Sunday, April 7, 2013

What Happened to Macedonia's Jews during the Holocaust?

Israel tonight and tomorrow commemorates Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day with ceremonies at Yad Vashem and elsewhere honoring the memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.

During the two years that my wife and I lived in Bulgaria, we were aware of the fact that Bulgaria's entire Jewish community was spared, despite the fact that Bulgaria sided with the Nazis and its government passed anti-Jewish legislation and planned for mass deportations.

There is one sad footnote to this story, and it should not be forgotten. The Jews of Macedonia, which was under Bulgarian control during World War Two, were transported to the death camps. An entire Jewish community perished.

Bulgaria's King Boris III sided with the Germans to avoid German occupation and in efforts to regain Bulgarian territories lost during the Second Balkan War in 1913 and in World War One. Bulgaria took control over Macedonia and related to it as the "newly liberated territory".

As noted by Macedonian author Sofija Grandakovska in an article this week in the Jerusalem Post, Macedonia's Jews were treated as "temporary residents", a crucial designation that led to their deportation.

Organized by the Bulgarian leaders and police, three "Jewish transports" were sent via Bulgarian State Railways on March 22, 25, and 29, 1943 from a temporary concentration camp in Skopje to the rail lines leading to Poland. "The Macedonia Jews were delivered to the German authorities, who took them immediately to the gas chambers in Treblinka for execution," Grandakovska wrote in the article.

Grandakovska concludes her article by saying that perhaps Europe, of which the modern state of Bulgaria is a full-fledged member, may not have closed the question of the Holocaust on its periphery, such as in the case of the murdered Macedonian Jews. The number of Macedonia Jews that perished was 7,148, a very small percentage of the six million who died.

According to the book A Guide to Jewish Bulgaria, "no one (in Bulgaria) is willing to accept responsibility for the deaths of the 11,343 from Macedonia and Aegean Thrace who were sent to Poland."

This year, on the occasion of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, I will think of Macedonia's lost Jewish community. They are not forgotten.

For further reading, see: The Rescue of Bulgaria's Jews.

Pictured: Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia in Skopje, Macedonia.  (photo credit: CC-BY-SA-3.0 Raso, Wikipedia)

1 comment:

  1. Please take into consideration the below quote from Wikipedia which pretty much clears some important details up. I feel sorry that a sensitive topic like this is used by our neighbours from Macedonia as one of the many topics for speech of hate towards us. Plus, our state officially admitted the failure to save the Macedonian jews.
    "Although Bulgaria had effectively controlled the regions immediately beyond its borders, German authorities, who were in charge, recognized only the Bulgarian military administration and not the civil one. Bulgaria granted citizenship both to all ethnic Bulgarians and to others who wished so in those territories, but not to Jews that were already beyond its borders.[11] It is important to note, however, that the territories of Aegean Thrace, Macedonia and other lands controlled by Bulgaria during World War II were not considered Bulgarian; they were only administered by Bulgaria, but Bulgaria had no say as to the affairs of these lands, following directives from Germany. In contrast with the old Bulgarian territories, where widespread protests against the deportations took place, including petitions to the Sofia government, in Aegean Thrace and Macedonia such organized movements were lacking."