How ordinary Bulgarians saved their Jewish neighbors

by Shira Epstein

The lessons of the holocaust should never be forgotten. The atrocity that murdered 6 million Jews is incomprehensible but we need to remember. We need to remember those whose lives were stolen too early. We need to thank the heroes who put their own lives at risk in order to save others. These ordinary Bulgarians spoke out against what was going on and saved thousands of lives. These ordinary Bulgarians are heroes and they deserve this recognition!

Until the formation of the State of Israel the Jewish people did not have their own land to call home. They moved from one country to another, suffering persecutions along the way. Due to  the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Jews settled in the Balkans at the end of the 15th century.  Under the leadership of Tsar Boris III, Jewish persecution began in Bulgaria. In alignment with the Nazi regime during the Holocaust, anti-Semitic laws began to be passed in July 1940.

The Role of the Bulgarian Greek Orthodox Church

But, ordinary Bulgarians together with the the Bulgarian Orthodox Church stood up for what they believed in and what they knew to be the right thing. The Jews of Plovdiv were saved by Cyril, the Metropolitan of Plovdiv, when he stood up to Tsar Boris and got the Jews from his town freed from deportation. The Greek Orthodox Church successfully put pressure on Tsar Boris to stop the deportation of Jews. Together with ordinary Bulgarian citizens they saved the lives of 50,000 Jews.


However, they did not really just save the lives of 50,000 Jews. They saved the lives of many more. They saved the lives of the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of these Jews.

When we look back at events in history, we need to do many things. We need to ensure that we never allow the evil that occurred to happen again. We need to remember and never forget.  But, part of not forgetting is remembering the incredibly strong heroes who went away from the norm and stood up and saved lives.

We thank you and won’t forget you.

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