Bulgaria during the Second World War

Marshall Lee Miller


PART TWO. June 1941-August 1943


6. From Barbarossa to Pearl Harbor  59

      - The Failure of Clandestine Communist Activities
      - New German Pressures
      - Uncertainty About Turkey
      - Pearl Harbor and Its Significance

7. Parries and Parleys  71

      - Continuing Bulgarian-Soviet Ties
      - The Nationalist Opposition
      - Hitler and Tsar Boris
      - Turkey and the German Plans
      - The Zaimov Affair

8. No Friends, Just Foes  81

      - The Continuing Deterioration of Bulgarian-Soviet Relations
      - Fear of an Allied Invasion
      - Internal Developments

9. The Jewish Question  93

      - Legislation Against the Jews
      - The Dannecker-Belev Agreement
      - The Kyustendil Incident
      - The Sparing of the Jews

10. The Allied Threat  107

      - The Allied Conditions for Peace
      - The Threat of an Allied Invasion
      - The Murder of General Lukov

11. The Bulgarian Occupation of Macedonia  122

      - The Occupation of Vardar Macedonia
      - IMRO and Ivan Mihailov
      - The Occupation of Aegean Macedonia
      - The Conflict Between the Yugoslav and the Bulgarian Communists

12. The Death of Tsar Boris  135

      - Rumors and Suspicions
      - Theories About the Return from Rastenburg
      - The German Reaction to the Tsar’s Death
      - A Possible Solution



Chapter 6. From Barbarossa to Pearl Harbor



TWO DRAMATIC events initiated by Bulgaria’s allies in June and December of 1941 completely altered the international situation and greatly affected Bulgaria’s foreign policy. The first was the German invasion of the USSR, Operation Barbarossa; the second was Japan’s attack on American and British installations in the Pacific. During the second half of 1941, it began to look as though the Tripartite Pact, which Bulgaria had regarded in March as a concession to Operation Marita, might ultimately drag the country into war.



Barbarossa and the Bulgarian Reaction


The German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22 came as an unwelcome surprise to most Bulgarians. Even Prime Minister Filov admitted that the nation heard the news with despondency. The American Minister in Sofia cabled the following observation to Washington :


First reactions of Bulgarians to Russo-German war are confusion and shock, mainly on account of distinct division of sympathy for the two countries. Some Bulgarians recall with apprehension Hitler’s words in Mein Kampf that slavs were only good to be slaves, while others who hitherto looked upon Hitler’s frequent breach of word with equanimity have been struck pretty hard by Hitler’s complete lack of good faith as exemplified by his latest aggression. Others fear involvement of Bulgaria in war. [1]


The cabinet accepted the news calmly, however, and determined that no special measures were needed other than the placing of the Communist





deputies under house arrest. [2] Germany initially neither requested nor expected Bulgarian participation in the invasion of the USSR; the war was expected to last only a few months and Germany preferred not to create complications by involving Bulgaria in it. As the only German ally that still had diplomatic representation in the Soviet Union, Bulgaria took charge of German interests there on June 24, after the withdrawal of Germany’s diplomatic staff. [3]


Bulgaria’s recent territorial gains had brought the country closer to Germany, but they had also made Bulgaria more difficult for Germany to control. Most of Bulgaria’s irredentist goals had been achieved before the Russo-German war, thereby greatly reducing the extent to which Germany could manipulate Bulgarian policy. [*] Germany approached this problem in two ways. First, it tried to make the Bulgarians feel that their territorial gains were only tentative: exact boundaries would be fixed only after peace was restored, and presumably they would be influenced by the amount of support Bulgaria had given to Germany. [4] Second, “in German propaganda regarding Bulgaria’s role in the New Order, the emphasis had to be placed less upon German-Bulgarian economic and cultural cooperation and more upon the role which pro-German figures were playing in Bulgarian political life.” [5] Another factor probably had greater influence on the Bulgarian government, although it seems not to have been the result of a conscious Nazi policy: this was the Tsar’s obsessive fear that Germany would replace his regime with a puppet one headed by General Lukov, Professor Tsankov, or some other Bulgarian fascist. The Bulgarian government seemed almost paranoid on this issue, which will be discussed in more detail in later chapters. [**]


Hitler and his General Staff believed that most of the objectives of Operation Barbarossa would be attained within a month of the invasion and that the campaign against Russia would be over by the autumn.



*. There was no other country in the Balkans, with the possible exception of Turkey, that Germany could play off against Bulgaria as Hitler was to do with Hungary and Rumania over Transylvania.


**. Perhaps Boris was influenced by the memory of the Byzantine practice of keeping at Constantinople a pretender to the Bulgarian throne in order to influence the Bulgarian Tsars.





At the end of the second week in July, the Germans had already taken over half a million Russian prisoners, a large percentage defectors. [6] The pro-German Bulgarian newspapers fully reported accounts of the campaign and suggested that the country participate in the war in order to share the spoils of victory. As late as October 1941, a headline in Slovo predicted that within three weeks Moscow would be taken and the Soviet Union would collapse. [7]


This optimism never really penetrated Bulgarian official circles. Even in early August 1941, when the situation on the Eastern Front was quite favorable, Filov wrote that a difficult period was expected during the coming winter and that “there was great anxiety and fear because of the great losses and hardships.” [8] Ulrich von Hassell reported a conversation with Bulgaria’s Ambassador Draganov in mid-September in which Draganov said he no longer saw any prospect of a German victory. [9] It would be a mistake, however, to attach too much significance to these accounts of Bulgarian pessimism; the leading Bulgarian officials, including the Tsar, were habitually pessimistic. By and large, there was little real doubt of an Axis victory until Stalingrad in January 1943.


The members of the Narodno Subranie had no hesitation in expressing their support for Germany in the most effusive terms. Nikolai Nikolaev reminded the Assembly that “there on the battlefields of Murmansk, across the broad steppes, the frozen villages of Russia and the deserts of Africa, our brave allies are fighting, and though Bulgaria is not taking a direct part in this action, it stands at its post like a true ally.” [10] Young Nikola Minkov dramatically proclaimed that Bulgaria had a great mission in the Balkans and described the ideological battle against Bolshevism, whose biggest supporters were now the capitalist-plutocratic countries. The two systems would perish together, he said; “Socialism in its new national form waits at the door of Europe.” [11] Sotir Yanev, one of the more prominent government supporters, made the most effective of the speeches. During an official visit to Moscow in 1941, he and another deputy had seen a map of the Balkans marked with desired Soviet bases. On this map, Yanev said, Bulgaria was not even shown as large as it had





become in 1941, and in the case of Macedonia the Russians had contemplated no change from the old boundaries. Yet Moscow believed that Bulgaria was a ripe field for sovietization and stood on the threshold of revolution. What would have happened, he asked, if Bulgaria had followed the disastrous advice of some and allied with the USSR back in 1940 ? [12]



The Failure of Clandestine Communist Activities


On the night of July 23, 1941, three Bulgarian cities were bombed by unidentified planes that were believed to be Russian. Bulgaria sent a strong protest to the Soviet government, but the Russians replied that the charges “did not correspond to reality” and denied that Soviet planes had been anywhere in the area. They suggested that perhaps the attacks had been arranged by Germany. [13] When the incident was repeated on the night of August 11, 1941, Bulgaria delivered another strong protest to the USSR but politely suggested that perhaps the Soviet planes had been piloted by Serbs or Greeks. The Soviets refused to accept this charge either, claiming that the attacks were German provocations (which they may have been), and on September 10 they issued a general denial to all allegations of interference in Bulgarian affairs. [14]


Relations between the two countries had also grown worse because Communist agents were landing from submarines and were being dropped by parachute onto Bulgarian territory. These agents were generally Bulgarian Communists who had been in exile in the Soviet Union and were returning to help organize the resistance movement. Landings were made in Bulgaria on August 11 and 28 and on September 13 and 21, 1941, but all were unsuccessful because the agents were apprehended on arrival or were quickly betrayed. The failure of peasants and villagers to assist the Communist agents came as a surprise to Moscow, which had also underestimated the alertness of Bulgarian army patrols. Only an estimated twenty of the 58 men landed were able to make contact with the resistance movement, and of these twenty most were soon arrested. [15]


The Bulgarian Communist Party, which had taken advantage of





the favorable conditions after September 1939 to rebuild its battered organization, was once again repressed. [*] Several hundred important Communists were arrested in the period between the signing of the Tripartite Pact and Barbarossa, and most of the other leaders were arrested by the first week of July 1941. Of the 291 most-wanted Communists, the police managed to locate 244 in the first two weeks after Barbarossa. Of the five members of the BKP Politburo, one was jailed in July, two others were apprehended in September, and the last two were caught within a year. The Central Military Commission of the Bulgarian Communist Party, which was the directorate for the resistance, had a complete change of membership by the spring of 1942.


One of the reasons for the BKP’s swift collapse may have been the size of the “cells” that were uncovered: the average number of people in each was 23, which was far too large for clandestine activity. [16] Another reason may have been that the Party was surprised by Barbarossa and was unprepared to go “underground.” A third reason was the effectiveness of the Bulgarian police, as Minister Earle reported on July 4, 1941:


“So thorough, however, are the military and police precautions taken by the Government that, while it’s possible there may be minor demonstrations, ‘which if they occur will be ruthlessly dealt with,’ I see no possibility of a major Communist uprising unless there are serious German reverses.” [17]


Police repression was so severe that a man in Kyustendil who had remarked that Russia would never be conquered was sentenced to eight months in jail and fined an impossibly large 175,000 leva. A student who had written anonymous letters to high government officials accusing them of leading the country to disaster received a ten-year sentence and an equally large fine. Thus it was not long before the Gonda Voda, Enikyoi, and St. Nikola (for women) concentration camps were filled, and other camps had to be built. [18]



*. By the spring of 1941, Party membership had risen to slightly over 10,000, compared with 30,000 before the May 1934 coup; the youth organization RMS (Rabotnicheski mladezhki suyuz) numbered 19,000. See Oren, Bulgarian Communism, pp. 167-68.





New German Pressures


The domestic situation might have changed for the worse if Bulgaria had been forced to break relations with the USSR or, more importantly, to participate in the war on the Eastern Front. Despite alleged Soviet air attacks, parachuted Communist agents, and open Russian support of the partisan struggle, however, the Bulgarian government continued to maintain diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. The Germans were less than pleased with the unusual situation of a Soviet legation functioning in an Axis country during wartime, for the legation and its consulate were undeniably centers of espionage and propaganda. According to von Papen, they were “a thorn in Hitler’s side.” The Führer  wanted them closed, but he was persuaded that this would cause too much difficulty for Tsar Boris. [19] Ribbentrop instructed Ambassador Adolf-Heinz Beckerle (who had replaced Richthofen) in late September 1941, “In the question whether Bulgaria should maintain or break off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, please take a non-commital attitude and do not take a position in one sense or the other.” [20] Five days later Beckerle reported that he had met Filov, who had told him that Bulgaria would welcome a break in relations with the USSR but “would not do the Russians the favor of breaking off relations of its own accord.” [21]


Whenever the Germans complained about the presence of the Soviet legation, as they did throughout the war, Boris would reply that he had the building under very close observation and had complete confidence in his police and guards. The Russians, in turn, complained of this surveillance and charged that the Bulgarians were “doing everything possible to annoy and isolate the Legation. Every member of the delegation is openly followed by police and every visitor, except diplomats, leaving the Legation is questioned by police and sometimes arrested.” [22] Government surveillance was constantly increased until not only Soviet diplomats but also many of the White Russian immigrants in the country were followed. [23]


Germany was not fully satisfied, though, and believed that Bulgaria





could at least close the Soviet consulate in Varna, even if the legation in Sofia had to remain open. If it could not be closed—and in fact it was not for over a year—then German military authorities requested that at least the radio antenna should be removed from the roof of the consulate. Even though such installations were forbidden in Bulgaria, this limited German request met with no success. [24]


All traditions of diplomatic conduct were violated when the Soviet counselor of the legation was physically assaulted and an attempt made on the life of the assistant military attaché on September 7, 1941. [25] Although conceivably these acts of violence were not instigated by the Bulgarian government, Molotov was prompted to send a note on September 10, 1941, condemning Bulgarian behavior: “the conduct of Bulgarian affairs was not in conformity with normal intercourse between nonbelligerent countries and has deteriorated to such an extent as to be impossible.” The note also charged that “facts in the possession of the Soviet Government prove undeniably that Bulgaria has been transformed into a place d’armes for the military attack by Germany and her allies on the Soviet Union,” and seven specific examples were provided. [26] The Bulgarian Minister in Moscow denied the charges and refused to make any apology. Bulgarian-Soviet relations worsened to such an extent that the Russians would probably not have maintained their diplomatic mission if Bulgaria had not become such an important intelligence center.


One of the major questions involving Bulgarian relations with the USSR and Germany was whether Bulgaria should take direct military action against the Soviet Union. Germany had agreed at the outset of Operation Barbarossa that there would be no pressure on Bulgaria to declare war on the USSR, but as the invasion progressed, Hitler began to desire some form of Bulgarian participation. A volunteer Bulgarian Legion was proposed, to be either modeled on the Spanish Blue Division or formed as a national unit of the Waffen-SS, but the idea was rejected by the Bulgarian government. The refusal was motivated by a double fear: first, that such a legion could bring full-scale war with the USSR; and second, that the Bulgarian fascists and extreme nationalist elements would come to dominate it





(thereby gaining additional favor with Germany) and then use it for purposes other than fighting Russia. As a concession, the Bulgarian government agreed to send a medical train under Bulgarian command to the Eastern Front, where it would help the Axis troops and, supposedly, any Russian prisoners requiring medical attention. [27] Bulgaria’s strategy at this time, according to the Tsar’s secretary, was to “conciliate Germany by making many comparatively unimportant concessions.” [28]



Uncertainty About Turkey


Turkey was a genuine problem for Bulgaria, but it was also an excuse for not sending Bulgarian troops to fight in Russia. The Bulgarian-Turkish nonaggression pact of February 1941 had officially removed the danger of Turkish intervention, but there remained a substantial amount of uneasiness and suspicion between the two countries. Among high Bulgarian staff officers there was strong support for a preemptive attack on Turkey. General Nikola Mihov, the commander of the First Army and later one of the three Regents of Bulgaria, was “strongly convinced that Turkey was completely on the side of our enemies and would not honor its neutrality.” [29] Other high-ranking officers eagerly discussed the possibility of a military operation against Turkey in the spring of 1942. [30]


Turkey had signed a friendship treaty with Germany on June 18, 1941, only four days before the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. This fortuitous timing suggested to some that Turkey knew of Barbarossa in advance and was hoping to make some territorial gains at the expense of the Soviet Union. [31] In early August 1941, the Turkish government informed Ambassador von Papen that in view of the German success in Russia, the Turks were interested in the future of the Turkic peoples living on the Soviet borderlands, especially those in Azerbaijan. [32] Turkey, however, had no desire to involve itself in the war. Turkey had declared its neutrality immediately after Barbarossa began, and Hitler said approvingly, “It was better for us if Turkey was indifferent than if she pursued a wavering policy.” [33]


Despite Germany’s desire to see Turkish neutrality preserved, the





geographical position of that country made this difficult. As the gateway to the Middle East from German-occupied territory, Turkey was a key factor in any plan for threatening the Suez Canal from the rear or for extending German hegemony to the Arab world. This had been shown in May 1941, when Rashid Ali seized power in Iraq and requested immediate German assistance, which would have required the transit through Turkey of men and materials. Germany promptly began negotiations for a secret treaty with Turkey granting right of passage. The Germans interpreted international law as allowing a neutral state to permit the shipment of materiel, and they expected that Turkey would not object to a certain number of German soldiers “accompanying” the trains. As an inducement for the plan, Ambassador von Papen promised Turkey several of the Aegean islands and the rectification of the Turkish border near Edirne (Adrianople), although the latter would have been at the expense of Bulgaria. [34]


The collapse of the pro-Axis Iraqi regime in late May 1941 and the defeat of Vichy forces in Syria removed the need for mere German assistance; the German plans were changed to include outright military intervention. Hitler’s war directive number 32, “Preparations for the period after ‘Barbarossa,’ ” stated that “a German attack from Bulgaria through Turkey will be planned, with the aim of attacking the British position on the Suez Canal from the East also. To this end plans must be made as soon as possible to assemble in Bulgaria sufficient forces to render Turkey politically amenable or to over-power her resistance.” [35] This directive fueled the rumors of an impending invasion of Turkey in the spring of 1942, but events on the Eastern Front caused the operation to be postponed indefinitely. The idea of Turkey as a gateway was not abandoned, but the subsequent plans envisaged not an advance into the Middle East but an attack through the Caucasus to catch the Russians in the rear and to link up with German forces advancing across the plains of Russia. [36]



Pearl Harbor and Its Significance


Although a member of the Axis, Bulgaria sought to maintain friendly relations with the United States. Bulgarian Foreign Minister





Popov reassured American Minister Earle—in Earle’s words— of the “strong desire of the King and Government to maintain cordial relations with our country no matter what happens.” [37] Bulgarian newspapers, however, did not reflect this attitude and were once again printing bitter articles against the United States. The Bulgarians ignored American protests against these articles but complained when American newspapers spoke of Bulgaria’s preparations for aggressive action against Russia. On November 22, 1941, the Tripartite Pact was secretly amended to provide for German-Bulgarian cooperation in matters concerning the press and propaganda. [38]


The Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, aroused surprisingly little concern in Bulgaria. Nevertheless, when Germany and Italy, viewing the United States as the aggressor, declared war in support of their Axis ally Japan, the Bulgarian government assumed that a decision had to be made to follow suit. America seemed far away and Great Britain was thought to be facing certain defeat. A declaration of war on these countries was therefore regarded as an easy way of pleasing Germany rather than a step toward disaster. Prime Minister Filov appeared before the Narodno Subranie on December 13 and stated that Bulgaria must satisfy its obligations under the Tripartite Pact by declaring war. [39] When asked a year and a half later why he had favored this declaration, Filov replied that Germany had been so insistent that there had been no possibility of avoiding it. The architect Yordan Sevov, the Tsar’s closest friend and adviser, said that the decision had been made only after the German Ambassador had had three meetings with the Tsar in one day. [40] Rumania and Hungary had already declared war, and Bulgaria was told that it must show solidarity with the other nations of the Axis. [41]


Public reaction to the declaration of war was mixed. There were many who believed it was of little importance and foresaw no danger, but a common feeling was, “Why, and in the name of what, had Bulgaria to be involved in the world war without being attacked? ... What have we to divide with the Americans; what wrong have they done us?” [42] The youth organization Brannik reacted more violently





to the news of war—its members attacked the American and Russian legations and threw stones through the windows. Foreign Minister Popov later confessed that each of the attackers had been given three cobblestones and the generous fee of 200 leva. [43] The Tsar expressed outrage at these attacks and ordered that the damage be repaired that very night in order not to bring disgrace upon Bulgaria. The Bulgarian newspapers, however, intensified their attacks on the West and praised Japan, which they claimed was seeking only “to free Asia from Anglo-Saxon influence which harms its interest and hinders its development.” [44]


The United States treated the Bulgarian declaration of war with contempt. President Roosevelt wrote a memorandum to Secretary of State Cordell Hull stating, “It is my present thought that the United States should pay no attention to any of these declarations of war against us by puppet governments.” [45] In addition, he asked that congressional leaders be informed of this policy so that they would not advocate a declaration of war. According to Hull, “We realized that their Governments were puppets of Hitler and had merely jumped when the strings were pulled.” [46]



The year 1941 marked a distinct change in Bulgarian relations with Germany. Prior to 1941, Bulgaria had been under German influence and generally pro-Axis, but there had been no major issues on which Germany had compelled Bulgaria to make a definite decision against its will. On the questions of rearmament and the Dobruja, for example, Germany had provided support to Bulgaria but had required no immediate concessions in return. During 1941, however, Germany had put considerable pressure on the Bulgarian government—first to sign the Tripartite Pact, and later to declare war on the United States and Great Britain. Although the Bulgarian government may not have fully realized the risks involved in either case, considerable German persuasion was necessary before the decisions were taken. Significantly, though, Bulgaria’s adherence to the Tripartite Pact and declaration of war on Great Britain and the United States were not only the first major decisions taken under





German pressure, but also the last. Bulgaria managed to avoid breaking off relations with the USSR, participating in the war on the Eastern Front, or expelling the Bulgarian Jews to German extermination camps. As we shall see in the following chapters, the Germans were sufficiently convinced of Bulgaria’s friendship and loyalty that they accepted the Tsar’s excuses with a surprising lack of skepticism.






Chapter 7. Parries and Parleys



AA THE NEW year of 1942 began, Bulgaria was officially at war, despite the government’s efforts to avoid it; but few then thought that the declaration of war against the United States and Great Britain would be of more than symbolic importance. At least it temporarily staved off German demands for military action against the Soviet Union. One writer has said that “neither King Boris of Bulgaria nor his Government dared (or probably wished) to declare war on Russia, and this was the one move that might have stirred the Bulgarian people to revolt.” [1] However, the Tsar himself was so discouraged about prospects for success that on January 9, 1942, he reportedly considered abdicating his throne, and on March 6 he mentioned a desire to commit suicide. [2] He was also under pressure from his influential sister Evdokiya, who feared that the alliance with Germany would lead to a repetition of the events of the First World War, when Tsar Ferdinand was forced into exile. She told Boris, “How long will these Germans stay here! I know how this war will end; I will never live through a second exile.” [3]



Continuing Bulgarian-Soviet Ties


Meanwhile, the Germans were urging Bulgaria to join the war against the Soviet Union or at least to break off diplomatic relations. Tsar Boris insisted that this would not be to Germany’s advantage and produced five arguments to prove his point. First, he said that it was necessary to have a strong army in the Balkans to guard





against Turkish intervention. Second, troops were needed to protect the Black Sea coast from a Russian invasion. Third, waves of unrest and sabotage in the occupied countries of the Balkans could be expected in the spring, and a force had to be held in readiness to deal with this threat, especially in view of the Greek rebellion in Bulgarian-occupied Thrace in late September 1941. [*] Fourth, the arms and equipment necessary for participation in a modern war had still not been delivered to Bulgaria. The Bulgarian army would be much more useful when not forced to oppose a more advanced army; as Filov recorded in his diary, “In general, our troops ‘carry weight’ only in the Balkans.” And fifth, the Bulgarian army was “not suitable for distant campaigns, because of the attachment of the rural masses to their land”; they would be disinclined to fight for any cause not related directly to its protection. [4]


The Germans accepted these arguments for a short time, but in mid-March 1942 a German-inspired statement published by Agence Anatolia informed the Bulgarians that “they cannot expect to keep their territorial acquisitions or to receive additional awards unless they make a more effective contribution to the war against Russia.” [5] The Bulgarian government’s reaction, however, was merely surprise that the Germans had put so little pressure on Bulgaria. “The general feeling,” said the prime minister, “was that we would not be made to participate in the war against Russia.” [6]


Bulgaria’s fear of a Soviet invasion may seem unwarranted when we remember how desperate Russia’s plight was in early 1942, but this fear was real, and even the Germans took it somewhat seriously. In February 1942, the Germans suspected that the USSR had become disgusted with the Bulgarians and was negotiating with the Turks, promising them Bulgarian territory as far north as Burgas. [7] Manfred von Killinger, the German Ambassador to Rumania, took seriously the predictions of a Soviet landing between Varna and Burgas sometime in the spring—a landing designed not only to create a second front but also to provoke a Communist uprising in Bulgaria. [8] The Bulgarian Minister of War, General Daskalov, sensibly told Filov that the Soviets did not have sufficient troops for such a landing, but



*. For details of the uprising in Drama, Greece, see Chapter 11.





he promised to treat the reports seriously and to take the necessary precautions. [9] In the unlikely event of a landing, German military experts saw little chance of the poorly equipped Bulgarian army’s coping with the situation and warned that this weakness could nullify any gain from Bulgaria’s entering the war against Russia. [10]


These German reports made it easier for Boris—on a visit to Germany in late March—to avoid Ribbentrop’s formal request on the 25th that Bulgaria sever diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, although Kibbentrop again complained that the Soviet legation in Sofia was an espionage center not only for Bulgaria but also for the rest of Axis-occupied Europe. [11] Tsar Boris met Hitler shortly afterward during his visit and explained to him that Bulgaria felt compelled to continue its present policy for a while longer to reduce the threats from the Soviet Union and Turkey. Boris later told von Hassell that Hitler had shown “complete understanding for his present attitude” and had agreed that Bulgaria would have to keep its army intact and up to maximum strength in order to restrain the Turks. [12]



The Nationalist Opposition


The nationalist opposition (i.e. the Bulgarian fascist groups) made every effort to convince Germany that the Tsarist government was not sufficiently favorable toward the Axis and should be replaced by a fascist regime. The most important of these groups was the Legionnaires under General Hristo Lukov, who was thought by the Bulgarian government to be in close contact with certain German agents. The government tried to repress Legionnaire activities as much as possible without antagonizing the Germans. When the Legionnaire newspaper, which had been advocating Bulgaria’s intervention on the side of Germany, was suppressed in January 1942, the German Ambassador demanded that the ban be lifted and that action be taken instead against the “Anglophile” newspaper Mir. [13]


In February, Lukov scheduled a large public rally, but this, too, was banned by the government on the grounds that undesired demonstrations and disorder might break out. Actually, Interior Minister Gabrovsky and Prime Minister Filov had agreed beforehand that neither Lukov nor Alexander Tsankov would be allowed to hold





meetings. [14] The Tsar was convinced that German Ambassador Beckerle was completely sympathetic to the Legion and would increasingly intervene on its behalf. [15]


Professor Alexander Tsankov, who had been prime minister from 1923 to 1926, was the other prominent nationalist opposition leader, and he too attempted to persuade the Germans that the current Bulgarian regime was unsatisfactory. Tsankov admitted that the Tsar was following a pro-German course but said that Boris did not truly believe in a German victory and was following this course only because “at present he had no alternative.” According to Tsankov, Germany would never be able to rely on Boris to be a true friend or a loyal ally. [16] Germany would have liked a cabinet headed by Tsankov but recognized that the Tsar would never willingly select such a strong personality as Tsankov to become prime minister. [17] Lukov also enjoyed strong German support, but he was not as clever a politician as Tsankov, and his failure to gain broad popular support raised doubts that he was the right man to lead the country— except perhaps during a revolutionary crisis. [18] Nevertheless, until his mysterious assassination in early 1943, many of the German political reports sent to Berlin from Sofia pleaded the urgency of a government headed by Lukov. [19]


The Tsar was very concerned about being replaced by his “Byzantine rivals,” Lukov and Tsankov, if he did not cooperate with Hitler. Since his relations with the Germans were based on the confidence they had in him, it might be instructive to investigate the seriousness of the threat posed by the nationalist opposition, particularly General Lukov. In late March 1942, the Tsar became so convinced of a widespread conspiracy against him led by Lukov that he demanded that Ribbentrop clarify the German position. The Tsar’s fears were prompted by reports from his personal intelligence service that liaison between Lukov and the Germans was conducted by a man named Volchev, a representative of Welt-Presse in Sofia who, like Lukov, had connections with several Bulgarian youth organizations. Beckerle, in Sofia, promised Boris that he would look into these allegations and that he would put a stop to any clandestine dealings. [20]





The resulting German investigation left an abundance of material in the German archives on this matter. An intensive check was made by the Germans in April 1942, and many persons who had suspicious contacts were questioned. Volchev’s connections with the German Embassy were confirmed, and it was learned that an engineer named Hristov had once taken a letter from Lukov to Hermann Goring. Significantly, however, no other contacts were uncovered. Schellenberg, the head of Section VI of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) claimed at first that the German air attaché in Sofia, Colonel (later General) Schonebeck, was engaged in undercover activities with the Bulgarian fascist groups, but Schonebeck angrily refuted this accusation. This long and involved investigation indicated that the Germans were sincere when they said that they had no official connections with the nationalist opposition behind the Tsar’s back. Schellenberg’s official summary of the findings stated flatly, “I do not believe that General Lukov has any nonprivate connections with Germany and German circles.” [21]


Two things should be noted about this affair. First, the Tsar had no way of knowing for certain that the official denial actually corresponded to the facts; for all he knew, the Germans had only claimed to make an investigation when in fact they did have secret contacts with Lukov. He was therefore not long satisfied with the denial. Second, it is still difficult to believe that someone as pro-German as Lukov would be so pathetically isolated from them for over a year and a half. The various German agencies often had private policies of their own and attempted to increase their influence by secret maneuverings. There can thus be no absolute certainty that some German agency was not in clandestine contact with Lukov, despite Schellenberg’s investigation, although available evidence does not support this suspicion.



Hitler and Tsar Boris


Hitler had a very favorable opinion of the Tsar. After Boris’s March 1942 visit to Germany, he was for a time a favorite topic of conversation at Hitler’s headquarters. Boris’s ability and cleverness were





acknowledged by everyone in these discussions. At the same time, however, Hitler accepted at face value the Tsar’s plea that he was powerless to take the measures Germany had requested. Hitler told his entourage one evening:


“I recognize that the King of Bulgaria is a very intelligent, even cunning man, but he does not seem to be capable of guaranteeing the stability of his regime. He himself said that he could not change a single minister or relieve a general of his command without endangering his crown.” [22]


This is a surprising statement. Not only was it an inaccurate appraisal of the Tsar’s position, it was also contrary to the many German intelligence reports that Boris was the unchallenged leader of Bulgaria. One such report about him, although highly critical, had concluded:


“All this shows such talents of statesmanship and energy that objections, which are always raised that he is a liberally inclined and, in the final analysis, a weak ruler who knows only how to help himself through intrigues, are contradicted by the facts.” [23]


And indeed, a few days after his first remark Hitler said,


“If there had been [in 1918] a single German prince of the stamp of Boris of Bulgaria, who remained at the head of his division, declaring that he did not dream of withdrawing a single step, we would have been spared a lamentable collapse.” [24]


German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels initially had an ambivalent attitude toward Tsar Boris. On January 25, 1942, Goebbels wrote in his diary that the Tsar


“is said to be playing a somewhat double-faced game. He is a sly, crafty fellow, who, obviously impressed by the severity of the defensive battles on the Eastern Front, is looking for some back door by which he might eventually escape.” [25]


Two months later, however, after Boris’s meeting with Hitler, Goebbels had a lengthy conversation with the Tsar and concluded:


“The King is extraordinarily charming and has returned from the Führer  full of new ideas and suggestions Boris is an impassioned devotee of Hitler’s genius as a leader; he really looks upon him as a sort of emissary of God.” [26]


Although Boris had made a good personal impression, Hitler came away from the March 1942 conference convinced that Bulgaria was not a country on which Germany could completely rely. This was





owing not to lack of confidence in the country’s leadership but to the pro-Russian sympathies of the Bulgarian people, which the Tsar had described in great detail. German propaganda had tried for a decade to undermine this sympathy for Russia, and on the eve of Operation Barbarossa Hitler had even suggested that Bulgaria should change from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet in order to lessen Russian influence. [27] The Germans had also launched a minor propaganda campaign to convince the Bulgarians that they were not really Slavs and thus were not ethnically connected to the Russians. [28] This theory was not without basis. The traditional view that a small group of Turkic warriors, the Bulgars, had been quickly submerged in a Slavic majority in the seventh century was not fully satisfactory. [29] Moreover, since that date, the Slavic stock had been repeatedly diluted by mixing with other Balkan ethnic groups. Whatever may be the truth in this complex area, the Germans and pro-German writers went much too far in claiming that the invading Bulgars had destroyed almost all the Slavs inhabiting what is now Bulgaria. Although the propaganda campaign gained a limited acceptance among a few army officers, in general it did little more than irritate the Soviet Union and the Bulgarian Communists. [30]



Turkey and the German Plans


Turkey played a vital role in German-Bulgarian relations during the war. The Bulgarian government considered Turkey both a threat and a handy excuse; the German government minimized the risks of a Turkish attack on Bulgaria but never quite dismissed them. As a result of the March 1942 conference with Boris, Hitler had concluded that Germany could place only limited reliance on Bulgaria, saying “As allies I prefer the Turks to the Bulgarians.” [31] This was at a time when Bulgaria was loyally, if unenthusiastically, following a pro-German policy, whereas Turkey was officially still an ally of Great Britain and was cooperating with Germany only to the extent of allowing chrome ore to be sent to the Reich. [32] Bulgaria’s religion, Hitler believed, bound that country to Russia, but Islam presented no such difficulties. The Turks appeared confident of a German victory





and had expressed interest in the Soviet territories of Armenia and the Turkic border states. As Ambassador von Papen put it, “To sum up, as regards Bulgaria and Turkey, it is certain that conditions have scarcely changed since the First World War. From our point of view, Bulgaria can be regarded as reliable only in so far as we are allies of Turkey.” [33]


Hitler was not concerned with finding a way to remove Bulgaria’s fear of Turkey. It is difficult to understand why he did not regard the proposed German-Turkish alliance in terms of removing the Turkish threat from Bulgaria, thus facilitating the employment of Bulgarian troops elsewhere, especially since at the recent conference the threat of Turkey had been one of Boris’s main excuses for not sending troops to the Eastern Front.


Bulgaria was engaged in a minor border dispute with Turkey over a small but strategic area near Edirne that had been Greek before Operation Marita. The important railroad line from Central Europe to Istanbul ran through this area, and since the land had been Bulgarian before 1919, the Bulgarians naturally expected that it would be returned to them. However, Germany wanted to use this land to pacify Turkey and reward it for remaining neutral during Marita. Boris justifiably complained that “Bulgaria, as an active ally, was entitled to more consideration than a country allied to the enemy.” [34]


In accordance with Hitler’s desire to improve the Turkish defenses against Allied intervention, Germany negotiated an agreement with Turkey in June 1942 giving Turkey a credit of one hundred million Reichsmarks for the purchase of military materials. [35] This only increased Bulgaria’s fear of Turkey, despite German assurances to Bulgaria that there was no danger of a Turkish attack. Even if one were planned, the Germans pointed out, only a few roads led to the border; the troop concentrations would thus be discovered well before an attack could be launched. [36] Germany quickly realized, however, that it could not as confidently rely on Turkey as on Bulgaria; by August 1942, Hitler had reverted to his original position, commenting, “In the Bulgarians we have an ally on whom we can rely against the Turks.” [37]






The Zaimov Affair


At the end of March 1942, shortly after the Tsar’s return from Germany, Reserve-General Vladimir Zaimov was arrested in Sofia for treason. Zaimov was well known as a leading figure in the 1934 coup and the attempted coup of 1935, and he had held the post of Inspector-General of Artillery before being forced into retirement. The official reasons for his arrest were an alleged remark he had made that the Soviet Union would never be defeated and his close association with the Soviet military attaché, but the real reason was that he was involved in a conspiracy against the government. Forty other people were arrested at the same time for preparing a campaign of sabotage and terror. [38]


The arrest of a general, even one so noted for conspiratorial activity, created a sensation in Sofia. The discovery of opposition groups and Communist cells in the army was not unusual, but they had been small and generally ineffective; rarely was even a low-ranking officer connected with them. Zaimov was tried and executed in June 1942, and the Bulgarian Communist Party proclaimed him a hero and added him to the list of resistance martyrs. [*] The police investigators did not believe the conspiracy had ever posed a very serious threat, and they minimized the role of foreign personalities, but the Tsar felt that the affair had politically embarrassed him. Far more embarrassed was War Minister Teodor Daskalov, who had continually assured everyone that morale in the army was high; now he acted “like a man who had lost his nerve.” [39]


A heated controversy erupted between General Daskalov and Minister of the Interior Gabrovsky, which was one reason why the Tsar decided a week later to name a new cabinet. [40] Daskalov was replaced as minister of war by General Nikola Mihov, the commander of the First Army. Foreign Minister Popov, who had long been accused of pro-Allied tendencies, was replaced by Filov, who remained prime minister as well; two “difficult” ministers, Slavcho Zagorov and the



*. In 1965 a Bulgarian film of this incident was released entitled The Tsar and the General.





incompetent Dimiter Kushev, were removed from office. Only four of the ten cabinet posts remained unchanged. Except for Mihov, the new ministers were even more obscure than their predecessors. Germany was satisfied with the changes. Beckerle reported that Filov continued to be the best guarantee of a pro-German policy. The German military attaché said tersely, “Filov is safe.” [41]






Chapter 8. No Friends, Just Foes



WHEN BULGARIA declared war on the United States in December 1941, President Roosevelt declined to dignify the “satellite states” with a declaration in reply. On March 24, 1942, however, the American representative in Bern was instructed to inform the Bulgarian, Rumanian, and Hungarian governments that the United States had refrained earlier from declaring war because


“they were vassals of Germany, but now that they were engaged in military activities directed against us and were planning to extend them, we intend to declare war unless they give prompt evidence of a definite character that they would not assist the Axis forces.” [1]


This note brought no response. A draft was prepared of the message the President would send to Congress, if and when he decided that war should be declared, but it was held back for some time in the hope that the March 24th note would have some effect. Instead, it was learned that the Bulgarian government planned to close the two American colleges in the country on the pretext that the school officials were hostile to Germany. Since Bulgaria continued to ignore the American note, on June 5, 1942, the United States declared war. [*]


Bulgarian relations with its Axis ally Italy were not much better. Italy’s prestige had risen during the first few months of 1940, when its neutrality gave hope to the Balkan states that they too might remain out of the war. Italian defeats since then had made Italy a



*. In the First World War, Bulgaria and the United States had avoided declaring war on each other.





standing joke, and audiences in Sofia movie theaters would laugh when Mussolini appeared in the newsreels. [2] Germany, however, was suspicious of Italian moves in the Balkans and believed that Bulgaria was trying to reduce German influence by establishing ties with Italy. [*] In February 1942, Beckerle complained that the head of the official youth organization Brannik was trying to model it after the Italian Balilla instead of the Hitler Jugend.


During that same month, when representatives of the Bulgarian handicraft and peasant unions visited Italy, the Tsar’s friend and adviser, Yordan Sevov, was quoted as saying “For us the Italian corporate system is the most suitable.” [3] The visiting Bulgarian delegations, according to questionable German sources, were enthusiastic about the system and suggested that Bulgaria adopt a similar one. When the representative of the peasant union was asked why the Italian model was being favored rather than the German one, he supposedly replied that it was the Tsar who wanted it this way. [4] There is no confirmation of these allegations from the Bulgarian side, either by documents or by events. Italian agents had been active in Bulgaria between the wars, particularly with the Macedonian terrorist organization IMRO, and there had been a few informal ties between Bulgaria and Italy, but the thought that Bulgaria in 1942 was interested in copying the Italian system seems a bad joke. [**]


Moreover, since Operation Marita, the two countries had been engaged in a bitter dispute over the boundaries of their respective occupation zones in Macedonia, especially around the mines in the Jesserina area. The Tsar was worried that the Italians intended to remain permanently in this area to form a Greater Albania under their control. Feelings had been so inflamed that when an outbreak of partisan activity occurred in the Italian zone in July 1942, the Bulgarian government was delighted. Filov wrote that these events “could be of use to us since they will be a brake on Italian pretensions for expansion.” [5]



*. The King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, was the Tsar’s father-in-law. Boris himself was half-Italian: his mother was Marie Louise of Parma.


**. The question of Bulgarian contacts with Italy arose again in the summer of 1943, around the time of Mussolini’s fall, but then the context was completely different.





la early August 1942, Italian troops began moving into disputed parts of the Bulgarian occupation zone, forcing Bulgaria to dispatch troops to the area. Germany—naturally concerned that fighting not break out between two of its allies—tried to mediate the dispute by persuading the Italians to withdraw to the line of the original Vienna settlement of 1940. When a Bulgarian noncommissioned officer was killed by an Albanian irregular, the Bulgarian government hurried further reinforcements to its army in the area. [6] Mussolini became quite angry over the border dispute and wanted to order that any Bulgarian soldiers found over the Italian demarcation line be shot. His advisers persuaded him to refrain from such an order, but he did send more troops into the disputed area and ordered that any further Bulgarian moves should be dealt with by bullets. [7]


A clash finally came on August 13, 1942, when 200 Albanian troops, supported by an Italian battalion, attacked two outposts of the Bulgarian Fourteenth Division. This skirmish alarmed everyone and intensified the German attempts at mediation. Germany supported the Bulgarian position and emphasized the importance of resolving the matter as soon as possible to restore unity in the common war. Boris expressed regret that the Italians had now begun to play Komitadzhii (guerrillas) and thought they would only hurt themselves in the long run. [8] The Tsar claimed that he had staked his personal reputation and that of his government on the border issue, and he urged the Germans not to let him down when the Bulgarian position was so clearly in the right. He added that it was much better to have Bulgaria rather than Italy occupy any given territory, for the Italians had no experience in dealing with Balkan peoples and with revolts in the Balkans.


“Where there are Bulgarian troops, there is tranquillity and transportation is undisturbed; where the Italians are, revolts are brewing.” [9]


The most serious clashes between Italy and Bulgaria came on October 16 and 30, when Bulgarian outposts rejected Italian demands to withdraw from territory claimed by both sides. In the resulting fights, each side suffered several killed and wounded. This alarmed everyone, and the military confrontation was replaced by protracted





negotiations. The border question remained unresolved, however, until Mussolini’s government collapsed in 1943 and Bulgaria occupied the disputed region. [10]


This dispute was important for three reasons. First, it made unlikely any attempt by Bulgaria to play off Italy against Germany to gain more freedom of action—as Bulgaria had done earlier with Germany and Russia. Second, Bulgaria was forced to rely more on German support than would otherwise have been the case. But, third, Germany surprisingly did not take advantage of Bulgaria’s plight to extract more concessions from Tsar Boris, and this restraint —or error—is in itself significant.


Germany had not abandoned its efforts to make Bulgaria break relations with the Soviet Union, although the pressure for Bulgaria to send troops to the Eastern Front had temporarily diminished. German Ambassador Beckerle raised again in June 1942 the old complaint that the Soviet legation was a center of espionage. Filov countered with the original reply that the Bulgarian Ambassador to Japan was scheduled to leave soon for Tokyo, via Moscow, and Bulgaria wanted to avoid provocations until he reached his destination. This concern had delayed the Bulgarian plan to close the Varna consulate, the prime minister claimed, but afterward there would be no hesitation. At the same time, Germany requested permission to open consulates in Ruse and Kavalla and to be given a duty-free zone in Dedeagach. Bulgaria immediately agreed. [11]


No action was in fact taken against the Soviet diplomatic posts, but there was a growing feeling in Bulgarian government circles that the time might be ripe for more direct assistance to Germany’s war effort. Two factors were responsible for this sentiment. First, the Germans had hinted broadly that unless Bulgaria quit playing the role of a bystander there could be no guarantee that a postwar peace conference would permit Bulgaria to retain its territorial gains. The prime minister, who had previously been in favor of a cautious approach, now urged the Tsar to take some action:


“ I told him continually and persistently that we had to participate in the battle against Bolsheviks, although only symbolically with a volunteer unit. We are





almost the only ones in Europe who are not taking part in the fight. Our conduct would make things very difficult for us at a conference. Italy would be able to take advantage of our position. Occupation of part of Serbia is not enough.” [12]


Second, the war was believed to be going very strongly in Germany’s favor because of recent victories in North Africa and at Sevastopol; now would be a good time to intervene, for Russia no longer was a serious threat to Bulgaria. [13]


The Tsar was impressed by these arguments but had misgivings. A German victory did not seem inevitable to him, particularly in view of recent Soviet successes around Rzhev. Furthermore, as he told Filov,


“Hitler is a bad strategist; he is burdened by lackeys who around men like him [are] more dangerous than around crowned heads with tradition, for they are always putting matters to him in the most favorable light.” [14]


Interestingly, Hitler also became somewhat critical of the Tsar at this time:


“The Bulgarians are now behaving as if the developments in the Balkans were all the result of their own decisive action. In reality, Boris, caught between his cupidity on the one side and his cowardice on the other, was so hesitant that the strongest intervention on our part was necessary to make him do anything at all. Old Ferdinand wrote some very forthright letters, too, pointing out that the hour of Bulgaria’s destiny had struck.” [15]



The Continuing Deterioration of Bulgarian-Soviet Relations


Relations with the USSR suddenly became worse on September 13, 1942, when once again several Bulgarian towns were bombed. The planes, which had come from the direction of Russia, were believed to be of American or British manufacture; the bomb fragments had Cyrillic lettering and the hammer and sickle emblem. The Soviet Minister, Lavrishchev, denied that the planes were Russian and pointed out that Germany had many Russian-made bombs available. This reply only angered Filov, who exclaimed, “These people will call black white.” [16] Lavrishchev also refused to discuss Bulgaria’s request for fifteen million leva in damages. Consequently, relations between the two countries became very cool. [17]





Probably it was no coincidence that on September 15 an organized mob attacked the Soviet consulate in Varna. The police then searched the premises in the hope of finding incriminating evidence that an informer had said was there. The results were disappointing: three kilograms of thermite and a radio transmitter were found, but no trace of the rifles or other military equipment that had been reported. One reason for this disappointing outcome may have been that the police were kept waiting at the door of the consulate for two hours, thereby giving the Russians time to destroy or remove any compromising evidence. The affair did no credit to Bulgaria, but at least some concessions had been made to German wishes, even if an air attack had been necessary to provoke them. [18]


On September 27, 1942, the Anti-Comintern Exhibition opened in Sofia. This exhibition had been planned long before, but its coincidence with the two incidents just mentioned brought Bulgarian-Soviet relations to a low point. Had the Soviets not considered their legation in Bulgaria so valuable as a window into German-occupied Europe, it is probable that they would have broken off relations that month.


Boris had not been in favor of the exhibition and had postponed it as long as possible, but he had angrily criticized Minister of the Interior Gabrovsky for trying to escape any responsibility for the plans. [19] Nevertheless, the exhibition was considered a success. The displays of Communist brutality—mostly photographs from the Spanish Civil War—were well arranged and forceful, and it was claimed that 250,000 people visited the exhibition. The Soviet Union protested, but the Bulgarian government innocently denied that the exhibition was directed against either the people or the government of the USSR. As the deputy Sotir Yanev pointed out, since the USSR had long insisted that the Comintern was not the Soviet government, there were no grounds for Russian complaint. [20]


Although Bulgaria was less careful about the sensibilities of the USSR now that Soviet military power did not seem so awesome, the Tsar as always was worried about possible Soviet reprisals. He told a German official in September 1942 that the Soviet Black Sea Fleet





might launch one last attack before its final defeat, and the harbor of Burgas seemed a likely target. There the Germans had assembled all the equipment they would need for oil-drilling in the Caucasus, and this equipment’s destruction would be a serious blow to German plans to utilize the Russian oil fields. [21] The Tsar was closely following the progress of the German advance on Stalingrad. He did not believe that Germany would be able to reach its objective in 1942, and he wanted to take no action until it did. [22] Nevertheless, during November 1942 the rumor spread in Bulgaria that a break with the USSR was imminent. The army was delighted. As a result of this rumor the Tsar felt compelled to declare emphatically:


“the break of Bulgarian-Soviet relations is out of the question under any circumstances; at the moment I do not want to hear any more about it.” [23]



Fear of an Allied Invasion


In late 1942, for the first time in the war, Bulgarians began to worry seriously about an Allied invasion of the Balkans. General Mihov, Minister of War since April, stated in December 1942 that he did not exclude the possibility of an Anglo-American landing in the Balkans during the coming months. It was expected that the Allies might land near Salonika, or even on the Black Sea coast— perhaps with the help of the Soviet fleet—to occupy the Rumanian oil fields. Turkey’s attitude was obviously crucial, and Bulgaria never doubted that the Turkish government would yield in the face of Allied pressure. [24]


The idea of a preemptive attack on Turkey had been popular in Bulgaria for over a year. The Tsar revived the question by suggesting that vigorous action toward Turkey—at the least a large-scale Bulgarian deployment on the border—was the best course of action, but he stopped short of recommending an attack. [25] The ranking army generals were not so hesitant. When a war council of twelve senior generals considered this question, ten were in favor of a proposed joint Bulgarian-German attack; the other two only objected because Germany would command the operation. The generals asserted, despite clear evidence to the contrary, that the Bulgarian army was both





materially and morally ready for a campaign. [26] In reality, the Bulgarian army was still poorly equipped and unsuited for modern warfare. The best divisions were tied down in occupation duties, and the coastal defenses were admittedly inadequate. The growing expectation was that an Allied invasion, if and when it came, would resemble the Salonika campaign of World War I. The government therefore shifted the defense emphasis from the Black Sea to the Aegean coast, but little was actually implemented beyond the formation of a new infantry division. [27]


It was essential that Bulgaria should be able to depend upon a substantial amount of German military support in the event of an Allied invasion of the Balkan peninsula. Unfortunately for the Bulgarians, however, the Germans had to confess that they could spare no troops at present and could not promise any direct help in the event of an invasion. [28] Rather than being able to help Bulgaria, the Germans were themselves hard-pressed at Stalingrad and wanted to withdraw some of their occupation forces from the Balkans. Because of increasing partisan activity in Greece and Serbia and growing unrest, the Germans requested that their forces be replaced by Bulgarian units, thereby increasing the Bulgarian occupation area considerably. As recently as October 1942, the Bulgarian government had requested an extension of its occupation zone to include the area around Lake Doiran (north of Salonika) and two regions in Serbia, for it believed that occupation would help to establish claims for later annexation of the territories. [29] Germany had declined the request then, but less than a month later had to ask in turn if Bulgaria would agree to a considerable temporary increase in its occupation area elsewhere. [30]


The Tsar was not enthusiastic about enlarging the Bulgarian occupation zone to include territories that Bulgaria could not reasonably expect to retain in a postwar settlement. Moreover, as these were territories in Serbia where partisan activity was increasing, occupation would add greatly to Bulgaria’s already overstrained military responsibilities. Boris discussed the problem with Filov and Mihov and decided upon a limited extension of the occupation zone, provided that the troops would not have to go far from Bulgaria and that they





would return to the original zone as soon as possible; dispersion was dangerous, they believed, as long as Turkey’s attitude was uncertain. [31]


Germany now tried a different approach to obtain at least some Bulgarian participation in the war. Since Bulgarian forces needed to be as strong as possible, the Germans argued that Bulgarian volunteers should be allowed to join the Waffen-SS and be trained and equipped by Germany, thereby adding to Bulgaria’s defense capabilities. In fact, though, only enough volunteers were expected to form a Bulgarian Legion of at most regimental strength; moreover, Germany offered no assurances that the force would be kept in the Balkans. Ribbentrop asked Beckerle’s opinion of the plan and was told that Bulgaria would probably not object to the small group of Bulgarian Volksdeutsch joining the Waffen-SS, but other Bulgarians would probably not be allowed. Since the nationalist opposition would try to use the plan to embarrass the government, Ambassador Beckerle advised that the suggestion should not be pushed too hard unless the war situation became extremely serious. [32]



Internal Developments


The domestic situation in Bulgaria continued to be dominated by the fear that General Lukov and the nationalist opposition were planning a coup d’état. In a private meeting of nationalists in July 1942, Lukov had outlined his program, which included the active participation of Bulgaria on the Eastern Front, and had sharply criticized Bulgaria’s “police regime, which lacks the support of the people.” [33] During August, Boris received reports that Lukov, Ambassador Beckerle, and Colonel Pantev [*] were conspiring to overthrow the government and replace it with one more acceptable to Germany. The supposed plan called for Beckerle to assemble at a banquet those persons wanted for the new cabinet and to present the Tsar with a fait accompli. Boris was thus especially alarmed when he learned that Colonel Pantev was leaving for a trip to Germany, as this seemed proof of the conspiracy. [34]



*. The chief of the Bulgarian police; the British had nicknamed him “The Black Panther.”





Although such a plot probably never existed, Boris took the rumor very seriously and sank into a mood of deep depression, saying, “I’ve already been through this mess three times before!” [*] To forestall the plan he even considered asking Professor Tsankov to take power as soon as a coup appeared imminent. Boris believed that Hitler still supported him and his regime, but he feared that Nazi “party circles would be able to impose a change even against the will of Hitler.” If this happened, Boris had decided that he would flee Bulgaria, for he was “determined not to play the role of the Danish King.” [35]


The Tsar would have been less discouraged if he had known how pessimistic the nationalist opposition was at this time. Dr. Schmidt, Hitler’s interpreter, made a trip to Sofia and heard the Legionnaires and others complain that Boris had succeeded in winning the support of the people. Moreover, many of the nationalists were also supporting the Tsar, since he was following a pro-German policy. Schmidt said it was unfortunate that Boris felt compelled to suppress the groups that were most pro-German, but they were a danger to the monarchy. Nevertheless, he said, “In this country our [German] authority is truly uncontested, and one does not find the intellectual doubt which prevails in Bucharest and Budapest.” [36] This view was confirmed by Mohrmann, a German official who visited Sofia in September 1942; he reported that the Tsar had the people behind him and that the political situation was fairly stable. The only difficulties, he noted, were caused by a “few hundred out-of-work politicians whose activities did not amount to much.” [37] In December 1942, when Lukov called for a mass meeting of the nationalist youth, only three hundred attended, and his harsh criticism of the government was embarrassing to the attending German and Italian ambassadors. [38]


The conflict with the nationalist opposition pointed up a major problem of Boris’s regime—its lack of an ideology. After Bulgaria attained its revisionist goals, the country lacked any sense of purpose except loyalty to the Tsar, and this was considered insufficient in an age of ideology. The Tsar himself was disturbed by the apathy he



*. “Az tazi popara sum ya yal tri puti veche!” He presumably was referring to the events of 1918, 1923, and 1934.





saw around him and remarked that even the army was lacking in spirit and idealism. This he attributed to the fact that Bulgaria, unlike the other states with which it had contact, had no official doctrine except opposition to party quarrels—the so-called bezpartien rezhim—and the government had been unsuccessful in elevating this doctrine to the level of an ideology. What the nation needed, Filov decided, was an idealistic program that could provide a rallying point against Bolshevism and a native alternative to foreign fascism. [39]


On September 15, 1942, Prime Minister Filov delivered an important speech at the Military Club in Sofia in which he attempted to set forth an ideological basis for the regime. Filov, though a distinguished scholar and archeologist, was not a gifted politician and his speech was a disappointment. He rejected the official creation of a single party, for this would have meant abandoning the basic principle of the bezpartien rezhim and would have led to the formation of opposition parties. The government’s desire, he said, was for a society in which individuals rather than parties would play the leading role in the service of the nation. This, of course, ignored the fact that the bezpartien rezhim had long been a fiction: there was not one opposition bloc but three.


Filov’s uninspiring ideology was hardly worthy of the name. He merely restated his April 15, 1942, declaration: “The main goal of our policy is to create a powerful and socially just national Bulgarian state in agreement with the principles of the new European order.” [40] As Petko Stainov pointed out, there was nothing here that had not been said by every government since independence. [41] Yet there were two points in the speech that indicated the future policy of the government. First, the country was to unite around the person of the Tsar, who was to become the Bulgarian equivalent of the Duce and the Führer . This effort to use charisma instead of ideology had already been under way for a short time; references to the Tsar as the Vozhd or Vodach, in imitation of fascist titles, had lately become frequent. The opposition sharply criticized this practice because it was contrary to the Constitution and because it implied that the Tsar was abandoning his position of (theoretically) being above all politics.





Furthermore, the gesture was meaningless since the Tsar’s powers were not changed, and his popularity could not be enhanced by giving him another title. What it did show was that Bulgaria was unable to create an original and effective ideology that could mobilize the people, and had instead committed itself to following the fascist patterns more closely. Second, the government was determined that Germany’s strongest Bulgarian supporters, the Legionnaires and Ratnitsi, should be resolutely suppressed, although previously they had been tolerated because of their nationalism. They claimed they were not against Tsar Boris, but it was difficult to see what the Tsar’s role would be in a state under their control. [42] General Lukov only commented that Filov’s speech showed how afraid the government was, and he predicted that he would soon take power. [43]


Dimiter Peshev, Vice President of the Narodno Subranie, concluded in November 1942 that neither Filov’s April declaration nor his September speech had produced any effect, for the regime still suffered from a lack of popular enthusiasm. [44] The problem was never really solved. The Tsar could at least be grateful that the Bulgarian people were more apathetic toward the enemies of his regime than they were toward the regime itself.






Chapter 9. The Jewish Question



ONE OF THE most revealing aspects of Nazi Germany’s relations with its various allies and satellites was the extent to which these countries cooperated with Germany in her attempts to bring about a “final solution” of the Jewish question. The Jews in Bulgaria were numerically insignificant and—in contrast to other European countries—played little part in the country’s academic, professional, or even economic life. As a result, anti-Semitism was virtually nonexistent; except for a few minor outbreaks around the turn of the century, there had been no pogroms in Bulgaria. The Legionnaires, Ratnitsi, and other nationalist groups adopted an anti-Semitic policy in imitation of the Nazis, but this position was generally regarded as of little relevance to Bulgarian conditions.


The Nazis and Bulgarian fascists produced statistics to discredit the Jews—for example, figures showing that the Jews did in fact have great economic importance and directly or indirectly controlled 35 to 80 percent of Bulgaria’s trade. However, the only fact that could be convincingly shown was that the Jews owned larger amounts of stock per capita and had more money in the banks than the average Bulgarian, owing largely to their concentration in the cities. Dimiter Andreev, a Narodno Subranie deputy who collected many of these economic statistics, also tried to show that the Jews committed several times as many criminal acts per capita as the Bulgarians. The offenses selected for comparison were all in the economic category, based on incidents per 100,000 people over a four-year period. Since





there were approximately 50,000 Bulgarian Jews, the most frequently cited figure of 4.95 incidents meant two Jews convicted for a particular offense during four years. [1]


The Nazi campaign against the Jews was linked with that against the Masons and other international organizations. As mentioned earlier, many or most of the leading government positions in Bulgaria were held by Masons, but these were men of many different political viewpoints and no Masonic “conspiracy” existed. [*] In May 1934, Germany had decreed that no member of the armed forces might belong to the Masons or other international secret organizations. [2] The Bulgarian fascists dutifully added to their program this opposition to secret societies and even included the Rotary Club and the Pen Club, which were not secret but international. In fact, Prime Minister Filov was then President of the Bulgarian Pen Club, and Slavcho Zagorov, a former minister of trade who replaced Draganov as Ambassador to Germany in 1942, was head of the Rotary Club. Nevertheless, under German pressure, Bulgaria ordered that the Masonic lodges should dissolve themselves in July 1940, and laws against the Masons and other international organizations were included in the subsequent legislation against the Jews. [3]



Legislation Against the Jews


In February 1939, about 6,000 Jews of foreign citizenship, many of whose families had lived in Bulgaria for generations, had been told that they would not receive extensions of their trade licenses and would be barred from making deliveries to the army and the public services. [4] In February 1940, however, Prime Minister Kioseivanov had reassured them that according to the Constitution all Bulgarians —including the Jews—were equal before the law. [5]


Then in September 1940, the Iron Guardists took control of Rumania and issued a number of Nazi-type decrees, including some placing restrictions on the Jews. “So as not to be behind Rumania in



*. In 1936, for example, although the fascist Minister of War, General Lukov, was the only non-Mason member of the cabinet, two other fascist leaders, Alexander Tsankov and Todor Kozhuharov, were both Masons.





the expression of loyalty to Hitler,” wrote Socialist politician Dimo Kazasov, “the Bulgarian Government proposed the ‘Law for the Defense of the Nation.’ ” [6] In November 1940, a bitter debate erupted in the Narodno Subranie over the question of this comprehensive law against the Jews. Some of the supporters of the bill felt that even the fascist Professor Alexander Tsankov was not taking a strong enough line on this issue. [*]


Despite opposition by deputies Mushanov and Stainov, the law enacted was quite severe. As Raul Hilberg has pointed out,


“In its effect, it was not exactly a mild law, for the Bulgarians did not start out with mildness. Restraint was applied only afterwards, when the prospects of a German victory began to fade.” [7]


Jews were forbidden to engage in a large number of occupations, and a numerus clausus was introduced to limit the percentage of Jews allowed to practice medicine, law, engineering, and a number of other professions, as well as to enter universities. Jews were not allowed to have gentile servants and were required to register their property and possessions; their dwelling places could not be changed, and money could not be sent out of the country. [8]


It should be pointed out, however, that the Bulgarian law was milder than might have been expected from the German models. First, the definition of a Jew was somewhat narrower than in the German edicts. [9] Second, Article 33 exempted the families of Jews who had been awarded medals for bravery, which meant that about one-tenth of the Jewish families in Bulgaria were freed from restrictions. This also affected the quota system, for it was decided not to include them in the numerus clausus, whose calculations were further modified by basing the percentages on the population of the cities rather than of the country as a whole. As a result, in Sofia the number of Jewish lawyers had to be reduced only from 20 to 18, engineers from 6 to 4, musicians from 14 to 8, and doctors from 21 to 13. Finally,



*. A typical exchange in the Narodno Subranie went as follows.

    Deni Kostov: “Your place is in Palestine, Mr. Professor. I will send you there with the automobile of Zhak Aseov. You Jewish agent of Zhak Aseov!”

    Alexander Tsankov: “You are a bribe-taker! You have been in the service of Serbia! ... You need to go to Palestine; I am a Bulgarian.” XXV-NS, 2d reg. sess., 11th sitting, 15.xi.40, 1: 219.





though the law was passed by the Narodno Subranie in January 1941, it was not to go into full effect until six months later. [10] It should also be kept in mind that only one of the four sections of the “Law for the Defense of the Nation” dealt with the Jews; the others concerned secret organizations and conspiracies.


The plan to persecute the Jews met with widespread opposition from every corner of the nation. The Union of Bulgarian Lawyers described the law as “unnecessary, socially damaging, and contrary to our basic legal order”; the Doctors’ Union declared that the purity of the nation could hardly be in danger; and the Union of Writers’ petition, which included the name of the famous author Elin Pelin, warned that “this law would be very harmful” to the good name of the country. [11] Dimo Kazasov pointed out that it was strange to speak about the danger from a small number of Jews when there were 650,000 Turks and 70,000 Rumanians in the country who were the object of foreign propaganda, but no one was alarmed about them. [12] The Exarch Stefan, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, described the sudden action against the Jews as “thunder from a clear sky” and told his priests not to refuse baptism to any convert who desired it. [13] The Tsar himself expressed dissatisfaction with the law and delayed signing it until February 15, 1941, on the grounds that he did not want to let such a severe law be enacted during the Christmas season. [14] In May 1941, when the Jewish Consistory sent its customary telegram of congratulations to the Tsar on his name day, he replied with a longer than usual note of thanks instead of ignoring the telegram as he might have done. [15]


Nevertheless, German insistence resulted in the enactment of many other regulations and restrictions on the Jews during the next eighteen months. Most important were the laws ordering (1) a special twenty percent tax on all Jewish possessions, and (2) the confiscation of mining property, pharmacies, stocks, insurance policies, and Jewish-owned houses except personal residences. Special permits were required for travel, although they were routinely issued until early 1942; radios were forbidden; and the yellow Star of David was to be worn.


To close any conceivable gaps in these laws, the government in June





1942 requested the passage of a special act giving the Council of Ministers the right to take any additional measures that might be deemed necessary. Interior Minister Gabrovsky said that such a law was needed because there had been many loopholes in the previous legislation and Jews were still operating freely in all spheres of Bulgarian life. [16] Docho Hristov, the main sponsor of the earlier Law for the Defense of the Nation, argued that the proposed law was really not as radical as it sounded, because the measures taken had to be approved afterward by the Narodno Subranie. [17] This bill encountered much opposition, even from many deputies who normally supported the government. Dimiter Andreev, a militant anti-Semite, said that whereas he favored strict laws against the Jews, the present bill was both unnecessary and dangerous; whenever the government desired any action on the Jewish question, he said, it should submit the request and let the Assembly vote, but there was no reason to rule by decree. Ivan Petrov and Krum Mitakov added that since the country was in no emergency, there was no justification for this dangerous precedent. Nevertheless, the “All Measures” law was passed by the Assembly in late June 1942 and was followed by a further series of severe restrictions on the Jews. [18]


Enacting laws was one thing, enforcing them was another. The best example was the law requiring Jews to wear a yellow star. Instead of requiring the Jews to make their own emblems, the government decided to have them manufactured; but the shortage of electricity considerably delayed production—or so the Germans were told. By October 1942, only enough stars had been made for twenty percent of the Jewish population; after a few days, many of those who had been given stars took them off. This disobedience was made possible, a German report said, by the “inactivity of the police and the complete indifference of the majority of the Bulgarian people.” Many Jews had felt offended by the insignia at first but had received so much sympathy that they wore it proudly. Some even wore the yellow star alongside a picture of the Tsar. [19]


Opposition to the more extreme laws developed also among the leaders of the government, whose actions sometimes differed from





their words. Perhaps the most striking example was that of Gabrovsky, the Minister of the Interior, who had been a sponsor of the anti-Jewish legislation. In September 1942, a group of 350 Jews gathered in front of the Ministry to protest its recent decisions. Gabrovsky saw them from his office and invited them into the courtyard where, to everyone’s surprise, he talked to them for half an hour. The worst was over, he said, and they had no need to worry, for the government had foreseen everything. Then he stood at the gate and personally reassured each of the delegates that there was no danger. This incident caused consternation among the Germans and in the anti-Semitic Commissariat for Jewish Affairs. [20] That same day, Gabrovsky ordered the Bulgarian newspapers to make no mention of the Jewish question or the activities of the Commissariat; the situation was already determined, he said, and there was no point in alarming the people. He and Justice Minister Partov also informed Alexander Belev, the head of the Commissariat, that the Court and the Council of Ministers wanted some moderation in the action taken against the Jews; hence the Tsar had still not signed the law restricting the Jews to certain theaters and taverns. [21] Moreover, the Secretary of the Royal Court, Stanislav Balan, acting on orders of the Tsar himself, interceded directly with the Commissariat on behalf of a sick Jew who lived near the Tsar’s summer palace. [22]


Doncho Uzunov, a deputy who had voted for the anti-Semitic laws, complained that their enforcement was frequently marked by cruelty and sadism, and said that some controls and supervision were necessary to prevent overzealous officials from exceeding the limits of humanity. The Exarch Stefan preached a sermon in which he said that God was punishing the Jews for their sins, but that God alone decided the fate of the Jews and man had no right to persecute them; on the contrary, it was the duty of all Christians to treat them as brothers and to help them in every way. [23]


Ambassador Beckerle, however, in his reports to Berlin denied that the government officials were lenient toward the Jews. One of the reasons that Bulgaria was reluctant to take action, he explained, was that many of the Jews were citizens of other countries, and these countries had protested against every restriction. (The foreign minister had





collected these notes, which included several from Italy, Rumania, Hungary, Vichy France, and Spain, and had sent them to Belev and his Commissariat as a hint.) Beckerle, in defending the Bulgarian government from charges made by a disgruntled Bulgarian professor, stated that the idea that the Court was under Jewish influence was “stupid gossip.” [24]



The Dannecker-Belev Agreement


Beckerle’s report temporarily allayed suspicion in Berlin, but Bulgaria’s future conduct would certainly be under close scrutiny. This was unfortunate, because the most important problem was yet to come —the German demand for “final solution” of the Jewish question. As early as December 1941, Hitler had informed Bulgaria and the other countries of Eastern Europe that Germany was willing to deport their Jews to the East (Poland, or later, occupied Russia) if they so desired. Bulgaria did not. In June 1942, Alexander Belev declared that the resettlement of the Jews would only be possible after the end of the war or when suitable land was taken from the allies in Africa or in the East, but he added that action could be taken sooner if Germany assumed the full responsibility for the task. [25] In this same month a new ordinance went into effect in the newly annexed parts of Macedonia and Belomorie (the Bulgarian name for Aegean Thrace) giving the inhabitants full Bulgarian citizenship unless they wished otherwise and left the country; Jews, however, were expressly denied the right to acquire citizenship. This suggested to some observers that the Jews would soon be deported. [26]


The first German move was to persuade Bulgaria to abandon its Jewish citizens residing in Germany. Hilberg says of this strategy, “The foreign Jews in the Reich were consequently used as a wedge. Once a foreign government had forsaken its Jews abroad, it was easier to induce it to give up its Jews at home.” [27] Since only 30 Bulgarian Jews were then in Germany, Bulgaria saw no point in causing difficulty on this issue, even though both Italy and Hungary resisted similar demands. Germany had already deprived its Jews living abroad of German citizenship; about sixty were in Bulgaria, but the Bulgarian government never took any specific action against them. [28]





In September 1942, Ribbentrop ordered that all diplomatic efforts should be made to speed up the deportation of the Jews from the various countries of Europe, and he specifically mentioned Bulgaria. Beckerle reported that the Bulgarian government was delighted with the proposal but that there were certain difficulties; after all, if the government had been unable to deprive Jews of their Bulgarian citizenship, it was unlikely that more radical measures would be possible. Furthermore, he reported, because of the labor shortage in Bulgaria, Filov did not think that the adult male Jews could be spared from their present work of road construction; and the fee of 250 Reichsmarks that the Germans wanted to charge for every Jew “resettled” was considered much too high. [29]


It was now clear to the German government that the Tsar was reluctant to take drastic action against the Jews in Bulgaria, but the Nazis believed that he might be persuaded to allow the “resettlement” of the Jews from the newly annexed territories. In January 1943, SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Theodore Dannecker came to Bulgaria as a special representative of Adolf Eichmann to negotiate with Belev for the deportation of the Macedonian and Thracian Jews. If some concession had to be made on the Jewish question, the Tsar preferred to sacrifice non-Bulgarian rather than Bulgarian Jews. Consequently, he gave his approval for the deportation hut specified that he had “agreed only to the expulsion to the East of the Jews from the new lands. From the Bulgarian Jews themselves he wanted only a small number of Bolshevik-Communist elements.” [30] The remaining Bulgarian Jews should be allowed to stay in the country because they were still urgently needed for road construction. [31]


This was the limit to which Belev was authorized to go, but during the treaty negotiations with Dannecker he made new computations and found that there were not 20,000 but only around 12,000 Jews in the new territories. To reach the desired quota, he needed to include 8,000 Bulgarian Jews in the deportation; he therefore marked out the limiting phrase “from the new Bulgarian lands, Thrace and Macedonia” from the draft copy of the treaty. Moreover, Belev decided that the Jews selected for the first deportation should be not the political





activists, as the Tsar had directed, hut rather the elite of each community. [32]


The Dannecker-Belev agreement was signed on February 22, 1943, and secret preparations were begun immediately to assemble the Jews in a few large camps. Border guards were increased to prevent escapes, for the authorities were aware that a few individual Jews had already learned of the plan. Indeed, the Jews of Skopie had been warned a few days earlier, although many had not believed it. [33] The plan called for the police in a given town to go to the homes of Jews in the early hours of the morning and order the families to pack their possessions within an hour or two. Then everyone would be assembled in some central place—in Skopie, for example, in an abandoned tobacco warehouse—where they could be kept for several weeks until deported.


The towns selected in Bulgaria proper were Plovdiv, Varna, Kyustendil, and later Sofia. The date was to be March 10, 1943. On March 2 the Council of Ministers, acting under the authority of the “All Measures” law, voted to deprive all Bulgarian Jews of their citizenship and to confiscate the property of those who had left the country. [34]



The Kyustendil Incident


The Kyustendil incident altered all the timetables. [*] One of Belev’s officials, L. B. Panitza, had a Jewish mistress, whom he told of the plans for deporting the Jews of Kyustendil and other Bulgarian cities. She informed some friends in Kyustendil, who in turn contacted Yako Baruh, a Jewish lawyer in Sofia. Baruh and others then went to see Dimiter Peshev, Kyustendil’s representative in the Narodno Subranie and vice president of that body.


Peshev had heard nothing about these plans and refused to believe the story until he had telephoned the chief of police in Kyustendil, who confirmed it. Peshev then hurriedly arranged a meeting with Interior Minister Gabrovsky to protest the deportation orders.



*. The following account is based on a number of sources. The two most important are the typed statement of Yako Baruh (Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 62) and Arditti, Yehuday Bulgaria, pp. 286-88, 294—96. See also report of Boris Tasev, representative of the Commissariat in Kyustendil, to chief inspector Popov, n.d., Archive of the Sofia Synagogue; and Filov, Dnevnik, 11. iii. 43 and 15. iii. 43.





Gabrovsky at first denied the existence of such orders; but when told the details of the Kyustendil operation, he informed Filov and asked for instructions. Filov replied that the orders could not be changed. The delegation went home in despair.


The next morning, they learned that the situation had changed completely. The orders had been canceled; those orders that had already been sent out were countermanded and the Jews were released. The reasons for this change are still a subject of much controversy. The Peshev group knew only that Gabrovsky had left the Assembly at eleven that night; at midnight he had returned and without explanation had said that the orders were canceled. Beckerle reported that the deportation had been stopped on orders “from the highest authority,” but he knew little else.


Many non-Communist historians, including Benjamin Arditti, have given the credit to the Tsar, for he made the final decisions in the country and it is unlikely that Filov would have dared to endanger relations with Germany on his own responsibility. Many of the Jews in Bulgaria and Israel today certainly believe it was the Tsar who saved them. [35] The Communists have never accepted this theory; they claim it was the protests of the Communist Party and the popular masses that averted the deportation, and in December 1966 staged an exhibition in Sofia to prove this point. [36]


Accounts of the incident differ enough to make a variety of interpretations possible, but the traditional view still seems the most probable. Boris did prefer to leave the unpleasant details to Belev’s Commissariat, but one fact is beyond question—if the Tsar had wanted the Jews to be deported, they would have been. The anti-Jewish measures were certainly unpopular with the Bulgarian people, but this fact was as much an excuse as a reason for not deporting the Jews. The limits on the ability of the Bulgarian government to stave off the German demands were shown during the next few months.


Because the respite granted to the Jews was expected to be short-lived, Peshev began gathering support for his position among the members of the Narodno Subranie. On the morning of March 19, 1943, he presented Filov with a petition signed by 43 deputies, including a number very friendly toward Germany. Even Alexander Tsankov





had signed the list. Filov was disgusted and said, “Now I really see how much influence the Jews have and how harmful they are.” [37] Slaveiko Vasilev, a deputy in the Assembly and a former cabinet minister, led the opposition to Peshev’s petition in the Narodno Subranie and accused Peshev of disloyalty and of bringing disgrace upon the Assembly. [*] After a long and difficult debate on March 24, 114 representatives voted their support for the government. Peshev himself was censured by a vote of 66 to 33. [38]


The Jews from Macedonia and Thrace, however, did not benefit from this short respite. They had been arrested on the night of March 3 and taken to deportation camps set up near a dozen large towns, from which they were sent by train and boat to the Treblinka death camp. Of about 11,400 deported, only about seventy ever returned. [39] One of the Tsar’s advisers, Lulchev, said that Boris disapproved of the expulsions, for when the subject of the Skopie deportations came up in a conversation on June 1, Boris again became very depressed and repeated several times, “Here, take my head, take my head!” [40]


Beckerle reported to Berlin in early April 1943 that Bulgaria’s determination to settle the Jewish question had not been affected by the Kyustendil incident and that the government’s only concern was to deal with the matter as quickly as possible to avoid reactions from the world press. [41] Boris met Ribbentrop, however, and told him that permission had been given only for resettlement of the Jews in the new territories; the others he wanted to keep in Bulgaria to work on the roads. Ribbentrop decided not to push the issue but said only that Germany believed the radical solution was the best. [42]


Since the use of Jewish labor for road construction was Boris’s justification for not immediately resettling the Bulgarian Jews, the Germans decided to investigate. At the time, 6,000 adult male Jews were in the construction crews, and another 8,000 were soon to be added, comprising almost all those capable of heavy labor. The German investigators reported, however, that the labor teams had accomplished



*. Notes on the personalities: the Germans excused Tsankov on the grounds that he was only expressing a general opposition to the government; Slaveiko Vasilev later became a leading member of the Bagryanov cabinet of 1944; Dimiter Peshev was spared by the People’s Court after the war because of his role in the Jewish affair and also his refusal to sign the execution order of Damian Velchev in 1935.





very little and that the crew members had to work only a few hours a day. In comparison, the few Greek labor teams worked twelve hours a day. The obvious conclusion, therefore, was that the Jewish labor service had little practical value and was merely a pretext for postponing evacuation. [43]


The Bulgarian government had been trying for several months to arrange for the Jews to be sent instead to Palestine, or at least for a group of 4,000 children to go there. (Former American Minister Earle had arrived in Istanbul as the new American naval attaché, and the Germans believed he was involved in the arrangements.) Germany had rejected the Palestine plan as early as February 15, 1943, before the signing of the Dannecker-Belev agreement, on the grounds that it would be used by British propagandists and would displease the Arabs. [44] The Rumanians had allowed a certain number of Jews to leave for Palestine, but over 750 were drowned when their unseaworthy ship sank near Istanbul. A few Rumanian Jews were allowed to transit Bulgaria, although the Bulgarian government had promised the Germans that this would not be permitted. Bulgaria had also told Germany that it had no intention of honoring its promise to the Swiss Red Cross that the Rumanian Jews would go to Palestine. Nevertheless, the Bulgarian government had provided transit visas and had asked a Swedish ship to stand by at the port of Dedeagach. [45]


The Germans were growing impatient. Dannecker complained that he had six ships waiting to assist in the deportation and that each day of delay cost 20,000 leva. Boris was also running out of excuses. Finally, toward the end of May 1943, he agreed to expel all but the privileged Jews from Sofia and place them in temporary camps, where they could be kept until deported. This order became known in Sofia on May 23, and on the 25th a large crowd gathered in front of the Royal Palace to protest. Sixty-three eminent Bulgarians sent an appeal to the Tsar, and the Exarch Stefan gave refuge to the Chief Rabbi of Sofia. [46]


The protests were to no avail: the Jews were herded into the provinces where their deportation was considered imminent. Bulgaria had given in to every German request except the last and most important —deportation of the Jews to the death camps. “It was as though the degree of involvement had already been predetermined. The operation





was brought to a halt as if stopped by an invisible sign which said, ‘So far and no farther.’ ” [47] Dr. Chapuisat of the International Red Cross visited Sofia and was assured that no Jews would be sent out of Bulgaria. His trip also had the effect of easing, for a time, German pressure on Bulgaria, because Beckerle and the German police attaché in Bulgaria, Otto Hoffmann, told Berlin, “for this reason, no pressure can at present be exerted on the Bulgarian Government to send Jews to the East.” And they added, “On general political grounds and with regard for the Bulgarian mentality, the expulsion should be the desire of the Bulgarians themselves.” [48]


The attitude of the German Ambassador to Bulgaria, Beckerle, toward the Jewish question is not completely clear. A dedicated Nazi who had been a member of the 1932 Reichstag and then head of the Frankfurt police, Beckerle had the high rank of Obergruppenführer (Colonel-General) in the SA at the age of 35. It therefore seems inconceivable that he would have had any but the most orthodox Nazi views concerning the Jews, although not surprisingly he has written to the author that he was responsible for saving the Bulgarian Jews from deportation. [49] Normally this claim would not be taken seriously. However, both Hannah Arendt and Gerald Reitlinger have stated that Beckerle’s reports to Berlin discouraged Germany from putting more pressure on Bulgaria to persecute the Jews. It is true that many of the cables he sent during this period were the barest minimum that he could do and still keep the confidence of his superiors. Since the war, neither the Russians (who held him until late 1955) nor the Bonn government has been able to convict him for war crimes. [50]



The Sparing of the Jews


The sending of the Jews to the provinces caused food and housing problems in a country already troubled by both. The Germans therefore expected that the Bulgarians would be only too happy to see the Jewish problem quickly taken off their hands. Since many of the expellees were quartered in school buildings that would be needed again in the autumn, this seemed to put a limit on the time the “final solution” could be delayed. [51]


The possibility of an Allied landing in the Balkans caused the Germans





to worry about the threat posed by 50,000 enemies located behind the German main lines of defense. This increased their desire to see the Jewish problem solved as soon as possible. [52] Bulgaria was also aware of the strategic situation, but for a different reason. It was widely believed in Bulgaria, as in Hungary, that Allied bombers had refrained from attacking the cities for fear of killing many Jews; with the Jews now out of the main cities, even more caution must be exerted to forestall Allied bombing. [53]


Germany sought the assistance of the Bulgarian air force to defend the Rumanian oil fields, which had recently been bombed, and also requested Bulgarian support in the propaganda campaign against the person of Stalin. The Germans felt that for the time being the final solution of the Jewish question should not be pursued, so as not to jeopardize these other requests. The death of Tsar Boris on August 28, 1943, also diverted attention from the Jewish question. It had become clear by then that Bulgaria would reject all further German demands concerning the Jews on the grounds that persecution would create internal complications. Thus, little more could be expected until Germany had gained some new military victories. [54]


For the remainder of the war, the Jews remained in villages and makeshift camps, living in uneasy tranquility. The less fortunate ones lived in such camps as Samobit, where the daily ration was 300 grams of bread and bean soup so watery that, in the words of one inmate, “the tiny beans could only be found with submarines.” [55] More fortunate ones benefited from the sympathy of the neighboring peasants and ate much better than if they had remained in the cities. At least they were all spared the air raids that struck Sofia during the latter part of 1943 and early 1944. The Jews continued to fear that Germany would one day remember the Jewish problem —there were panics in February 1944 and in the summer of that year—but the Germans apparently had forgotten about the Bulgarian Jews. Perhaps by then they had other things to worry about.






Chapter 10. The Allied Threat



GERMANY’S POSITION at Stalingrad at the beginning of 1943 had become so critical that even the strongest Bulgarian Germanophiles were alarmed. Filov himself was disturbed. On January 26, 1943, he wrote: “I am convinced that sooner or later the Germans will cope with the situation, but I am afraid of the political reverberations, not only in our country, but especially in Rumania and Hungary.” Despite his general optimism, he admitted that recently he had had “several sleepless nights.” [1] At the beginning of February 1943, the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad finally surrendered. The Tsar, who usually became despondent at the slightest setback, took the news with surprising calmness. [2] The full significance of Stalingrad was not immediately perceived; it was recognized as a serious setback, to be sure, but was not considered a permanent one. Even in Germany, one diarist wrote, “The masses have taken the disaster calmly. Only a very few are capable of appreciating the full implications of the tragedy. The official communique is so tersely worded that only those in the know can interpret it correctly.” [3] The Bulgarian Minister of War, General Mihov, met Hitler in mid-February and returned to Bulgaria with little anxiety about the defeat at Stalingrad; when Boris talked with Beckerle a few days later, his only comment was praise for von Kleist’s “military masterpiece” of a withdrawal. [4]


Another reason for the Tsar’s continued confidence may have been the belief—shared and perhaps inspired by Hitler—that the alliance





between Moscow and the West was built on such irreconcilable differences that it would soon come apart, particularly if the Soviet Union began to seem a greater threat than Germany. Thus Stalingrad could conceivably work to the benefit of the Axis. Filov remarked, “It would not surprise me if after some great Russian successes the British reduced or stopped shipment to Russia” in order to prolong the war and exhaust both the continental powers. [5] By the end of March 1943, however, the Tsar’s ephemeral optimism had evaporated and he once again was convinced that Germany had already lost the war. [6]


Stalingrad marked a turning point in the war, and this gradual realization had an enormous effect upon Bulgaria during the coming months. The Communist Party, which had shriveled in the autumn of 1941, slowly began to revive. Yet it would be wrong to exaggerate the impact of Stalingrad on the Bulgarian government at this time. Perhaps the government should have been more concerned, but the available evidence indicates that it was not. The main cause of Bulgarian anxiety during this period was not the danger from the Soviet Union, but the threat of Allied intervention through Turkey. The Allies had defeated the Germans in North Africa and had large forces poised in the Mediterranean to open a second front, whereas the Red army still seemed far away on the steppes.


In early January 1943, General Mihov had gone to Germany to discuss the defense of the Balkans with Hitler and to reach an agreement on the German-Bulgarian command structure in the event of an Allied invasion. Bulgaria would need German divisions if invaded, but the Bulgarian government did not want to give Germany complete control of military operations. [*] The two parties had finally agreed that if Turkey should attack Bulgaria, Bulgaria would direct the combined forces and German troops in the area would come under Bulgarian command; if the attack were made by Britain on the Aegean coast, as was more likely, Germany would have the supreme command. Germany had a low opinion of the Bulgarian generals,



*. To make certain that no unfavorable commitments were made, the Tsar had sent his close friend and adviser, Yordan Sevov, to the conference disguised as a captain.





but since it regarded an attack from Turkey as unlikely, this concession to Bulgaria’s national pride was acceptable. [7]


The German evaluation of the Turkish situation was summarized by Morrell, the air attaché in Ankara: (1) the Turks would like to stay neutral; (2) they have an enormous fear of Russia, which is “out for their hide” (das ihnen ans Leder wolle); (3) they will fight if we invade; (4) they would not fight if England undertook to do something in Turkey. [8] It was this fourth possibility that alarmed Bulgaria, for during January 1943 Prime Minister Churchill and Turkish President Ismet Inönü met in Adana, Turkey, and agreed on the so-called “Adana lists,” which included a provision that “Even should Germany not attack Turkey, Turkish interests may dictate that she intervene in the Balkans to prevent anarchy. Such a condition could arise as a result of increasing German weakness, trouble in Bulgaria, a quarrel between Rumania and Hungary over Transylvania, or more extensive Greek or Yugoslav resistance.” There were also reports of an increasing number of British and Americans entering Turkey, presumably to prepare the way for the basing of Allied aircraft in that country. Numerous long-range bombers were reportedly stationed at Aleppo, Syria, giving credibility to the report that the Allies were planning to bomb a Balkan city that spring. (German Intelligence did not yet know which city, but the name was said to begin with the letter “S,” meaning either Salonika or Sofia.) [9]


While in Germany, Mihov had assured the Germans that the Bulgarian army was well trained and in good spirits but woefully ill equipped; he feared panic might result if the Allies attacked. The Bulgarian government therefore began an intensive effort to persuade Germany to send more arms—especially tanks, planes, and heavy weapons. [10] Bulgaria also passed along the rumor that Stalin had recently demanded the opening of a second front in the Balkans, although even the Bulgarian Ambassador admitted that this rumor was not credible. Furthermore, Bulgaria pointed to the British-Turkish military negotiations in Ankara and the arrival of the former American Minister to Bulgaria, Earle, as American naval attaché to Turkey. The Tsar believed that Turkey could be trusted for the time being





because of the war situation, but he did fear an Allied landing on Crete and the Peloponnesus. [11]


A preemptive attack on Turkey was still a popular idea in Bulgaria. Hitler told Boris at their meeting on March 31, 1943, that Germany remained firmly against such an attack despite believing that Turkey would move closer and closer toward Great Britain. [12] Fear of Russia was expected to keep Turkey cautious about involvement in the war, but Bulgaria had little confidence in Turkish neutrality and erroneously regarded the Turks as the main threat to Bulgarian security. [13]



The Allied Conditions for Peace


The German reverses in Russia and North Africa and the expected invasion of southeastern Europe prompted a number of Bulgarian officials independently to seek contact with the West to sound out the possibility of Bulgaria’s leaving the war. They did not believe the war was necessarily lost but thought it desirable to ascertain the Allied attitude “just in case.” The Germans knew the Bulgarians well enough to expect them to contact the Allies as soon as Axis fortunes began to wane, and the fact that Germany had broken the Bulgarian diplomatic code in 1942 proved useful in confirming this suspicion. [*]


In 1943, for the first time, Germany began asking questions about the activities and movements of certain high Bulgarian officials. For example, the Tsar’s confidant, Yordan Sevov, made an official trip to Istanbul early in 1943 ostensibly to investigate the intentions of the Turkish government toward Bulgaria, but rumors circulated that he had actually gone to meet a representative of the Allies, Angel Kuyumdzhiisky. This man, who had been a prominent Bulgarian financier before the war, was acting as a representative of the Allies with the rank of colonel in the United States Army. It is doubtful, however, that Sevov met him or any other Allied representative at this time. [14]



*. The Germans periodically circulated copies of important intercepted messages in a top secret brown booklet nicknamed “The Brown Friend.”





Allen Dulles, the American intelligence chief in Switzerland, was in contact with the Bulgarian Consul in Geneva, M. H. Milev, and tried unsuccessfully to use him to reach the Ambassador, former Prime Minister Georgi Kioseivanov. Milev informed Sofia of the developments and reported that “Kioseivanov had categorically rejected all attempts to enter into connection with him”; but, he suggested, “it would be useful for us to know what the Americans are thinking and what their intentions arc concerning relations with Bulgaria, and at the same time to let them know our problem.” [15]


It must be said that the Allies themselves were making no great effort to encourage Bulgaria’s defection from the Axis. Two issues were important obstacles to a Bulgarian settlement with the Allies: the Allied demand for unconditional surrender, and their unwillingness to promise that Bulgaria would retain its territorial gains. At the Casablanca conference in January 1943, Churchill and Roosevelt had agreed that unconditional surrender should be required of Germany and Japan, although there was some sentiment for excluding Italy in order to encourage the breakup of the Axis at its weakest link. The British War Cabinet, however, decided that “it would be better to include Italy, because of the misgivings that might otherwise be caused in Turkey, the Balkans and elsewhere.” [16] Thus, no exceptions to that policy were to be allowed.


Also, no concessions were offered on the territorial issue. The U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, informed the American representative in Ankara:


The Department has received an increasing number of reports indicating the desire of various of the so-called “satellite states” to establish contact with official or unofficial representatives of the U.S. All of these reports have one common element: the individuals desire assurance that their territories will be maintained at the end of the war.


... Although the Department has no direct reports, it is clear that a number of Bulgarians are endeavoring to do the same thing in Turkey.


The Department has uniformly declined to permit discussions, although it has not interfered with the gathering of information from these, and, other enemy nationals, by the Intelligence service. [17]





The British government was no more enthusiastic about talks with the Bulgarians, for in April 1943 a note to the U.S. Department of State contained this passage:


His Majesty’s Government have hitherto received no indications of peace feelers from the Bulgarian Government. If any approaches are made in the future it will be open to His Majesty’s Government to decide on their merits whether or not they should be pursued. It should be borne in mind, however, that any negotiations between His Majesty’s Government and the Bulgarians would at once arouse the deepest suspicion on the part of the Greek, Yugoslav and Turkish Governments. [18]


The American reply to the above note summarized the official attitude in Washington that the contacts made so far by the Bulgarians were not serious enough to warrant more encouragement:


The general tenor of reports reaching the Department indicates that the Bulgarian people, as compared with the Huns, are less ready to admit the mistakes of their Government’s policy, or to take the positive action which would be necessary if they are to make any effective contribution to the defeat of the Axis. It may be suspected, in whatever peace-feelers may have been made thus far, of emanating from official quarters. The Department therefore believes that the agencies concerned with the state of public opinion in Bulgaria should intensify their efforts to bring about a change in Bulgarian mentality, preliminary to any indication of interest in anything Bulgarian spokesmen may have to say. [19]


The Germans were unaware of the contents of these notes, but they were concerned about a trip to Turkey in March 1943 by a man named Lyuben Pulev. German intelligence sources had discovered that Pulev had used a diplomatic passport and suspected that he had gone to confer with Earle. Tsar Boris denied that the trip had any significance or that Pulev was a figure of any importance; Pulev’s diplomatic passport, he said, dated from an earlier period. [*] This and the Sevov incident earlier in the year showed that Germany was at least somewhat concerned about the loyalty of its Balkan partner.



*. Exhaustive inquiries by the Germans soon revealed that Pulev had been a close friend of Earle and was thought to be an Allied agent, possibly with access to an airplane belonging to the Bulgarian commercial attaché in Bucharest. Ribbentrop-Boris talks, Berlin, 4.iv.43, SSF, T120 255.173890-91; Beckerle, Sofia, 21.iv.43, SSF, T120 255.173902-3.





But surprisingly, during the next year and a half, Germany made few attempts to protest or prevent Bulgarian contacts with the Allies. By the end of 1943, these contacts were common knowledge, and by mid-1944 they were carried on almost openly. Yet Germany did not interfere.


One explanation might be that Bulgaria was trusted so much that these contacts were not taken seriously. But former Ambassador Beckerle has hinted at another explanation: “These contacts with the Allies were known to us and took place with the consent of Hitler, who wanted thereby to test certain possibilities.” [20] This unfortunately raises more questions than it answers, and at present no more is known, but the point should be kept in mind during the remaining chapters.


The summer of 1943 saw a renewal of interest in peace negotiations. In July, the former Bulgarian Ambassador to Great Britain, Nikola Momchilov, who had resigned in protest against the Tripartite Pact in 1941, sent a letter to Purvan Draganov recommending that Bulgaria join Great Britain at once in driving Germany from the Balkans. Draganov said he could not act on this matter himself since it would be treason, but he did forward the letter to Filov, who in turn rejected all responsibility for it but passed it on to the Tsar. There it seems the matter ended. [21] The former British Ambassador to Bulgaria, Sir George Rendel, did not have much more success with Kioseivanov. After a three-and-a-half-hour talk with Filov, Kioseivanov informed Rendel that Filov still believed in a German victory. The Allied refusal to guarantee Bulgaria’s new frontiers remained a major obstacle, and after the meeting Kioseivanov declared, “We are unable to make any deviations from our policy, which is guided by our aspiration for national unity.” [22]


The Bulgarian government, however, did authorize its diplomatic mission in Switzerland to use a Swiss official to contact Allen Dulles’s group in that country. It hoped that perhaps the Americans would be more sympathetic to Bulgarian irredentism and more willing to recognize its territorial acquisitions. This did not prove to be the case. The Americans replied that no guarantees could be made before a





peace conference, except that Bulgaria’s right to the Southern Dobruja might possibly be recognized. [23]


These attempts to find a basis for negotiations were adversely affected by the extremely hard line the Allies took against the regime of Tsar Boris. The magnitude of this hostility toward Bulgaria is illustrated by an Aide-Mémoire from the British Embassy in Washington to the U.S. Department of State:


“His Majesty’s Government therefore regard Bulgaria’s inclusion in the Axis as the result of a deliberate decision taken with full knowledge and warning of the consequences. They refuse to recognize the annexation by Bulgaria of Greek and Yugoslav territory and they regard themselves in no way committed to the survival of the sovereign Bulgarian state [emphasis added].” [24]


British Ambassador Rendel had repeatedly warned Boris against joining the Axis, and now the Tsar was to pay for his actions. The British plan suggested the creation of a South East Europe Confederation that would include Bulgaria, but no assurances were to be given that Bulgaria would be allowed to participate as a national entity. This confederation would also take care of the problem of dealing with the Bulgarian monarchy:


As regards His Majesty’s Government’s attitude towards the Saxe-Coburg dynasty, it will be recalled that the present war is the third occasion on which a member of this House has been party to a treacherous attack on one of its neighbors. The responsibility in the present instance cannot be transferred from the King to the Bulgarian Government, who are regarded by the Bulgarian people as the creatures of their King, and are so in fact. If the future of South East Europe is on a federal basis, there will, moreover, be no place for a Bulgaria ruled over by a member of the present royal House because of the natural and justified feelings of rancour with which he could be regarded by the neighbouring states, and particularly the royal Houses of Yugoslavia and Greece. His Majesty's Government therefore cannot have any dealings with King Boris, whose fate they regard as a matter of indifference, any more than they can have with the present government [emphasis added]. The King is a man of no little ability and cunning, but morally weak and incapable of courageous decision, a true son of his father. Any attempts to give him support in the hopes of detaching Bulgaria from the Axis would probably fail and we should merely compromise ourselves in the eyes of our Balkan allies





and the world besides laying up for ourselves incalculable difficulties in our plans for the future of South Eastern Europe.


... We can make no promises and give no undertakings regarding the future of Bulgaria, and the Bulgarian people must trust that by honourable capitulation they will find the only way out of their present misery. [25]


Thus there was little basis for negotiations between Bulgaria and the Anglo-Americans. It is understandable that Bulgaria was not enthusiastic about the Rumanian suggestion on August 16 that the two countries should allow the Anglo-Saxons to take over the Balkan peninsula to save it from Bolshevism. [26] When former Foreign Minister Ivan Popov went to Filov in August and told him that the seriousness of the international situation made it incumbent upon Bulgaria to have at least some contacts with the Allies, Filov replied that it was “still early” for this. [27]



The Threat of an Allied Invasion


In the summer of 1943, Bulgaria was filled with rumors of an imminent Allied invasion of the Balkans. The French General Giraud had established a pro-Allied government in North Africa in March 1943 and Axis resistance ceased there in May. The Allies were expected to strike north from Africa sometime during the summer. The Allies had encouraged the belief that they would land in the Balkans because they wanted to distract Germany’s attention from Sicily, the actual site of the planned operation. The British “Operation Mincemeat,” involving the placing of misleading documents on the body of a British military officer supposedly drowned off the Spanish coast, successfully deceived German intelligence about the location of the next Allied attack. On May 14, Admiral Doenitz wrote: “The Führer  does not agree with the Duce that the most likely invasion is Sicily. Furthermore, he believes that the discovered Anglo-Saxon order confirms the assumption that the planned attack will be directed mainly against Sardinia and the Peloponnesus.” [28] Hitler remained so certain that even two weeks after the Allied landings in Sicily he still believed them a feint and sent Field Marshal Rommel to Greece to take command of the troops there.





With an invasion of Greece expected, Germany wanted to dispatch all available troops to the threatened area. When Boris again visited Hitler at the beginning of June 1943, he was requested to extend Bulgaria’s zone of occupation once more to free German troops for the defense of the Peloponnesus. Bulgaria put aside its fear of Turkey and hesitantly yielded to the German request. General Mihov, despite his firm sympathies with Germany, worried that Bulgaria’s forces were so overextended that the request should have been declined. Filov discounted this objection, for he said that Bulgaria’s compliance on this issue would strengthen a later claim to German military support. [29]


Germany wanted Bulgaria’s help not only in the occupation of the Balkans but also in the defense of the entire peninsula. The Italians were uneasy about the military situation in the Balkans, and to reassure them Ribbentrop promised that “at the moment the Anglo-Saxons would undertake an invasion of the Balkans, Bulgaria would jump in line with us with twenty-eight divisions.” [30] Despite this promise, the Bulgarian government had not changed its intention of remaining out of the war. [31]


On July 10, 1943, the Allied forces invaded southern Europe, not in the Balkans, as expected, but in Sicily. Rome and Naples were attacked from the air, and by July 22, half of Sicily had fallen to the invaders. Then on Sunday, July 25, came the news that Mussolini had been overthrown by a group of his closest supporters and that Marshal Badoglio had formed a new government. Three days later, the Fascist Party was dissolved. Badoglio assured the Germans that Italy would continue to honor its obligations, but his government was actually preparing to make a separate peace. Bulgarian officials were much relieved by Badoglio’s statement of continued loyalty to the Axis, hut the Tsar himself realized that the change in government was no mere palace revolution. The Italian fascist regime had collapsed, and Boris did not believe that Italy would continue the war any longer than was necessary. [32]


The Rumanian dictator, Marshal Ion Antonescu, was greatly alarmed by the events in Italy and sent a proposal to Bulgaria that





the two countries should prepare for the joint defense of their territory. Antonescu explained that this would in no way change relations with Germany, but it was evident that he no longer had complete faith in German protection. Filov informed Beckerle of the offer, including Antonescu’s assurance that it would not affect either country’s attitude toward Germany. Beckerle replied that discussions on Balkan defense measures might be useful, but Ribbentrop was clearly not pleased by the plan. Bulgaria seemed less concerned about the merits of Antonescu’s proposal than about the opportunity it provided to win favor with Germany by revealing Antonescu’s intentions. Filov told Beckerle on this occasion that


“our relations with Germany are radically different from those of Hungary and Rumania with Germany.... There is much similarity in the character and mentality of the Germans and Bulgarians ... and the Government cannot undertake anything in foreign policy without Germany.” [33]



The Murder of General Lukov


During the first half of 1943, the internal situation in Bulgaria altered considerably. The nationalist opposition, which had been a major concern for the Tsar, declined sharply in importance owing to the death of its leader, while the Communists once again became a nuisance, if not yet a threat. On February 13, General Hristo Lukov, the extreme Germanophile and leading member of the nationalist opposition, was shot dead by unknown assassins. The police believed that he had been killed by the same person or persons who had recently murdered a police agent, as both men were reportedly killed by the same gun. Despite a substantial reward of 300,000 leva, the usually efficient Sofia police were baffled by the assassination. [34]


The initial assumption was that the Communists were responsible for the murder, and since the war they have claimed the credit, but speculation quickly arose concerning the incident. One theory, which was accepted by British Intelligence, was that Lukov’s murder was the result of his initial support but subsequent betrayal of Georgiev, Velchev, and Zaimov in the 1934 coup, for which he had been rewarded





with the post of Minister of War under Kioseivanov. Lukov was also believed partly responsible for the arrest and execution of General Zaimov in 1942, although there is no evidence that he was in any way involved. [35] A more popular theory was that the murder had been carried out by agents of the Tsar, and this suspicion increased as the days passed without an arrest. Lukov had been a source of considerable anxiety to Boris, and no one benefited more than the Tsar from his death. The Legionnaires and Ratnitsi themselves believed that the assassination was the signal for a full-scale purge directed against them, and during the next few days they made frantic efforts to prepare for action. [36] Assassination had been so common in recent Bulgarian history, especially during the turbulent interwar period, that this belief did not seem unreasonable.


Filov told Boris four days after Lukov’s death that public curiosity could not be satisfied merely by saying that the murder had been committed by a “foreign hand” or “enemies of Bulgaria.” People were beginning to ask questions, he said, and suspicion would fall on the government unless the true killers were found. Filov believed that there was no question but that the Communists were responsible because of the evidence of the gun, but this had to he proved irrefutably. “We need to use this killing,” he said, “to strengthen the fight against the Communists and likewise against the Jews.” [37] The Tsar and Sevov believed that the assassination had been the work of the Turks, with the help of the British, since Lukov was known to be so violently anti-Turkish that he had delighted in throwing pork down Turkish wells.


On April 15, 1943, another assassination occurred. Sotir Yanev, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Narodno Subranie and a leading supporter of the regime, was shot down by two people in front of his Sofia law office only a day after he had delivered a strongly pro-German speech. Some two weeks later terrorists struck again, killing Colonel Pantev (the “Black Panther”), the former director of police who had become head of the Sofia Military Tribunal. He had had close ties with Lukov and had been suspected





by the Tsar of planning a coup in 1942. Two suspects were arrested by the police, but could not be connected with the affair. [*]


The government could hardly delay taking drastic measures to find those responsible for the murders. On May 5, the entire city of Sofia was blockaded and a house-to-house search conducted. Fifty known Communists were discovered in hiding, including some who had been sentenced to death in absentia, but the government was unable to connect any of them with the recent events. Then on May 10, an attempt was made on the life of Kulcho Yanakiev, a relatively minor official who was an adviser on radio matters to the Director of National Propaganda working on the jamming of foreign broadcasts. He was only slightly wounded, but both of his assailants were captured: a man and a woman belonging to a Communist terrorist group. On May 25 Yanakiev was attacked again. This time he escaped harm, but his would-be killer was shot down by the police after a long gun battle. The flurry of police activity and the blockade discouraged the Communist efforts at urban terrorism: “After these actions, the position of fighting groups in Sofia became much more difficult. Only in Sofia did individual fighters remain.” [38]


The government was also facing the challenge of renewed militant street demonstrations, owing to the improvement of Communist morale after Stalingrad. The anniversary of the 1878 Treaty of San Stefano and Bulgaria’s liberation from the Turks was on March 3. On the previous evening, the Bulgarian Communist Party ordered the Russian memorial and other monuments to be decorated with flowers and banners. It also distributed mimeographed leaflets bearing such slogans as “Long live our liberator—the Russian people,” “Not one soldier for the Eastern Front,” and “Down with the government of Bogdan Filov.” The next day a crowd of two thousand people gathered in the area between the University and the Narodno Subranie building, where they were met by police with drawn pistols



*. The details and even the dates of these killings vary considerably in different accounts. Pantev’s murder was on May 3, not in April as some have said. Details on ballistics and pattern of attack are quite unclear, owing partially to the frequent confusion in Bulgarian accounts of the Lukov killing with that of Yanev.





who tried to force them back. One medical student who had been an active Communist for eleven years was killed, and 300 other people were arrested. It is interesting, however, to note the leniency with which those arrested were treated by the courts. Of the 300, six were sent to provincial villages (the so-called “domestic exile”) and fifteen to camps in Thrace; all the rest were merely booked and released. [39]


Also in 1943, for the first time since 1939, there was a large May Day demonstration in Sofia. In fact, Communist historians claim that the demonstration was so large and menacing that the Tsar was forced to flee the city. [*] The March and May demonstrations were a portent of what could happen if Bulgaria’s international position continued to decline, and were a warning that more drastic police measures would be needed in the future. At this time, for example, there was still no prohibition against listening to foreign broadcasts, although the Russian-based “Hristo Botev” radio station was attracting a growing number of listeners. [40] Also, pro-Communist students had benefited from the government’s policy of maintaining the “political purity of the army,” which had exempted them from military service. In February 1943, however, the government finally decided that these students could perhaps be kept under closer observation if they were in the army, and many of them were inducted. [41]


A consistent policy seems to have been lacking in the government’s treatment of arrested Communists. On the one hand, a surprising number of Party members and even captured partisans were able to secure their release from prison, usually through the intercession of their Narodno Subranie representative, who in many cases was a person of unquestionably anti-Communist views. It is still not clear how this procedure worked or why the government tolerated it. [42] On the other hand, captured Communists were often treated with great brutality by the police, who paid little attention to the niceties of the law. Execution was a favorite means of dealing with partisans: prisoners



*. The Tsar left Sofia for Plovdiv during the last week in April; almost certainly he did not come back to the capital until the Monday or Tuesday following the May Day weekend. Thus, the dramatic account of his flight from the city is probably false: see Utro (Sofia), i.v.43 and 5.v.43.





were shot or burned alive in special furnaces under the Sofia headquarters. Suspects were held without charge much longer than the statutory six months. Brutality toward the Communists increased sharply with the revival of the partisan movement in mid-1943, and before long it became standard practice to cut off the heads of killed or captured partisans and bring them in for a reward. [43]






Chapter 11. The Bulgarian Occupation of Macedonia



NO WORD HAD more magic for the Bulgarian people than “Macedonia.” This rugged and barren territory in what is today southern Yugoslavia and northern Greece was a principal reason for Bulgaria’s involvement in two unsuccessful wars—the Second Balkan War and the First World War—and was a major factor in Bulgarian politics during the 1920’s and early 1930’s, when political groups were killing each other in the streets of Sofia over it. Yet, when Bulgaria finally occupied Macedonia in 1941 after Operation Marita, that long-contested land became merely another provincial area in the Bulgarian state.


Some important differences between Macedonia and the rest of Bulgaria nevertheless remained. Macedonia was an ethnic patchwork, with many inhabitants who did not regard themselves as Bulgarians; as a result, the occupiers made energetic efforts to “Bulgarize” them, either by propaganda or—especially in Aegean Macedonia, where the population was overwhelmingly Greek—by expulsions and executions. [*] In addition, the boundaries of the “new lands” were not permanently fixed; as the Germans reduced their own forces in the Balkans, the Bulgarian occupation zone expanded on several occasions—and Bulgaria expected that Germany would formally recognize



*. Aegean Macedonia (Egeiska Makedoniya), the area between Salonika and the Turkish border, was not a part of the territory traditionally considered Macedonia. Europeans generally called the area Aegean Thrace; Bulgarians often referred to it as Belomorie or Belomorska Trakiya, based on their term for the Aegean (Byalo more — white sea).





the annexations at the end of the war. The occupation of Macedonia also touched off a bitter internecine conflict between Bulgarian and Yugoslav Communists over control of the Macedonian Party, and this conflict had considerable postwar significance.



The Occupation of Vardar Macedonia


When German troops advanced into Vardar (Yugoslav) Macedonia in April 1941, the Macedonians greeted the victors with great enthusiasm. Crowds in Skopie, the provincial capital, displayed a banner which, paraphrasing the German slogan, hailed the unification of Macedonia and Bulgaria: “One people, one Tsar, one kingdom.” [1] The citizens gave an even more tumultuous welcome to the Bulgarian troops that entered Macedonia on April 19, 1941. [2] The warm reception accorded the Bulgarian soldiers was in large part the result of Macedonian resentment at three decades of Serbian dominance. “Administrative brutality, Serbian chauvinism, political corruption, and economic exploitation were more flagrant in Macedonia than in any other part of Yugoslavia.” [3] It was therefore not surprising that many Macedonians cheered the entering Bulgarians. One resident of Skopie later explained, “Of course we cheered; we had no way of knowing then that the Bulgarians would just repeat all the mistakes the Serbs had made.” [4]


Disillusionment came quickly. Bulgarians, not Macedonians, replaced the expelled Serbian officials, and “even the returning Macedonian exiles seemed strangers.” [5] All matters of importance were decided in Sofia, and the local authorities seemed determined to make the region into an indistinguishable part of Greater Bulgaria. The officials sent to Macedonia were rarely Bulgaria’s best. Because the primitive conditions of the region made it an undesirable place in which to serve, the administration was staffed by castoffs from other governmental agencies. A German intelligence report in October 1942 observed:


“The Macedonians, who during the period of Yugoslav rule had regarded everything Bulgarian with admiration, now are exceedingly disillusioned after becoming acquainted with a completely corrupt as well as incompetent Bulgarian administration.” [6]





Even if the officials had been better, the conditions they encountered would have severely tested their endurance. A leading opposition member of the Narodno Subranie, Petko Stainov, complained in June 1942, “What outlook and spirit do you expect from officials who for five months have eaten only bread and beans?” [7] The occupation troops had adequate food, sent from Bulgaria proper, but they acted just as harshly and arrogantly toward the local population as did the officials. Instead of acting as “liberators,” the troops behaved as conquerors. This was remedied somewhat after higher authorities became aware of the problem, but the bitter impression remained. The army that had been greeted with such enthusiasm became an object of disgust. [8]


Those Macedonians who had expected cultural and linguistic autonomy were especially disappointed. The authorities rejected all claims to Macedonian cultural uniqueness and “treated the natives as somewhat backward Bulgarians.” [9] Heavy emphasis was placed on education as a means of Bulgarization. (Prime Minister Filov was also minister of education.) Delegates to a teachers’ conference in Skopie were told that their highest duty was the “preservation of the territorial unity and independence of the Bulgarian state.” [10] The new curriculum in the Macedonian schools strongly emphasized Bulgarian topics and discouraged the use of the Macedonian language, which the Bulgarian authorities regarded, rightly or wrongly, as only a dialect of Bulgarian. A typical weekly schedule included seven hours of Bulgarian, three hours of Bulgarian history, and one hour of Bulgarian church history. This compared with only three hours for mathematics, three for a modern language, and one hour for Russian (which was available only in grades five and six). [11]


The Bulgarians, to their credit, did enact a series of laws providing for tax relief and economic assistance in the new territories, including Southern Dobruja. They also established 800 new schools in Macedonia and presented Skopie with a library, a museum, a national theater, and, in December 1943, a university named after the recently deceased Tsar Boris. [12] Many Macedonians, however, regarded these endowments as further evidence of Bulgarization. The use of the Bulgarian





language in schools aroused increasing opposition and became a rallying point for dissident Macedonians irritated by other aspects of the occupation. In 1943 and 1944, the opposition reached such a level that in many areas attendance was maintained only by coercion, and some schools were unable to operate at all. [13]


Bulgarization was not limited to secular institutions. On May 3, 1941, the Bulgarian Holy Synod assumed control over the Orthodox churches in occupied Yugoslavia and Greece. Four new eparchies were established, and several new bishops and metropolitans were designated. [14] Under government direction, the Synod brought in priests from Bulgaria proper, ordered services conducted in Bulgarian rather than Macedonian, and appointed a church commission to remove all vestiges of non-Bulgarian culture. [15] On June 10, 1942, the Narodno Subranie imposed Bulgarian citizenship on all persons of “Bulgarian” descent living in Vardar and Aegean Macedonia. All others still residing in these areas on April 1,1943, would become citizens unless they declared themselves otherwise, in which case they would be required to leave the country. Those who made this choice would have to leave penniless because the Bulgarians froze all bank accounts in Macedonia. On the other hand, those accepting Bulgarian citizenship were promised exemption from all taxes and levies. [16]



IMRO and Ivan Mihailov


The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) was no longer an important factor in Macedonian affairs. This famous terrorist organization, founded originally in 1895 to fight for Macedonia’s liberation from the Turks, had made Bulgaria its base after the incorporation of most of Macedonia into Yugoslavia following the First World War. From Bulgaria it waged a guerrilla campaign against Yugoslav—and particularly Serbian—domination of Macedonia. Bulgarian Prime Minister Stambolisky had attempted to curb IMRO activities and to establish better relations with Yugoslavia, but his efforts only contributed to his overthrow and death in 1923. For a decade IMRO operated freely—almost as a state within a state—administering Bulgarian (Pirin) Macedonia and assassinating those





who opposed its goals. Although IMRO was divided between those who favored Macedonian autonomy and those who desired unification with Bulgaria, ideology was often less important to the organization than was financial support from various interested countries, notably Bulgaria and Italy. The organization’s excesses gradually lost it much of its popular support, and in 1934 the Bulgarian government finally took decisive action against it. It then shriveled to a small remnant around its leader, Ivan Mihailov. [17]


Even though IMRO had little significance during the war, many individuals who had been linked to the organization held positions of responsibility in Bulgarian agencies, particularly in the “new lands.” [18] Mihailov himself retained a certain amount of influence. There are reports that he was twice considered by the Bulgarians and Germans as a possible governor of Macedonia. In October 1942, according to these accounts, the Tsar became so concerned about the deteriorating situation in Macedonia that he sent the head of his court intelligence service to Zagreb, where Mihailov was a guest of Ante Pavelich, the Poglavnik (ruler) of Croatia. Mihailov reportedly criticized the Bulgarization campaign in Macedonia, and the meeting came to naught. [19] In 1944, when unrest in Macedonia reached crisis proportions, Mihailov was contacted by both the Bulgarians and the Germans; the latter are said to have considered him for Gauleiter of Macedonia in the event of the collapse of the Bulgarian occupation. These talks also came to naught. [20]



The Occupation of Aegean Macedonia


The Bulgarian occupation in Aegean Macedonia was considerably harsher than in Vardar Macedonia, where the population was largely Slavic. Whereas the Bulgarian policy in the latter was to win the loyalty of the Slav inhabitants, the policy in the Aegean littoral was to Bulgarize forcibly as many Greeks as possible and to expel or kill the rest. Bulgarian colonists were encouraged to settle on land expropriated from Greeks, in the hope that a Bulgarian majority in the region would insure permanent Bulgarian control. [21]


During the first few months of the Aegean occupation, the Bulgarians





made an effort to gain the support of the local inhabitants. They conducted an extensive propaganda campaign, established Bulgarian schools, and distributed food and milk to Greek children. [22] It quickly became apparent, however, that this approach had little chance of success. The occupation authorities therefore resorted to more drastic measures. The Bulgarians closed Greek schools and expelled the teachers, replaced Greek clergymen with priests from Bulgaria, and sharply repressed the Greek language: even gravestones bearing Greek inscriptions were defaced. Bulgarian families were encouraged to settle in Macedonia by government credits and incentives, including houses and land confiscated from the natives. The authorities also confiscated Greek business property and gave it to Bulgarian colonists. In the town of Kavalla, for example, over seven hundred shops and other enterprises were expropriated. Large numbers of Greeks were expelled, and others were deprived of the right to work by a license system that banned the practice of a trade or profession without the express permission of the occupation government. [23]


A revolt broke out in the city of Drama on the morning of September 28, 1941, and quickly spread throughout Greek Macedonia; In Drama a crowd attacked the city hall and killed four Bulgarian policemen; in Doxato the entire Bulgarian police force of twenty men was massacred; in Choristi armed Greeks seized the town and called on other towns to join them; and in many other villages there were clashes between Greeks and the Bulgarian authorities. [24] The rebellion was short-lived. On September 29 Bulgarian troops moved into Drama and the other rebellious cities and seized all men between the ages of 18 and 45. Over three thousand people were reportedly executed in Drama alone; in the countryside entire villages were machine-gunned and looted. An estimated fifteen thousand Greeks were killed during the next few weeks. [25]


The Drama revolt had hardly ended before rumors spread that the entire rebellion had been instigated by Bulgarian agents provocateurs. Although conclusive evidence of Bulgarian provocation is lacking, present-day historians, both Greek and Bulgarian, continue to voice their suspicions. One Greek writer relates examples of Bulgarian provocations





and describes the rebellion as still “une affaire obscure'"; a Bulgarian historian admits “the Drama events have still not been thoroughly investigated.” [26] Whatever its origins, the revolt allowed authorities to justify the subsequent atrocities by claiming “military necessity.” [27]


The massacres precipitated a mass exodus of Greeks from the zone of Bulgarian control into the German occupation zone. Bulgarian “reprisals” continued after the September revolt, adding to the torrent of refugees. Villages were destroyed for sheltering “partisans,” who were in fact only the survivors of villages previously destroyed. [28] (There were some Greek partisans in Macedonia, but they were of little significance. [29]) The terror and famine became so severe in the region that the Athens government considered plans for evacuating the entire population of Aegean Macedonia to German-occupied Greece. [30]


The exodus of many Greeks and the settlement of Bulgarian families in Belomorie altered the ethnic composition of the region. The Sofia newspaper Zora clearly approved: “The Greeks have now been expelled forever from these Bulgarian regions; our Thracian brothers return in masses to their ancient homes. By means of the repopulation of these regions by Bulgarians, which is being carried out on a large scale, and by the ‘Bulgarization’ of Western Thrace, these territories of Southern Bulgaria are colonized for a fourth time by those who have lived there for centuries.” [31]


Although the Bulgarian government considered Macedonia an integral part of Bulgaria from the first, the territory’s status was not so clear to Germany. Hitler had privately indicated that Macedonia should eventually be granted to Bulgaria, but the official German position was that “the fate of the various regions belonging to Yugoslavia will not be settled definitely until later, at the conclusion of peace. At present, therefore, no statements can be made regarding the future boundaries of Macedonia.” [32] When Bulgaria formally annexed the occupied portions of Macedonia on May 14, 1941, however, Germany raised no strong objections. With the invasion of the USSR only a month away, Germany could not spare the soldiers necessary to garrison the entire Balkan region and thus needed to rely on Bulgarian





and Italian troops to police the newly conquered territories. Therein lay conflict, for Italy also had designs on Macedonia. [33]


The Italians wished to expand from their Albanian enclave into western Macedonia to avail themselves of the mineral wealth of the region—chromium, tin, manganese, antimony, and molybdenum— and to enlarge the Roman imperium. The German government realized, however, that obtaining these war-essential minerals for itself would be easier if Bulgaria rather than Italy controlled the region. The boundaries of the Bulgarian occupation zone announced on April 17, 1941, were thus reasonably favorable to Bulgaria—although many Bulgarians were disappointed—and were expanded on May 15 to include the ancient Bulgarian shrine of Ohrid on the Albanian border. [*] On April 24, 1941, Clodius, the German emissary for economic affairs, secured a concession from the Bulgarian government giving Germany mining and railroad rights in the territory assigned to Bulgaria. [34]


In Greece the Bulgarians reacquired their former territory of Belomorie, extending along the Aegean coast from the Struma (Strymon) River east of Salonika to Dedeagach (Alexandropoulis) on the Turkish border. [35] Bulgaria looked longingly toward Salonika and western Macedonia, which were under German and Italian control, and established propaganda centers to secure the allegiance of the approximately 80,000 Slavs in these regions. The Bulgarian plan was to organize these Slavs militarily in the hope that Bulgaria would eventually assume the administration there. The appearance of Greek partisans in western Macedonia persuaded the Italian and German authorities to allow the formation of Slav security batallions (Ohrana units) led by Bulgarian officers. [36]


The heavy losses on the Eastern Front, the collapse of Italy, and the growing partisan movement in Yugoslavia forced Germany in 1943 to thin its forces in the Balkans. In late 1942 Germany had first requested increased Bulgarian participation in Balkan occupation duties (see Chapter 8), but Bulgarian assistance now became a necessity. [37]



*. The University of Sofia is officially named after the great religious leader Kliment of Ohrid.





Hitler raised the problem at a meeting with Tsar Boris in August 1943, urging the Bulgarians to occupy northeast Serbia and an additional section of Greek Macedonia. The Tsar agreed in principle but postponed a decision pending “consultations,” during which he vacillated between territorial avarice and the fear of further involvement in partisan-infested areas to which Bulgaria had little valid claim. His death left to his successors the task of expanding the Bulgarian occupation zone in Serbia. [38]


[The net result of the Bulgarian occupation of both Macedonian areas was misery and bitterness. In Vardar Macedonia, these feelings were caused by the emphasis on giving Macedonian Slavs a sense of Bulgarian identity, even if unwanted. In Aegean Macedonia, it was the policy of extermination and expulsion that only increased the hatred Greeks felt toward Bulgarians. And the Greeks blamed the Germans for inflicting the Bulgarians on them. [39]



The Conflict Between the Yugoslav and the Bulgarian Communists


The Bulgarian occupation of Macedonia produced a major conflict between the Yugoslav and the Bulgarian Communists: who was to be responsible for Macedonia? The majority of Bulgarian Communists, like the rest of their countrymen, believed that Macedonia was rightfully Bulgarian. A leading theoretician of the BKP, Todor Pavlov, circulated a letter in April 1941 denying that the Macedonians were a separate people; a Macedonian himself, he stated that throughout history they had always considered themselves Bulgarians, albeit with certain customs and traditions of their own. [40] Traicho Rostov, using the name “Grigorov,” argued that the ethnic question was in any case irrelevant: since Bulgaria was occupying the region, the BKP should be responsible for operations there.


Both the Bulgarian and Yugoslav parties urged resistance to fascism; but for the former, resistance apparently meant political opposition to the Tsarist regime, whereas to the latter it meant an armed struggle against the Bulgarian domination of Macedonia. [41] The head of the Macedonian Communist Party, Metodi Shatarov (“Sharlo”),





was pro-Bulgarian. Despite his Bulgarian and Macedonian nationalist sympathies, Sharlo had been named Secretary of the Macedonian Party in February 1940 in an attempt by the Yugoslav Communists to gain greater support in the region. After the Bulgarian occupation in April 1941, he refused to take orders from Tito and the Yugoslav Party. Tito advocated partisan resistance to the Bulgarians, but Sharlo ignored his orders to conceal weapons from the Bulgarian authorities and to prepare for armed resistance. [42] The BKP set up a committee to oversee the integration of Sharlo’s Party into the Bulgarian Party, and Anton Yugov attempted in April 1941 to reach an agreement with the Yugoslavs. Tito, however, refused to sanction the loss of Macedonia; in fact he had hopes of extending his own control to embrace Pirin (Bulgarian) Macedonia. Near the end of May 1941, he sent Lazar Kolishevski, a Macedonian, to take control of the Macedonian Party from Sharlo and to organize armed resistance to the Bulgarian occupation.


On June 25, 1941, a few days after the German attack on the USSR, Tito sent a letter to the Macedonian Party declaring Sharlo and the entire Macedonian Central Committee expelled. Sharlo replied on July 2 with an appeal for a “Soviet Macedonia” and declared his intention of remaining the leader of the Macedonian Party. This exchange brought the conflict to the attention of the Comintern in Moscow, where Tito was in a strong position because his call for resistance against the Axis now coincided with Soviet policy after the German invasion. [43] The Comintern’s decision in August 1941 was in favor of Tito and his position of armed resistance in Macedonia. The BKP accepted this decision and recalled Sharlo to Bulgaria, although they objected to his being described as a “class enemy.” [44] On August 25, Kolishevski established a regional committee for Macedonia and immediately set to work organizing resistance to the occupation. The BKP sent Peter Bogdanov, succeeded by Boyan Bulgaranov in October 1941, to maintain liaison with Kolishevski, but the relationship was not a cordial one. The pro-Kolishevski group was openly hostile to the Bulgarians and condemned the BKP’s continued reluctance to support any form of resistance stronger than sabotage. [45]





Kolishevski persisted in his effort to create partisan units, particularly in the regions of Kumanovo (25 km northeast of Skopie) and Prilep. On October 11, 1941, his forces had their first encounter with the Bulgarian army and were virtually wiped out. Shortly afterward, Kolishevski himself and a number of his lieutenants were captured and were imprisoned in Bulgaria for the rest of the war. [46] The resistance movement after Kolishevski’s arrest reverted to Bulgarian control. Throughout 1942 and part of 1943, it was weak and sporadic. There was considerable opposition within the BKP to committing scarce resources to a hopeless struggle against Bulgarian occupation forces, which, along with the I Corps in part of Serbia, amounted to five divisions during this period. Indeed, it was argued that those who fled into the mountains were doing the authorities a favor, because they were easier to catch there and could do less damage to the regime than if they were engaged in revolutionary agitation. According to this view, the Party should avoid a violent confrontation with the government until it gathered enough strength to assure success. [47]


The Yugoslav Communists, fighting for their lives, were unsympathetic to this argument. The Bulgarian Communists, however, pointed out the differences between the situations of the two parties: in Bulgaria, the government apparatus and the army remained intact, and despite propaganda about German control there was no alien occupier against whom national anger could be directed; in Yugoslavia, the army and the government had been destroyed and Axis troops were in occupation. [48]


Until late 1942 the partisan movement in Macedonia had few successes, although the continued sabotage acts in German-occupied Serbia were a frequent topic of conversation in Sofia. The Bulgarians feared that unless this unrest was put down swiftly, it could spread to their occupation zone in Macedonia. Partisan activity was therefore discouraged by the tactics of the Bulgarian Fifth Army, which took vigorous action against the partisan units by acting “without mercy, not respecting military law.” [49] Armed resistance, as well as popular passive opposition, increased during 1943, but less so in Macedonia





than in adjacent regions. By January or February 1943, partisan units had grown strong enough to attack in company strength. On September 20, 1943, a serious revolt broke out in Lerinsko and Kichevo, near the Albanian border; a soviet republic was proclaimed and the red flag raised throughout this area before the revolt was crushed by Bulgarian troops. [50] This was one of the first partisan incidents in Macedonia serious enough to merit the attention of the government in Sofia. [51]


The year 1943 also marked the reemergence of Tito in the Macedonian Communist debate. On January 16 he sent, a note to the Macedonian Communist Party in which he condemned autonomist tendencies and declared that the Macedonian Communist Party could attain success only in association with the Yugoslav Party. At the end of February 1943, he sent Svetozar Vukmanovich (“Tempo”), a Montenegrin well acquainted with Macedonia, to assume control of the Party organization. Tempo immediately made a number of changes that improved the partisan situation: he transferred the center of operations from the strongly occupied eastern portion of Macedonia to the western area near the Albanian border, established a working relationship with the Albanian and Greek Communist partisans, and reorganized the partisan units to take full advantage of the growing popular discontent. [52] From then on, the Bulgarian Communists had little or no influence on Macedonia. Boyan Bulgaranov, the chief BKP representative in Macedonia, returned to Bulgaria in early 1944 to command the First (Sofia) Resistance Zone. The meeting of the Yugoslav Communist Party at Jajce in November 1943 recognized Macedonia as one of the six Yugoslav republics—an arrangement the Bulgarians did not like but were powerless to change.


The victories of the Red army and the capitulation of Italy turned the tide, and thereafter Tito’s partisans went from victory to victory. The BKP was hard-pressed to create its own partisan campaign in Bulgaria proper, which even in the summer of 1944 was only mildly successful. [*] The triumph of Tito’s program put the BKP on the defensive because of the great prestige that came to the Yugoslav leader.



*. See Chapter 16 on the Bulgarian partisans.





There was even a possibility that he would be able to detach Pirin Macedonia from Bulgaria to add to his Macedonian state, despite the vigorous opposition of the Bulgarians. [53]


Hermann Neubacher, the special economic envoy attached to the German Embassy in Bucharest during the war, wrote in 1956: “It was a serious political mistake for Bulgaria to enter Serbian and Greek territory as an occupier, in order to spare German troops.” [54] Elizabeth Barker has summarized the result for the Greeks as follows: “Although the Greeks were relieved by the belated Bulgarian withdrawal, they were left with an overpowering hatred of all Bulgars, whether pro-German or Communist.” [55] This occupation, for which Bulgarians had so long dreamed, succeeded only in creating a legacy of hatred that lingers to this day.






Chapter 12. The Death of Tsar Boris



BY LATE SUMMER 1943, Bulgaria’s international position had become critical. The fall of Mussolini had dramatically altered the Axis position in the Mediterranean, and rumors again circulated of an impending Allied invasion of the Balkans. On the Eastern Front, the German army had been unable to regain the territory lost during the winter and was facing another Stalingrad at Kharkov. Hitler ordered von Manstein to hold that city at all costs because, he said, “its fall would produce an unfavorable effect on the attitude of Bulgaria and Turkey.” [1] Those Bulgarians who had minimized the importance of Stalingrad and El Alamein now overcompensated by exaggerating the seriousness—or at least the imminence—of the Allied threat, and many privately compared this period with the disintegration of the Central Powers in the autumn of 1918.


There are many indications that Tsar Boris was planning to take his country out of the war in 1943, but conclusive proof is lacking. Even the Communist accounts, which generally portray him in the most unfavorable light, state that Boris had lost faith in Germany and was “prepared to form a new government, whose main task was to get Bulgaria out of the war. He entered into negotiations with his father-in-law, the Italian king, hoping that together they could defend the institution of the monarchy with the help of the Anglo-Americans.” [2] Former Ambassador Rendel noted: “It was Bulgaria’s surrender in the First World War that had been the first step in bringing hostilities to an end. There seems to be some reason to believe King Boris





may have hoped that history would repeat itself and he still might be the means of bringing the war to an end by a compromise peace.” [3]


A cabinet change could not be postponed much longer. Prime Minister Filov was having trouble controlling his cabinet and was on very bad terms with the minister of the interior, Gabrovsky, and the minister of trade, the Agrarian politician Nikola Zahariev. Georgi Kioseivanov seemed the likeliest candidate to replace Filov, and there were rumors that his new government would include some members of the opposition and would have the express purpose of taking Bulgaria out of the war. [4]


In his reports to Berlin, however, Beckerle denied that conditions in Bulgaria were deteriorating. He pointed to improvements in the economic situation and to police successes against the partisans, and he denounced the rumored installation of a pro-Allied government as merely propaganda spread by Anglophile circles. [5] On the other hand, the SD officers in Sofia reported to Berlin that the next premier would probably be Nikola Mushanov or Ivan Bagryanov, both of whom were thought to be sympathetic to the Allies. A high official in the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quoted as saying that there was no longer any doubt of Germany’s final defeat and Bulgarian policy must now be aimed at driving the Germans out of Bulgaria in order to come to terms with the British. [6]


Hristu Pastuhov, the Social Democratic leader who had long opposed the alliance with Germany, revealed later that in the summer of 1943, the Tsar had approached him about forming a new government and had promised that there would soon be a shift in Bulgaria’s foreign alignments. [7] It is now also known that in early August a special representative from Boris went to see one of the leading opposition politicians, who was then confined to a remote village, and asked if he would be interested in taking a cabinet post. The matter was to be kept absolutely secret, for in a few days Boris was flying to Germany and he did not want any complications on this trip. The person in question was so well known for his pro-Allied views that his appointment to a ministerial post could only have been interpreted as





a significant change in Bulgaria’s policy, even if some Germanophile ministers had been retained. [8] Another story, more questionable, is that Boris telephoned his sister Evdokiya shortly before the trip to Germany, and said that he expected Hitler to demand Bulgarian troops for the Eastern Front. Boris allegedly said he had no intention of agreeing to this and told his sister of his plans for leaving the war as soon as his father-in-law, Victor Emmanuel, asked the Allies for an armistice. [9]


These stories are especially significant because of their possible connection with the mysterious death of Tsar Boris in late August 1943. On August 3, Hitler invited Boris to a conference at Rastenhurg in East Prussia; on the 14th, he sent his personal airplane to fly Boris and General Mihov to the one-day meeting. Boris returned to Sofia the following day in good health and went to his mountain retreats at Tsarska Bistritsa and Chamkoriya for several days, during which time he and several others ascended Mount Musala (9,596 ft.), the highest mountain in the Balkans. On August 24, three days after this mountain-climbing expedition, he telephoned his sister around seven o’clock in the evening. She noticed that he sounded unusually tired; when asked about this, he replied that he was having difficulty breathing and felt pressure in his chest. A few minutes later he complained that he had never felt so bad, and with great effort he went up to his bedroom, where he fell unconscious. [10]


The first diagnosis was a gall bladder attack, but this was obviously unsatisfactory. The Tsar’s physician, Dr. Sajitz, was flown back from Berlin, and several distinguished German doctors were sent to Sofia at the request of the Bulgarian government, because “the Bulgarian doctors are not able to make the right diagnosis.” [*] The next day there was a slight improvement in the Tsar’s condition, but the weakness of his heart became a new concern. By August 26, though, there had been such improvement that it was hoped the Tsar might pass the crisis within a few days. That same afternoon, however, his condition once more declined. According to Dr. Sajitz, the Tsar was fully aware



*. The Queen’s version differs from this account in a few details, but she was not summoned back to Sofia until the night of Wednesday, August 25.





of the seriousness of his illness and did not expect to live. Boris himself believed he had angina pectoris, which he attributed to his excursion up Mount Musala.


To prevent any dissident elements in the country from taking advantage of the Tsar’s condition to create unrest or stage a coup, the illness was kept so secret that outside court circles only Filov and General Mihov were informed. Even the doctors were confined to the palace. But the banning of traffic from the palace area and other measures gave rise to rumors; therefore, shortly before midnight on August 26 the Royal Court decided to issue a terse statement for the morning newspapers: “His Majesty the Tsar has been seriously ill for three days. His treatment is in the hands of the best medical specialists.” The second communique, issued on the morning of the 27th, said only: “The position of H. M. the Tsar continues to be serious. The doctors are making every effort for his improvement.”


Later that morning the Tsar was said to be much better, but since the doctors were gravely concerned that complications might affect the brain, an eminent neurologist was summoned from Berlin. Incredibly, Dr. Sajitz, the royal physician, thought the illness was only anemia, but the others considered the situation so serious that detailed instructions were issued on the ceremonies and procedures in case of the Tsar’s death. Filov said that the Tsar spoke only a few words for his bodily needs, but “during the whole illness he neither expressed a desire, nor gave an order, nor asked to see anyone.” Most of the time the Tsar was under heavy sedation, but he still slept restlessly.


On the morning of August 28, his lung congestion was reported to be persisting and the inflammation spreading. At 4:22 that afternoon, the Tsar died.



Rumors and Suspicions


Even before Boris was dead, rumors spread that he was the victim of foul play. The fact that he had recently returned from a visit to Hitler gave rise to the suspicion that the Tsar had stood up to the Germans and had been killed for it. The popular theory, as Kazasov vividly described it, was that Boris “had been poisoned by the one





who had drowned the world in blood.” [11] The Tsar was thought to be too young and healthy to have suffered a heart attack, and the complicated diagnosis made the internal disintegration of his body seem massive: “Thrombosis arteriae coronirae sinistrae, pneumonia bilateralis, et oedema pulmonium et cerebri.” [*] The secrecy that had surrounded the illness added to the drama and encouraged wild speculation. The BBC announced that Boris had probably been killed by Hitler; the New York Times said that a police inspector had fired several shots at him in a train station near Sofia; Hungarian sources reported that he had been killed by one of his own bodyguards. [12]


The Germans were also suspicious of the cause of the Tsar’s death. When Beckerle asked three of the doctors if, in their opinion, a death by poisoning was possible, they replied that it looked like a “typical Balkan death.” [13] An autopsy was necessary to determine the exact cause of death, but the Queen refused to allow an autopsy or even an examination of the brain. Shortly afterward, the doctors were told by someone (not the Queen) that an autopsy would be allowed but only after the body had been embalmed. Embalming, however, would have made it virtually impossible to detect poisons other than those with a metallic base, such as arsenic. [14] There is considerable controversy over whether an autopsy was actually performed against the wishes of the Queen. She has maintained that there was an autopsy, and other writers have agreed with her but have disagreed about its findings. For example, von Papen, the German Ambassador to Turkey, stated: “From the cursory examination they [the doctors] were able to make, they were convinced that the King’s death could not possibly be due to any of the causes suggested by the Queen. They noted signs of complete decomposition of the internal organs, which could only be due to some form of poison.” [15] On the other hand, Constant Schaufelberger, the tutor to the heir apparent, was told by one of the doctors that the autopsy fully confirmed the official diagnosis of heart failure, double pneumonia, and an infection of the brain. [16]


Filov assured the Germans that this diagnosis was correct and that there was no evidence of poisoning, although he admitted to having



*. It was printed in Latin in the Bulgarian newspapers.





suspected “foul play” at first. In his opinion, the exhaustion resulting from the climb of Mount Musala had caused the heart attack, and he had warned the Tsar beforehand that such a trip was irresponsible. [17] The Queen heard none of the results from the autopsy, if there was one. She did remember that the Tsar had complained of feeling ill while hunting a stag shortly after his climb, but the feeling had not persisted and no one had worried at the time. [18] Wolfgang Bretholz, the anti-Nazi former editor of the Berliner Tageblatt who visited Sofia in late September 1944, reported that no normal organic trouble had been found by the autopsy and that instead there had been “traces of an unknown and slow-working poison that caused the heart to stop.” [19]


Public opinion was less informed but more unanimous: Boris had been murdered, probably by the Germans. This opinion remains unchanged in Bulgaria today. [20] However, a number of important questions remain to be answered. One, what happened at the Rastenburg meeting between Boris and Hitler? Two, was there anything suspicious about the flight back to Sofia? Three, how was the health of the Tsar during the week between his return and the advent of his illness? Four, what was the course and nature of the illness itself? Five, what measures were taken to ascertain the cause of death after Boris died? Six, what were the reactions of various individuals and groups to the Tsar’s death? And seven, how did his death affect the future of Bulgaria? Some of these questions have already been touched upon, but a few of the key points will now be examined more closely.


No official transcript exists of the Rastenburg conference, but the general outlines of the discussion can be pieced together from a number of sources. First, Hitler expressed his concern about the Italian situation and sought assurance from the Tsar that Bulgaria, too, was not planning to defect from the Axis camp. Second, he and Boris discussed the contribution that Bulgaria would be able to make to the war effort, and the conversation on this point reportedly became quite heated. [21] It is still the general belief in Bulgaria today that Hitler demanded the Tsar send troops to the Eastern Front—a demand Boris refused on the grounds that Bulgarians would never fight their liberators. Boris’s secretary, Pavel Gruev, later dramatically related the





Tsar’s comments on the outcome of this argument: “I had to fight for hours against Hitler and his cronies in order to tear Bulgaria from their claws but finally I succeeded. I am willing to pay with my life to keep them from bringing my fatherland to ruin.” [22] It is questionable whether Boris ever made such a remark, and the present evidence is that Hitler made no strong demand for Bulgarian troops to fight in Russia.


General Mihov’s diary unfortunately is available only for the period after he became Regent (September 1943), but Prime Minister Filov’s diary gives a full account of this incident. The Tsar told him that Hitler had not discussed the Soviet Union in much detail except to indicate that Germany was confident of coping with the problem. However, after his audience with the Tsar on August 13, Filov wrote in his diary that the Tsar was very discouraged: “He is not at all satisfied with his trip today... On his return he even wished to encounter an enemy airplane which would finish him off. Actually there is not any reason for such pessimism. The Germans wanted two of our divisions for north Greece and eventually Albania, in order to protect the rear of the German troops in Greece and on the Albanian coast. They considered that there was not now any danger from Turkey.” [23] The Tsar had agreed in principle to this request, but had wanted a military mission to discuss the details before he gave his final approval. [24] (Prince Kiril later confirmed this in his testimony before the People’s Court. [25]) Unless additional evidence is forthcoming, therefore, we can conclude that Boris’s meeting with Hitler was very strained, but that the more colorful stories about it are apocryphal. [26]



Theories About the Return from Rastenburg


The greatest number of theories concern the Tsar’s flight back to Sofia after his visit to Germany. It was in Hitler’s personal aircraft on this return flight, many people have said, that Boris was marked for death. One theory even states that the Tsar was dead on arrival and that the accounts of his activities during the following week were fabrications. Basically, however, there are three theories concerning the flight. The first is that some slow-acting, lethal gas was administered





to the Tsar through his oxygen mask. The most frequently mentioned gases are chloroform and a “too strong dose of oxygen,” although obviously neither of the two fits the above description of the Tsar’s actual symptoms. Prince Kiril himself favored this theory. [27] A second version of the flight is given by the German pilot, Flugkapitan Hans Baur. He claims that he was ordered to climb to 8,000 meters, dive to treetop level, climb back to 6,000 meters, dive again, and so forth until the altitude changes, combined with poison in the oxygen mask, had weakened Boris’s heart. (A slightly different version says the oxygen mask was also defective. [28]) The third theory is that of former Ambassador Rendel, who said that Boris was a poor air traveler and usually took airsickness pills before a flight. This time he was given another drug, which, combined with the great height flown by the plane over the Carpathian Mountains, led to his later heart attack. The pilot, Baur, also suggests poison, but says it was administered in a cup of coffee. [29]


The first theory is difficult to accept for a number of reasons. Neither of the gases mentioned would have damaged Boris’s internal organs in such a way that he would notice nothing wrong for a week and then collapse. Oxygen would have been harmless; chloroform would have had to be administered in such a heavy dose that he would have needed to be carried off the plane. Yet we know that he was in good health when he arrived in Sofia, for he had several conferences that evening. There is no known poison gas that would have such a delayed action. Furthermore, the oxygen masks were not assigned to the passengers but were picked up at random, so there was no certainty that the Tsar would pick up any particular one.


An elaborate arrangement can be imagined that would have allowed the Germans to circumvent this problem; but rather than make extensive alterations to Hitler’s private plane on a day’s notice, it is more likely that they would have resorted to some simpler method of killing the Tsar. Baur himself said that the weather was perfect that day and that Boris was delighted with the trip, which hardly sounds as though he spent the journey in discomfort or in a doped stupor. [30]





As for the second theory, even in the unlikely event that the other passengers had endured a “roller coaster” ride without question, the Tsar would not have. His strong mechanical interest and considerable flight experience would have caused him to grow suspicious. The only justification for a pilot to have flown a lumbering Junker-52 like a dive-bomber would have been to take violent evasive action against an enemy attack, but it is known that—despite the Tsar’s wish—no enemy planes were encountered. If Baur had in fact flown the way he later claimed, Boris would certainly have lost faith in him. Yet the day after he returned to Sofia, Boris took a present to Baur at the airport and discussed technical matters with him for a long time while the young prince and princess climbed all over the plane. Only the Queen’s maternal fears kept Boris from allowing the two children to go with Baur for a flight around the city. [31] Finally, none of the other passengers on the trip, including General Mihov and the court adviser Stanislav Balan, commented adversely on the journey or suffered any undue effects from it.


The third theory, Rendel’s suggestion of an airsickness pill, is more reasonable than the other two, because a pill could have been administered with less difficulty and could conceivably have been made with a delayed-action effect. If a seasoned flier like Boris had taken a drug for a flight in perfect weather, why was this fact not mentioned by some of those closer to the court than Rendel ? Although a poison pill is more plausible than a poison gas, there really is no evidence to support either theory; and the “roller coaster” theory was taken seriously neither by the Queen nor by anyone else close to the events. If the Tsar was indeed poisoned, it is highly unlikely that the deed was done on the flight from Rastenburg.



The German Reaction to the Tsar’s Death


As mentioned earlier, the German records reveal no plots or conspiracies but show, on the contrary, that everything possible was done to diagnose the illness correctly and, afterward, to ascertain the exact cause of death. Two other points must now be discussed for a better understanding of the German view. First, it is important to note that





Germany regarded Boris’s death as a disaster for the Axis, regardless of the fact that he may have been secretly planning to leave the war. Germany considered Bulgaria a loyal, if somewhat obdurate, ally, and consequently had given the Tsar much freedom of action. This appraisal did not change during the summer of 1943. Beckerle has written: “There is no question of the King playing a double role. King Boris knew very well that he had bound his fate completely with that of Germany and there was no backing out... Between Hitler and King Boris there was a relationship of close confidence until the last.” [32] The day before Boris’s death, German Staatssekretar Baron Steengracht described the Tsar as one “who in the eyes of the people was less a monarch than a Führer  and who represented in his person the symbol of Bulgarian unity.... The Bulgarian people, who are in a certain respect leaderless and unsure without the King, could fall to a considerable extent under the influence of the Communist and Anglophile opposition.” [33] Von Papen in Ankara was even more emphatic : “Only the determined and adroit personality of the King could have guided the future course of affairs. It must have been a long-term aim of the enemy, rather than of Hitler, to obtain his removal from the scene.” [34] In Berlin, Goebbels’s reaction was, “King Boris of Bulgaria is dead. An important pillar of our Balkan position has gone.” [35] The second point is that the German leaders apparently knew as little about the Tsar’s death as everyone else. They were certain that he had been murdered, probably by some kind of poison, but they did not know by whom. Hitler believed that the Queen and her Italian relatives were responsible. This suspicion seems to have been almost entirely the result of Hitler’s distrust of anything connected with Italy because of that country’s recent defection. The Queen of Bulgaria was the daughter of the Italian King, and her refusal to allow an autopsy was considered an indication that she feared something sinister might be discovered. There were also stories that her marriage had been unhappy from the beginning, thereby providing another possible motive. Hitler’s anger reached such a height that he wanted to have her arrested and brought with the young Tsar Simeon to Germany,





but the German air attaché in Sofia, General Schonebeck, and others dissuaded him from so rash an action. [36]


Hitler then decided that the main culprit was the Queen’s sister, Princess Mafalda, although she had not arrived in Sofia from Italy until the day after Boris’s death. What could not be done to the Queen was done to this princess: she was lured to Germany shortly afterward and put in the concentration camp at Buchenwald, where she died during an air raid in August 1944. The Germans remained so suspicious of an Italian plot in Bulgaria that when Ribbentrop went to Sofia for Boris’s funeral, he would not eat any food except that prepared by special German chefs. [37]


If neither the Germans nor the Queen killed Boris—and it seems almost certain that they did not—who did kill him ? No one has ever claimed that the Communists were involved. Although the popular image of the Tsar martyred for resisting the Germans has long hindered Communist efforts to depict him as a German agent, Communist historians have reluctantly accepted the view that he was killed by Hitler. [*] A theory that has found some favor is that the Bulgarian fascists and/or the SS agents in Sofia took immediate and drastic action against the Tsar, without the approval of Hitler, to prevent Bulgaria’s withdrawal from the Axis. The various German organizations often had their own special policies (Sonderpolitik) differing from the official position, and the SD had tried for years to undermine the Tsar’s position by sending unfavorable reports on him to Berlin.


The SD report of August 16,1943, or perhaps some other report that claimed that the Tsar was planning to follow Italy’s example, might have led certain groups or powerful individuals to decide even without consulting Hitler that Boris must be killed without delay. Himmler and Schellenberg are suspected by some; Goring and General Schonebeck by others. Ambassador Beckerle has said that the SS would have liked to create a situation in Bulgaria similar to that in Rumania, but that because of the close relationship between Hitler



*. See Istoriya Bolgarii, p. 294. A recent change in this view is discussed on p. 147, below.





and Boris any Sonderpolitik had to be concealed. However, Beckerle has stated emphatically that “it was out of the question that the SS circles could have thought about the murder of the King.” Therefore, such a conspiracy theory must remain a mere conjecture, attractive only because alternative explanations are so unsatisfactory. [38]



A Possible Solution


There is, however, one explanation that has been almost completely ignored and yet would provide a reasonable answer to nearly every one of the puzzles surrounding Boris’s death. In particular, it would answer the main question of who killed him. The answer ? No one— he died of a heart attack just as the official diagnosis said.


Most of the other theories have their origin (1) in the feeling that his death at this time of crisis must have been planned, and (2) in the secrecy surrounding the whole affair, which created the impression that everyone had something to hide. In fact, the recent history of Bulgaria had been but one long series of crises; the Tsar’s death at any point in his reign of almost 25 years would have come at some important time when circumstances would have made it seem suspicious. The secrecy around the episode was perfectly understandable, and was largely owing to the desire to keep enemies of the state from taking advantage of the leadership vacuum caused by the Tsar’s indisposition. The Royal Court tried for as long as possible to play down the seriousness of his condition, and even the Queen was told for two days that there was no need for her to come to Sofia. Her later refusal to allow an autopsy, though unfortunate, could easily have been the natural reaction of a distressed wife and need have no sinister significance.


The Tsar was, after all, not as young as some have made him seem. He was only five months short of his fiftieth birthday and had lived a life that would make any man a perfect candidate for a coronary thrombosis. The disorders of 1918, the turmoil of the Stambolisky period, the coups of 1923 and 1934, the terrors of IMRO, and the delicate diplomatic balancing between the major powers had hardly given him a life of peace and rest. His people knew him as a vigorous leader and a healthy outdoorsman, but he was also given to excessive





drinking and had damaged his health by dissipation in his youth; he suffered constantly from a digestive problem and was of an extremely nervous temperament. [39] The exhausting climb on Mount Musala must have brought on both his heart attack and the accompanying pneumonia, and it is known that he briefly felt ill even before he left his mountain retreat. There is, therefore, no need to believe that Boris was poisoned or otherwise deviously killed, when the evidence for it is so vague and contradictory. [*]


The conspiratorial theories are probably too firmly entrenched now to be shaken by a mere lack of evidence, and the legend of the martyred Tsar satisfies a psychological need regardless of its truth or falsehood. This legend has enabled many Bulgarians to avoid feelings of guilt for being on the Axis side during the war and has provided the non-Communists in Bulgaria with a popular hero. Indeed, it is somewhat surprising how highly Boris is praised today by those former politicians of the Bulgarian democratic parties who spent a lifetime in opposition to his policies. And among average Bulgarian citizens one often hears the expression, “Everything might have turned out differently if the Tsar had lived.” [40]


This view is extremely optimistic, of course, even if the Tsar was seriously planning to follow Italy out of the Axis bloc. He had been kept well informed of developments in Italy and knew that the Badoglio government would request an armistice from the Allies in early September. Italy’s defection was expected to have a much greater effect on the war than it actually had; and Boris was one of the many who thought that Italian and Bulgarian withdrawal from the war could make 1943 a repetition of 1918. In mid-August, there were large-scale movements of Bulgarian troops to the vicinity of Sofia under



*. The latest official history of Bulgaria has introduced the new theory that Boris’s death was due to a heart attack “as a result of systematic abuse of alcohol.” This differs from the Communists’ previous acceptance of the theory that he was killed by the Germans, and is preferable to ignoring the issue completely, as is done in many Bulgarian textbooks. One tends to suspect that the change is the result of political concerns rather than the discovery of new evidence. The document cited is at present classified (TsDIA, f.456, op. 1, a.e. 18, 1.59), and there is no indication of what it might represent; one wag has suggested that it might be the Tsar’s liquor bill. See Istoriya na Bulgaria, p. 405.





the guise of maneuvers. Their real purpose may have been to guard against a Nazi coup if Filov’s government were to be replaced within a week or two. According to the Queen, these maneuvers were a main topic of conversation in the meetings Boris had with General Mihov, with the Bulgarian Ambassador in Berlin, Zagorov, and with others he consulted in the week before his illness. [41]


Because of his cautious nature, it is unlikely that Boris would have thrown himself on the mercy of the Allies immediately after Italy did, since he would have sought certain guarantees for his regime and some assurance that the Allies would intervene to protect Bulgaria from German reprisals. More probably he would have wanted to wait several weeks until contacts with the West could be reestablished and until he had a chance to observe the success of the Italian venture. What he would have seen would not have been encouraging, and the intransigence of the Allies would have made any attempt at cooperation virtually impossible. Boris would have been more flexible about changing sides in the war than his successors were. Had he lived, however, it seems doubtful that he would have been able to accomplish much more than they did; and the fact that the British government held him personally responsible for Bulgaria’s policy might have proved a major difficulty in negotiations. Tsar Boris’s death brought some changes, of course, but it had much less long-term effect than one might have expected, for Bulgaria’s fate was now being determined more and more by international military and political factors beyond its control.






Chapter Six


1. Earle, Sofia, 23.vi.41, FRUS 1941, 1: 316-17.


2. Filov, Dnevnik, 22.vi.41.


3. Stuttgart N.S.-Kurier, 25.vi.41, DAI-879.


4. Ribbentrop to Beckerle, Berlin, 14.iv.41, DGFP, 12: 372.


5. Toynbee, Hitler s Europe, 1: 70.


6. Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, p. 536n.


7. Slovo (Sofia), 9.x.41.


8. Filov, Dnevnik, 8.viii.41.


9. Hassell, 20.ix.41, p. 231.


10. XXV-NS, 3d reg. sess., 11th sitting, 13.xi.41, 1: 145-46.


11. Ibid., 12th sitting, 14.xi.41, 1: 160.


12. Ibid., pp. 148-49.





13. Vneshnyaya politisa SSSR, 1: 119-20; “KTB des Wehrwirtschaftsoffiziers in Sofia,” 27.vii.41, Vol. 1, DBA.


14. Steinhardt, Moscow, 16.viii.41, FRUS 1941, 1: 324-25; Carlyle, 2: 326.


15. General of Bulgarian Army to Wehrmachtbefehlshaber Südost, Sofia, monthly report, September 1941, top secret, RGMA, T501 292.229; “KTB des Wehrwirtschaftsoffiziers in Sofia,” 30.ix.41, Vol. 3, DBA; Struggle, p. 51; Thompson, p. 175; for the Bulgarian protest, see Vneshnyaya politisa SSSR, 1: 143.


16. TsDIA, Sofia, f. 370, op. 1, a.e. 1, l. 303; Istoriya na Bulgaria, p. 302.


17. Earle, Sofia, 4.vii.41, FRUS 1941, 1: 321.


18. Struggle, p. 37; see also Le Canada (Bern), 23.ix.41; Pozolotin, p. 24. For an account of life in the Gonda Voda camp, see Stoyan Stoimenov, “Telenite mrezhi i visokite zidove ne slomiha duha na boitsite,” in Pobeda, 1941-1944 (Sofia, 1969), pp. 201-92.


19. Papen, p. 474.


20. Ribbentrop to Beckerle, 20.ix.41, DGFP, 13: 537.


21. Beckerle, Sofia, 25.ix.41, DGFP, 13: 537.


22. Earle, Sofia, 2.xii.41, FRUS 1941, 1: 355.


23. Ganevich, p. 53.


24. Monthly report to Wehrmachtbefehlshaber Südost, 28.viii.41, RGMA, T501 292.247.


25. TsDIA, Sofia, f. 370, op. 1, a.e. 1677, 1. 1-29.


26. Note of 10.ix.41; Vneshnyaya politika Sovetskovo Soyuza, 1: 14043-


27. Decree of the Council of Ministers, 22.ix.41; XXV-NS, 5th reg. sess., 33d sitting, 26.i.44 [sic], p. 467; TsDIA, Sofia, f. 456, op. 1, a.e. 6, 1. 113-14.


28. Earle, Sofia, 15.x.41, FRUS 194T, r: 333.


29. Heeresleitung in Bulgaria to OKW, monthly report, December 1941, RGMA, T501 292.180.


30. Ibid.


31. See Istoriya na Bulgaria, p. 375.


32. Papen, Ankara, 5.viii.4T, cited in Documents Secrets, p. 36.


33. Hitler-Popov talks, Führerhauptquartier, 27.xi.41, DGFP, 13: 858—59.


34. Ribbentrop to Papen, Fuschl, 17.v.41, DGFP, 12: 836.


35. Directive No. 32, 11.vi.41, in Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s War Directives, p. 80; see also Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie, p. 545m


36. See Hassell, 30. viii.41, p. 223, for Hitler’s view of this project.


37. Earle, Sofia, 26.vi.41, FRUS 1941, 1: 319.





38. Signed by Ivan Popov and Beckerle, Sofia, 22.xi.41, DGFP, 15: 811.


39. XXV-NS, 3d reg. sess., 21st sitting, 13.xii.41, p. 355.


40. Testimony of tsarist adviser Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 27.xii .44.


41. Mihov, Dnevnik, 19.iv.44.


42. Struggle, p. 34; interviews, Bulgaria.


43. Earle, Sofia, via Istanbul, 27.xii.41, DOS Archives, 740.0011, Eur. War ’39, 17921.


44. Editorial in Slovo (Sofia), 15.xii.41.


45. Hull, 2: 1175-76.


46. Ibid., p. 1114.



Chapter Seven


1. Barker, Truce, p. 43; sec also “KTB des Wehrwirtschaftsoffiziers in Sofia,” Lagebericht No. 1, 3.viii .41, Vol. 3, DBA, Wi/IC5.16.


2. Testimony of tsarist adviser Lyubomir Lulchev, People’s Court, 25.xii 44.


3. Testimony of tsarist adviser Peter Morfov, People’s Court, 22.xii.44.


4. Filov, Dnevnik, 16.ii.42.


5. Quoted from The Times (London), 16.iii.42, in Toynbee, Hitler’s Europe, pp. 611-12.


6. Filov, Dnevnik, 21.iii.42—on the eve of the Tsar’s departure for Germany.


7. Beckerle, Sofia, 11.ii.42, SSF, T120 237.179016.


8. Killinger, Bucharest, 6.iii.42, SSF, T120 237.181887-89.


9. Filov, Dnevnik, 20.iii.42.


10. “Die Lage in Bulgarien,” unsigned memo, Berlin, 28.iii.42, DBA, Reichskanzlei files, R4311.1428b.


11. Ribbentrop memo, 26.iii.42, SSF, T120 244.181903-4. When German intelligence was using a “turned around” Communist radio station in Belgium, they tested to see if the Russians had become suspicious by requesting additional funds. Soon there arrived from Bulgaria a can of beans containing £100 in notes. Dallin, Soviet Espionage, p. 175.


12. Hassell, Sofia, 13.iv.42, p. 263.


13. Filov, Dnevnik, 19.i.42.


14. Ibid., 25.ii.42.


15. Ibid., 5.iii.42.


16. SD-Ber., Berlin, 17.ii.42, T120 1305.485522.23.


17. Letter from Beckerle to author, 17.xi.66.


18. See SD-Ber., Berlin, January 1941, T120 1305.485349 and .485361.63.


19. For example, SD-Ber., 17.ii.42, T120 1305.485520.


20. Ribbentrop, 25.iii.42, p. 3, SSF, T120 244.181905; Beckerle, Sofia, 26.iii.42, p.3, T120 1305.485550.





21. Schellenberg to Luther, Sofia, 5.W.42, T120 1305.485558; and 6.iv.42, .485561. Sec also Ribbentrop, 25.iii.42, top secret, SSF, T120 244.191905; and Sofia, 26.iii.42, T120 1305.485550.


22. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talk, 31.iii.42, p. 379.


23. SD-Ber., Bülow to Ribbentrop, Berlin, 5.iii.42, T120 1305.485532-33.


24. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talk, 4.iv.42, p. 396.


25. Goebbels, Diaries, 25.i.42, pp. 61-62.


26. Ibid., 28 .iii.42, pp. 179-80.


27. Filov, Dnevnik, 20.vi.41.


28. It is interesting to note that British Ambassador Rendel made a similar argument to Tsar Boris in 1940. Rendel, Sofia, 4.iv.40, FO R4462.4.7, p. 185.


29. See generally Runciman.


30. See Haroden sud (Sofia), 4.ii.45, p. 5; Valev, p. 22; interview, Bulgaria; interview with Professor Georg Statmüller, University of Munich. For an account of an analogous case of German propaganda concerning Greece, based on the Fallmerayer theory of 1830, see Mylonas, pp. 169-82.


31. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talk, 31.iii.41, pp. 378-79.


32. G. L. Lewis believes that the German victories encouraged Turkey to adopt legislation on the Nazi model, and that in particular the Turkish varlik vergisis (property tax) and other discriminatory measures were inspired by the Nazi racial laws. Lewis, pp. 117-21.


33. Papen, Ankara, 6.iv.42, SSF, T120 244.181937-38; Lewis, pp. 117-21.


34. Papen, p. 474; for further details of this long dispute, see SSF, T120 237.179081, et seq.


35. Mir (Sofia), 2.i.43.


36. Testimony of tsarist adviser Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 26.xii.-44.


37. Trevor-Roper, Hitler's Table Talk, 8.viii.42, p. 621.


38. Beckerle, Sofia, 14.iv.42, SSF, T120 244.181954; see also Danailov and Zaimov; Poptsvyatkov.


39. Filov, Dnevnik, 8.iv.42.


40. Beckerle, Sofia, 15.iv.42, SSF, T120 244.181956.


41. Beckerle, 12.iv.42, SSF, T120 244.181952-53; Filov, Dnevnik, 15.iv.42.



Chapter Eight


1. Hull, 2: 1176; Beckerle, Sofia, 9.iv.42, SSF, T120 244.181945-46.


2. Interviews, Bulgaria.


3. Filov, Dnevnik, 27.ii.42; SD-Ber., Berlin, 7.iii.42, T120 1305.485539.





4. SD-Ber., Berlin, 7.iii.42, T120 1305.485539.


5. Filov, Dnevnik, 23.vii.42.


6. Beckerle, Sofia, 5,viii.42, 11.viii.42, and 15.viii.42, SSF, T120 244.182026, .182030-31, .182036.


7. Beckerle, Sofia, 15.viii.42, SSF, T120 244.182036.


8. Filov, Dnevnik, 23.vii.42; Ribbentrop, 25.iii.42, SSF, T120 244.181904; Beckerle, Sofia, 19.viii.42, SSF, T120 244.182053 and .182055; 21.viii.42, .182060.


9. Conversation with Boris, Berlin, 21.ix.42, SSF, T120 244.182106 and .182104-5.


10. Sofia, 17.X.42 and 31.x.42, SSF T120 244.182131 and .182144. Germany attempted to assist the negotiations but to no avail; there were at least four different official versions of the original map (Mutterkarte) of the demarcation line agreed on at Vienna. Sofia, 16.X.42, SSF, T120 244.182130.


11. Filov, Dnevnik, 4.vi.42; Durzhaven vestnik, No. 125, ukase of 6.vi.42; Beckerle, Sofia, 12.vi.42, SSF, T120 244.182001.


12. Filov, Dnevnik, 10.vii.42.


13. Ibid.


14. Ibid., 30.viii.42.


15. Trevor-Roper, Hitler’s Table Talk, 16.viii.42, p. 630.


16. Filov, Dnevnik, 16.ix.42.


17. Beckerle, Sofia, 17.ix.42, SSF, T120 244.182095; memo, Berlin, SSF, T120 244.182117.


18. TsDIA, Sofia, f. 456, op. 1, a.e. 8,1. 101; Filov, Dnevnik, 16.ix.42; Istoriya na Bulgaria.


19. Testimony of Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 27.xii.44; Filov, Dnevnik, 26.ix.42.


20. XXV-NS, 4th reg. sess., p. 252; Mohrmann memo, Sofia, 9.x.42, SSF, T120 244.182126-27; Beckerle, Sofia, 27.x.42, SSF, T120 244.182143 ; Filov, Dneviiik, 27.ix.42 and 7.x.42.


21. Mohrmann, Berlin, 21.ix.42, SSF, T120 244.182107.


22. SD-Ber., Berlin, 5.xi.42, T120 1305.485627-28.


23. Ibid., 11.xi.42, T120 1305.485631-32.


24. Beckerle, Sofia, 11.xii.42, SSF, T120 244.182179.


25. Conversation with Boris, Berlin, 21.ix.42, SSF, T120 244.182106.


26. SD-Ber., 25.xi.42 and 23.xii.42, T120 1305.485636 and .485645.


27. Interview, Bulgaria; monthly report, November 1942, Heeresleitung in Bulgaria to OKH, RGMA, T501 292.-56.


28. Heeresleitung in Bulgaria to OKH, 13.xi.42, top secret, RGMA, T501 292.-59.


29. Woermann, Berlin, 22.x.42, SSF, T120 244.182140-41.





30. Paul Schmidt, discussion with Filov, 19.x.42, SSF, T120 244.182134 and .182137.


31. Filov, Dnevnik, 9.xii.42; Hitler’s conversation with Boris, Berlin, 21.ix.42, SSF, T120 244.182104.


32. Erdmannsdorff to SS-Obergruppenführer Wolff, Staff of the Reichsführer SS, 23.xii.42, IMT document NG-3665; Ribbentrop to Beckerle, 14.xii.42, SSF,T120 244.182181; Beckerle to Ribbentrop, Sofia, 15.xii.42, SSF, T120 244.182184-86.


33. Filov, Dnetmik, 11.vii.42.


34. Ibid., 1.ix.42; testimony of Lyubomir Lulchev and Statements of public prosecutor, People’s Court, 26.xii.44.


35. Filov, Dnevnik, 1.ix.42.


36. Schmidt to Ribbentrop, Berlin, 19.x.42, SSF, T120 244.182139.


37. Mohrmann, Berlin, 21.ix.42, SSF, T120 244.182106.


38. Filov, Dnevnik, 9.xii.42.


39. Ibid., 30.viii.42.


40. Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 696.


41. XXV-NS, 4th reg. sess., 29th sitting, 29.xii.42, 2: 646-47.


42. Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 696.


43. Filov, Dnevnik, 20.ix.42.


44. XXV-NS, 4th reg. sess., 9th sitting, 11.xi.42, 1: 200.



Chapter Nine


1. Weidemann, p. 112; Mir (Sofia), 24.ii.41; Völkischer Beobachter (Vienna), 18.X.40; Bulgarische Presseauszüge (Vienna), 8.iii.41; Bucharester Tageblatt, 10.xi.40; XXV-NS, 11h extra, sess., 3d sitting, 11.vii.41, Serafim Georgiev and Nikola Mushanov, 1: 58; 2d reg. sess., 11th sitting, 19.xi.40, Dimiter Andreev, 1: 212.


2. O’Neill, p. 98.


3. “Wirtschaftlicher Überblick,” Report of 1936, DBA, Reichskanzlei files R43IT.1428a, folder 1, p. 4; “Die Lage in Bulgarien,” Berlin, 28.iii.42, DBA, Reichskanzlei files; Stefen Kensuloff, Sofia, 21.x.42, T120 1305.486259.


4. Archiv der Gegenwart, 1939, 9.ii.39, 3935A.


5. Jan Münzer, “Jews-Bulgaria,” in Roucek, pp. 542-43.


6. Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 660.


7. Plilberg, p. 476.


8. XXV-NS, 2d reg. sess., 31st sitting, 20.xii.40, 2: 701-20.


9. Hilberg, p. 476.


10. Ibid., pp. 476-77; Matkovski, “The Destruction”; XXV-NS, 2d reg. sess., nth sitting and subsequent sittings, 15.xi.40, pp. 204ff.





11. Copies in the Archive of the Sofia Synagogue; also in Evrei zaginali, pp. 357-62.


12. Evrei zaginali, p. 356.


13. Letter from Exarch Stefan to Jewish Consistory, 17.i.50, in the Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 90.


14. SD-Ber., January 1941, T120 1305.485360.


15. Byuletin, Central Consistory of the Jews of Bulgaria, 30.v.41, p. 3.


16. XXV-NS, 4th extra, sess., 4th sitting, 25.vi.42, 1: 66-68.


17. Ibid., 5th sitting, 26.vi.42, 1: 86.


18. Ibid., 4th sitting, 25.vi.42, 1: 66S; 7th sitting, 28.vi.42, 1: 219; Durzhaven vestnik, 9.vii.42; Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 3.


19. SD-Ber., Schellenberg to Luther, Berlin, 9.xi.42, T120 1305.48622426; Arendt, p. 168.


20. SD-Ber., Schellenberg to Luther, Berlin, 9.sx.42, T120 1305.486224-26.


21. Ibid., T120 1305.486224.


22. Ibid.


23. Ibid., T120 1305.486224-26; XXV-NS, 4th reg. sess., 10th sitting, 12.xi.42, p. 230.


24. Beckerle, Sofia, 28.ix.42, 9.x.42, 19.xi.42, 14.xii.42, T120 1305486230, .486236, .486239, .486274-76.


25. U.S. Military Tribunal, case 11, judgment, pp. 28, 303-4; Grinberg, Dokumenti, p. 7.


26. Donauzeitung (Belgrade), 11.vi.42, mentioned in Hilberg, p. 482.


27. Hilberg, p. 290.


28. Beckerle, Sofia, 6.vii.42 and 10.iii.43, T120 1305.486302; Luther to Ribbentrop, Berlin, 4.xii.41, U.S. Military Tribunal v. Weizsäcker, IMT, NG-4667, 13: 195-96. Note that Popov, the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, was the one who first suggested that the European countries should agree on a uniform treatment of the Jews.


29. Beckerle, Sofia, 15.x.42, 2.xi.42, 16.xi.42, T120 1305.486262-63, .486237, .486261; 9.xi.42, T120 1305.486254. The justice minister was said to have told Belev that the Jews should not be deported and that no deadlines should be set.


30. Ribbentrop to Beckerle, Berlin, 4.vi.43, top secret, Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 56.


31. Ibid.


32. Dannecker-Belev agreement, original draft, Sofia, 22.ii.43, Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 38; Grinberg, Dokumenti, pp. 8-11; testimony of L. N. Panitsa, People’s Court, Sustav VII, p349.


33. Matkovski, “The Destruction,” p. 227.





34. Grinberg, Dokumenti, pp. 30-31.


35. Interviews, Bulgaria and Israel. For a somewhat different view, see Chary, The Bulgarian Jews.


36. Bulgaria, Jewish Cultural Society of Sofia, “Ekspozitsiya.”


37. Filov, Dnevnik, 19.iii.43and24.iii.43.


38. Istoriya na Bulgaria; Beckerle, Sofia, 26.iii.43, T120 1305.173863.


39. Grinberg, Dokumenti, pp. 17, 51-55; Matkovski, Tragedijata; letter of Vasil Gerasimov to Jewish Antifascist Committee in Sofia, Moscow, 10.ix.45, Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 148; Beckerle, Sofia, 5.iv.43, to RSHA, T120 1305.486316-19 (IMT, NG-4144); Wagner, Berlin, 3.iv.43, T120 1305.486329 (IMT, NG-4180); Bulgarian Atrocities, p. 15. A large literature exists on the subject of the deportation of Jews from Bulgarian-occupied territories.


40. Testimony of tsarist adviser Lyubomir Lulchev, People’s Court, 25.xii.44.


41. Beckerle, Sofia, 5.iv.43, to RSHA, IMT, NG-4144.


42. Ribbentrop to Beckerle, 4.iv.43, top secret, SSF, T120 255.173891.


43. SD-Ber., Berlin, 17.v.43, T120 1305.486342-43.


44. Filov, Dnevnik, 17.ii.43; Bergman, Berlin, 13.ii.43, Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 56; protest by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, SD-Ber., May 1943, T120 1305.486337.


45. Filov, Dnevnik, 17.ii.43; Woermann, Berlin, 22.ii.43, SSF, T120 255-173825~26; Beckerle, Sofia, 24.ii.43, SSF, T120 255.173829-30; Hilberg, p. 500; Bergmann, Berlin, 13.ii.43, and to Eichmann, 10.iii.43, Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 56; SD-Ber., Berlin, 3.iv.43, T120 1305.486323; SD-Ber., Pausch, Berlin, 7.iv.43, T120 1305.486332; SDBer., Wagner, 8.v.43, T120 1305.486308; Beckerle, Sofia, 5.iv.43, IMT, NG-4144.


46. Beckerle, Sofia, 7.vi.43, T120 1305.486353-54; Mohrmann, Sofia, 25.v.43, T120 1305.486346; unpublished memoirs of Moshe P. Farhi, Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 98, case 7; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 721; Evrei zaginali. There was also a roundup in Plovdiv in February 1943; see Struggle, p. 43. A description of the demonstration is given in Materiali, pp. 202-3. Filov (Dnevnik, 26.v.43) says that the Tsar “approved fully the measures against the Jews,” but does not say if this meant only the expulsions from the cities or also deportation.


47. Hilberg, p. 474.


48. Dr. Chapuisat to Eli Echkenazi, Geneva, 8.vi.48, Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 56; Hoffmann and Beckerle, Sofia, 24.vi.43, IMT, NG-096, and T120 1305.173955-56.





49. Letter from Beckerle to author, 3.ix. 66.


50. See Arendt, p. 169. The value of her judgment here is reduced, however, because of her reliance on a questionable analogy with France. Reitlinger, p. 383.


51. Hoffmann, Sofia, 7.vi.43, IMT, NG-2357.


52. SD-Ber., Berlin, 17.v.43, T120 1305.486341; Wagner to Kaltenbrunner, Berlin, 31.viii.43, IMT, NG-3302.


53. Beckerle, Berlin, 7.vi.43, T120 1305.486353-54.


54. Wagner to Kaltenbrunner, Berlin, 31.viii.43, IMT, NG-3302.


55. Unpublished memoirs of Dr. Albert Adroki on Samobit camp, in the Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 31; unpublished memoirs of Rahamin Alkalai, also in the Archive of the Sofia Synagogue, folder 93, case 5; interviews, Bulgaria.



Chapter Ten


1. Filov, Dnevnik, 26.i.43.


2. Ibid., 10.ii.43.


3. Studnitz, 1.ii.43, p. 7.


4. Kleist was made a field marshal for this overrated exploit. Beckerle, Sofia, 26.ii.43, SSF, T120 255.173837-38.


5. Filov, Dnevnik, 1.ii.43.


6. Ibid., 29.iii.43.


7. Ibid., 12.L43 and 15.1.43; Beckerle, Sofia, 28.xii.42 and 30.xii.42, T120 244.182212-13 and .182215; testimony of Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 26.xii.44. For the Turkish view of political developments during this period, see Weisband, Turkish Foreign Policy.


8. Hassell, p. 302.


9. Ambassador Steinhardt, Ankara, 2.ii.43, FRUS 1943, 4: 1060-65; Beckerle-Filov conversation, Sofia, 1.ii.43, SSF, T120 255.173801.


10. Filov, Dnevnik, 12.i.43 and 15.i.43.


11. Ribbentrop to Beckerle, report of Hitler-Boris conversations, Fuschl, 4.iv.43, SSF, T120 255.173891; Filov, Dnevnik, 5.vi.43.


12. Boberach, 5.iv.43, p. 379; Filov, Dnevnik, 27.iv.43.


13. Woermann, Berlin, 5.ii.43, SSF, T120 255.173798; Weizsäcker, Berlin, 8.ii.43, SSF, T120 255.173806-9; Woermann, Berlin, 22.ii.43, SSF, T120 255.173825-26; Beckerle, Sofia, 24.ii.43, SSF, T120 255.173833-34; Beckerle, conversations with the Tsar and Mihov, Sofia, 26.ii.43, SSF, T120 255.173837-38.


14. Testimony of Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, 26.xii.44; the details of the rumor, which included an offer by Kuyumdzhiisky to change the plans for air attacks on Sofia if concessions were made to the Jews, were given by tsarist adviser Pavel Gruev, People’s Court, 20.xii.44, but Gruev said he doubted the story. In his later testimony before the People’s Court, Sevov described the trip in detail but did not even mention this point.





15. Milev to Sofia, Geneva, 27.iii.43, AMVnshR, polit. direk. II/1/11, pap. no. X, dokladi 43-44, pp. 4-5, in Bozhinov, p. 43.


16. Feis, pp. 10-11.


17. Hull, in Washington, D.C., to Steinhardt, in Ankara, 13.iii.43, FRUS 1943, 1: 484-85.


18. British Embassy in Washington to U.S. Dept, of State, Aide-Mémoire, 6.iv.43, FRUS 1943, 1: 489.


19. U.S. Dept. of State to British Embassy, Washington, D.C., 28.iv.43, Aide-Mémoire, 6.iv.43, FRUS 1943, 1: 492-93.


20. Letter from Beckerle to author, 17.xi.66.


21. Filov, Dnevnik, 13.vii.43.


22. 4.viii.43.


23. Ibid.


24. DOS Archives, 741.74.12; FRUS 1943, 1: 495-97.


25. Ibid.


26. Filov, Dnevnik, 16.viii.43.


27. Ibid., 9.viii.42.


28. Montague, p. 127; Deakin, Brutal Friendship, pp. 383-86.


29. Filov, Dnevnik, 5.vi.43 and 10.vi.43.


30. Lukacs, 11.vi.43, p. 498.


31. Filov, Dnevnik, 13.vii.43.


32. Ibid., 25.vii.43, 26.vii.43, 28.vii.43.


33. Ibid., 28.vii.43, 29.vii.43, 2.viii.43.


34. This account of the Lukov incident is based chiefly on the following sources: Stoinov, “Boinite grupi,” pp. 145-46; Struggle, pp. 66-67; Materiali, p. 199; FO, Bulgaria, pp. 12, 30; Beckerle, Sofia, 14.ii.43, 18.ii.43, 20.ii.43, and 4.v.43, SSF, T120 255.173815-16, .173818-19, .173824, and .173904-5; FO R9209.470.7, 21.ix.43.


35. FO, Bulgaria, pp. 12,30.


36. Stoinov, “Boinite grupi,” p. 146.


37. Filov, Dnevnik, 17.ii.43.


38. Stoinov, “Boinite grupi,” p. 146.


39. See Stoimenov, “Antifashistkata demonstratsiya,” pp. 81-86.


40. Beckerle, Sofia, 23.i.43, SSF, T120 244.182233.


41. Filov, Dnevnik, 17.ii.43.


42. XXV-NS, 4th reg. sess., 33d sitting, 14.i.43, 2: 723-24.


43. Interviews, Bulgaria; Naroden sad (Sofia), November and December 1944; Georgieff and Spiru, p. 263.





Chapter Eleven


1. Busch-Zanter, p. 219; Kofos, p. 102; Wolff, p. 206.


2. DNB, Sofia, 19.iv.41, in DAI-879; interviews, Macedonia and Bulgaria.


3. Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe, p. 315.


4. Interview, Macedonia; the British vice-consul in Skopie, however, had reported in 1940 that the majority of Macedonians were for autonomy rather than for union with Bulgaria. British Foreign Office Research Department, “Macedonia,” RR IX.40.i, 8.L44.


5. Seton-Watson, East European, p. 123.


6. SD-Ber., 29.x.42, secret, T120 1305.485618; interviews, Bulgaria and Macedonia.


7. XXV-NS, 4th extra, sess., 3d sitting, 24. vi. 42, p. 35.


8. Kofos, p. 109; interview, Macedonia.


9. Burks, p. 97; Wolff, p. 206; Darby, p. 138.


10. Filov, 20.ix.41, quoted in Terzioski, “Nekoi,” p. 3.


11. Terzioski, “Nekoi,” p. 46.


12. XXV-NS, 2d extra, sess., 2d sitting, 10.vii.41, 1: 14-15. This bill is just one of many examples. Stavrianos, The Balkans, p. 768; Zora (Sofia), 21.xii.43; Lukacs, p. 529; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 736.


13. Terzioski, “Nekoi,” p. 57.


14. Krakauer Zeitung, 5.v.41, DAI-879. Terzioski (“Nekoi”) states that three, not four, eparchies were created; perhaps he excludes Aegean Macedonia.


15. Terzioski, “Bugarskata,” pp. 47-76.


16. Durzhaven vestnik, 10.vi.42, No. 124, Article 8; Kofos, pp. 100101; Decision No. 2012 of Bulgarian Council of Ministers, in Lemkin, p. 264; and Decision No. 3121, 1.viii.41, Lemkin, pp. 633-35.


17. For Macedonian background, see Swire; Barker, Macedonia; Wilkinson; and Ivan Mihailov, Spomeni.


18. Mihail Apostolskii [Mihajlo Apostolski], et al., “Polozhenie oklcupirovannoi Makedonii vo vremya Vtoroi mirovoi voiny,” in Les Systèmes d’occupation en Yougoslavie, p. 313; Greek Foreign Ministry Archives, secret, A.24317.2.1949, in Kofos, p. 108; Barker, Macedonia, p. 43; FO, Bulgaria, pp. 11-12.


19. SD-Ber., Berlin, 29.x.42, secret, T120 1305.485621-22; Makedonska Tribuna (Indianapolis, Indiana), 22.ii.51.


20. Rothschild, p. 192, note 3.


21. Stavrianos, The Balkans, p. 768; Kofos, p. 101.


22. Bulgarian Atrocities, pp. 13-14,21-22,22-23.





23. Lemkin, p. 189; Xydis, p. 19; Christopoulos, Bulgarian Occupation, pp. 1-4; Vranchev, p. 423; interviews with several Bulgarians who had been garrisoned in Aegean Macedonia during this period confirmed the harshness of the occupation.


24. Christopoulos, pp. 115-16; Kedros, pp. 95-96; Istoriya na Bulgaria, p. 391; Shterev; Slovo (Sofia), 4.x.41; SD-Ber., Berlin, 22.x.41, T120 1305.485491; SD-Ber., Ribbentrop-Popov talks, Berlin, 26.xi.41, T120 1305.416180-81; BIN, 30.v.42, 19: 498; Lemkin, p. 189; Vranchev, pp. 444-45; Bulgarian Occupation, p. 5.


25. Kedros, pp. 95-96; see also Woodhouse, p. 123; Christopoulos, pp. 115-16.


26. Kedros, pp. 94-95; Shterev, p. 58. See also Lefaki, pp. 64-67.


27. Bulgarian Occupation, pp. 5-6.


28. Bulgarian Atrocities, p. 21; Christopoulos, p. 116; S. Mitev and H. Kovachev, Partizanskata voina, p. 123.


29. The chief Greek partisan groups in Macedonia were the Communist EAM/ELAS guerrillas and the non-Communists under “Andon Tsaous” (Andonios Fosteridhis). The supposed agreement between the Bulgarian government and the Greek Communists (EAM/ELAS), reputedly signed on Mt. Kaimaxillar in January 1944, is probably a forgery. Condit, p. 41; Barker, Macedonia, p. 82; Woodhouse, p. 297.


30. Report, 30.vii.42, Greek Foreign Ministry document E.474.I.1.1942, in Kofos, p. 102.


31. Zora (Sofia), 3.ix.42, 22.xi.43, 30.L44; Govori, 1: 158; Wolff, p. 248; Seton-Watson, East European, p. 134.


32. Ribbentrop in Berlin to German Embassy in Sofia, 14.iv.41, DGFP, 12: 372.


33. Toskowa, pp. 539-63.


34. Clodius and Richthofen, Sofia, 24.iv.41, DGFP, 12: 623-24; Berliner Zeitung, 11.ix.41; Revue d’Histoire de la Deuxieme Guerre Mondiale, no. 72, “Sur la Bulgarie en Guerre,” pp. 55-56; Wiskemann, p. 318.


35. Ribbentrop to Richthofen, 17.iv.41; Ritter to Richthofen, 26.iv.41; Ritelen to Ritter, 26.iv.41; all DGFP, 12: 577.


36. Kofos, p. 103; Bramos, pp. 102-3; Barker, Macedonia, p. 81.


37. Woermann, Berlin, 22.x.42, SSF, T120 244.182140-41.


38. Bozhinov, pp. 28, 31; Kofos, p. 107; testimony of Yordan Sevov, People’s Court, December 1944.


39. Condit, p. 234.


40. Mojsov, Bugarska, pp. 60-62.


41. Oren, Bulgarian Communism, p. 191.


42. Shoup, pp. 52-54; Auty, Tito, p. 169; Mojsov, Bugarska, pp. 60-62.





43. Yugoslavia, Vojno-istorijski Institut, Zbornik dokumenata, 9.2: 154-57; Mojsov, Bugarska, pp. 108-9; Shoup, pp. 82-83.


44. Mojsov, Bugarska, pp. 71-72, 95-96; Oren, Bulgarian Communism, pp. 191-95; Rabotnichesko delo, 20.ix.44; Darby, p. 220.


45. Memoirs of Svetozar Vukmanovich (Tempo), serialized in the Belgrade daily Politika, 8.ii.71 (see also his published memoirs Revolutsija koja teche) ; Peter Bogdanov, speech to the 5th Congress of the BKP, December 1948, in Peti kongres na BKP, 1: 567-77.


46. Barker, Macedonia, p. 90; Wolff, p. 215, puts the date in late 1942, which is much too late; Oren, Bulgarian Communism, p. 195, accepts the earlier date.


47. Yugoslavia, Vojno-istorijski Institut, Hronologija; Les Systèmes, p. 11.


48. Vukmanovich memoirs, Politisa, 8.ii.71.


49. Peter II to Roosevelt, Washington, 22.vii.42, FRUS 1942, 3: 805.


50. “KTB des Wehrwirtschaftsoffiziers in Sofia,” 20.i.43, Vol. V, DBA. The successful Soviet defense at Stalingrad probably contributed to this partisan resurgence.


51. Mihov, Dnevnik, 20.ix.43.


52. Yugoslavia, Vojno-istorijski Institut, Hronologija, p. 428; Barker, Macedonia, p. 91; Istorijski arhiv KPJ, pp. 229-45; Yugoslavia, Vojnoistorijski Institut, Zbornik dokumentata, 2.10: 143-62, 232; Clissold, pp. 135-46.


53. Palmer and King, pp. 76-93.


54. Neubacher, p. 67.


55. Barker, Macedonia, p. 83.



Chapter Twelve


1. A. Clark, p. 363.


2. V. L. Izraelyan, p. 114; see also Ivanov, p. 37; Istoriya Bolgarii, p. 294.


3. Rendel, p. 180.


4. Interviews, Bulgaria.


5. Beckerle, Sofia, 4.viii.43, 11.viii.43, 16.viii.43, SSF, T120 255.174008-9, .174019, .174029; Jagow, Budapest, 5.viii.43, 11.viii.43, SSF, T120 255.174010, .174016.


6. SD-Ber., SS-Obergruppenführer Kaltenbrunner to Himmler, Berlin, 16.viii.43, T120 1305.485662-63.


7. Hristu Pastuhov, speech printed in Narod (Sofia), 4.xi.44.


8. Interview, Bulgaria.


9. Rendel, pp. 180-81; see also Ivanov, p. 37.





10. The following account is based largely on Heiber, “Der Tod”; Filov, Dnevnik, 27.viii.43 and 28.viii.43; Mir (Sofia), 27.viii.43 and 28.viii.43; Bretholz, p. 48; and Constant Schaufelberger, “Boris III, L’Homme et le Roi,” in Nikolaev, pp. 88-90. Schaufelberger was the private tutor of young Prince Simeon. See also Queen Ioanna of Bulgaria, “Memorie,” serialized in the Italian magazine Oggi, 1961, part 10; Beckerle, Sofia, 24.viii.43 to 28.viii.43, SSF, T120 255.174042 to .174148.


11. Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 728.


12. Papen, Ankara, 28.viii.43, SSF, T120 255.174079; Kazasov, Burni godini, p. 728; New York Times, 28.viii.43; Neue Züricher Zeitung, 29.viii.43; Yust, 1: 381; Queen Ioanna, “Memorie,” part 10; Mir (Sofia), 30.viii.43.


13. Beckerle, Sofia, 29.viii.43, SSF, T120 255.174095.


14. The following discussion of the autopsy issue is based on Queen Ioanna, “Memorie”; Heiber, “Der Tod,” pp. 400-401; Nikolaev, pp. 9192; Beckerle, Sofia, 30.viii.43, SSF, T120 255.174105; Bretholz, p. 49; Toynbee, Hitler’s Europe, p. 623; Papen, p. 502.


15. Papen, p. 502.


16. Nikolaev, pp. 91-92.


17. Beckerle, Sofia, 30.viii.43, SSF, T120 255.174105.


18. Queen Ioanna, “Memorie.”


19. Bretholz, p. 49.


20. Interviews, Bulgaria.


21. Heiber, “Der Tod,” pp. 393-94; Queen Ioanna, “Memorie.”


22. Testimony of Pavel Gruev before the People’s Court in December 1944.


23. Filov, Dnevnik, 15.viii.43; see also FO R8147.470.7, Stockholm, 24. viii.43.


24. The Queen has said in the Oggi article, however, that Boris had told Filov that he had not yielded on either a single point or a single soldier.


25. Prince Kiril, People’s Court, December 1944.


26. Bretholz, p. 47; Nikolaev, p. 92; Heiber, “Der Tod,” pp. 393-94; Queen Ioanna, “Memorie”; Bozhinov, p. 28; testimony of Prince Kiril and Pavel Gruev, People’s Court, December 1944.


27. Neue Züricher Zeitung, 14.i.45 and 15.i.45; Heiber, “Der Tod,” p. 392; Mourin, pp. 190-91; interviews, Bulgaria.


28. Baur, pp. 246ff.


29. See articles in Le Figaro, 14.xii.48 and 15.xii.48, written by an anonymous Bulgarian emigrant and supposedly based on a report by Baur found after the hurried evacuation of the German Embassy in Sofia in 1944; Papen, pp. 501-2; Heiber, “Der Tod,” pp. 392-93; Nikolaev, p. 94; Rendel, p. 181; Queen Ioanna, “Memorie.”





30. See Baur, p. 246.


31. See Queen Ioanna, “Memorie,” for the airport incident.


32. Beckerle to author, 5.1X.66.


33. Steengracht memo, Berlin, 27. viii. 43, SSF, T120 255.174059.


34. Papen, p. 501.


35. Semmler, 29.viii.43, p. too.


36. “Goebbels-Tagebuch” in the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich, 10.ix.43 and 11.ix.43, pp. 2663-64, 2703-4, 2710; Bretholz, p. 62; Papen, p. 502.


37. Heiber, “Der Tod,” p. 402n; Mourin, p. 190, says Mafalda died on April 19, 1945; Neubacher, pp. 67-68.


38. SD-Ber., SS-Obergruppenführer Kaltenbrunner to Himmler, Berlin, 16.viii.43, T120 1305.485662-63; Beckerle to author, 3.ix.66 and 17.xi.66; interviews, Bulgaria and Munich.


39. Dr. Reinhard Gutschmidt, cited in Heiber, “Der Tod,” p. 591.


40. Interviews, Bulgaria; FO R8377.470.7, Cairo, 4.ix.43.


41. Information on these troop movements comes from Queen Ioanna, “Memorie”; Heiber, “Der Tod,” p. 394; Nikolaev.


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