Sofia, Bulgaria Who saved the Jews in Bulgaria during WWII? This subject was discussed by an international symposium in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on the 1st of February 1995. The event (in memoriam of the late member of the Bulgarian Parliament, Ilko Eskenazi) was sponsored by Sofia University, the American University in Bulgaria, the "St. St. Cyrill and Methodius" and "Augustin Peitchinov" Endowments. The panel consisted of Prof. Michael Bar-Zohar (University of Atlanta, USA), Dr. Avraham Ben-Yaakov (Israel), Prof. Andrei Pantev (Bulgaria) and Bishop Galaction, who represented the Bulgarian Patriarch Maxim. Their analytical presentations were based on extensive documentation and long years of research and analysis.
The former totalitarian regime enforced the view that the Bulgarian Communist Party was the organizer of the 1943 action. This claim, brought up again during the discussion by Prof. Tchavdar Kyuranov (a leader of the renamed Socialist, formerly Communist party), and by Mr. Samuel Franses (Editor-in Chief of the Sofia based paper "Evreiski Vesti" - "Jewish News") proved to be based chiefly on ideological arguments, backed by few, or no facts and half-truths.
Prof. Bar-Zohar and Dr. Ben-Yaakov presented the conclusion that this great humanitarian act was the result of a combined effort. It was the Bulgarian people, including leading intellectuals, parliamentarians, civil servaints and politicians, the Orthodox Church and the King, who were the actual saviours of the Bulgarian Jews. It was stressed that on several occasions King Boris III skillfully resisted the German pressurs and demands. Thus at the end of the day, not a single person from the territory of Bulgaria proper was deported to the death camps. Unfortunately, the Jews from German occupied Macedonia and Southern Thrace could not be saved - the German army and Gestapo did not recognize any Bulgarian jurisdiction over them and they were deported swiftly to the death camps.
The audience, including a vast majority of members of the Jewish community in Sofia, applauded the arguments and conclusions presented by Prof. Bar-Zohar and Dr. Ben-Yaakov: the Nazi efforts to deport the Bulgarian Jews to the death camps could not have been successfully resisted without the decisive participation of King Boris III.
The majority of those present loudly booed the propaganda-styled statements of Mr. Franses, whose newspaper consistently and fiercely attacks King Boris III and gives credit for saving the Jews solely to the actions of the Communists. The audience frequently interrupted his allegations shouting "Shame on you!" Many of the present members of the Bulgarian Jewish community claimed that their newspaper, as well as the leadership of the Jewish institutions in Sofia, were tools of the former Communist party.
More documents on the saving of Bulgarian Jews during WW II are available here.