil civic leaders.
When comparing the historical role of Dimitar Peshev and that of King Boris III it is evident that the Tsar led the events. For instance, Dimitar Peshev’s petition to stop the deportations of Jews from Bulgaria to the death camps supported by 43 members of Parliament was written and signed only after King Boris has ordered stopping of that same deportation. Later, Peshev lost his job as Deputy Speaker of Bulgaria’s Parliament and was no longer effective.
The King, on the other hand, has continued with his stand for the Jews of Bulgaria in May and in August of 1943, days before his death. Standing firmly to Hitler, he, the Tsar, made his case. As a result, no Jews from Bulgaria were deported to the gas chambers nor Bulgarian soldiers sent to the Russian front. Following those events the King died.
No matter how important were the actions of the Exarch, the Patriarch or the Deputy Speaker, no one’s role in Saving Bulgaria’s Jews matched the one of King Boris III.
The lack of recognition to King Boris’s role casts a shadow on the roles of Peshev, Stefan, Kiril and all others including the position that Bulgaria is gaining these days as result of that remarkable historical record.
Moral ethics insist on recognizing the good including the bible, old and new testaments. When good takes place we are commanded to speak of it and not ignore it. King Boris III symbolized that good, which Bulgaria ought to speak of and to take pride in.
As to the tragic end of 11,343 Jews of Thrace and Macedonia where Bulgaria provided Administrative Forces, theirs was part of systematic destruction of Europe’s Jews that totaled six million persons. This was also the plan for Bulgaria’s Jews, no different than those Jews from Thrace and Macedonia. These were territories under the control of the German Army. Bulgaria’s sovereignty over them was always unclear.
To the question if King Boris was able to save the Jews of Thrace and Macedonia? The answer is: “No!” They were not his subjects. Even if he wanted, he could not have turned their tragic fate. The Germans clearly considered them as their own Jews.
The absence of self-confidence on part for some Bulgarians, and the need for others to share guilt for something they did not commit is a complex.
While Bulgaria’s Jews were free of the Holocaust complex shared by many Israelis who survived the camps, there is no need to add the “guilt” complex.
As to King Boris III, his time has come; Bulgaria needs to accept him as a hero. He too deserves recognition.