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A Short History of the Jews of Greece
The Bulgarian Occupation Zone

The next Jews to feel the brunt of the Final Solution were those living in the Bulgarian occupation zone. The Bulgarian attitude toward the Jews seems to have been based on nationalist considerations. Much was done by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian public to save the Bulgarian Jews, although the official Bulgarian attitude was anti-Semitic. On 12 November 1942 the Bulgarian ministry of foreign affairs replied to the German demand for handing over the Jewish population: ‘The Bulgarian government readily accepts the proposals of the German government to carry out the general evacuation of the Jews from  Bulgaria’ (Saving of the Jews in Bulgaria 1941-1944, Sofia, 1977).

The Bulgarians made no attempt to protect Greek Jews, readily handing over more than 4,000 Jews of Greek nationality to the German authorities. Non-conformity to Bulgarian identity was seen as a threat to the expansionist plans of the Bulgarian state. The policy of open terror initiated in Macedonia and Thrace in 1941 was designed to rid these areas of Greeks.

In November 1942 the Bulgarian government instituted the provisions of the Nurnberg Laws. Jews in the Bulgarian occupation zone were forced to wear a Star of David, to submit a record of their family wealth, to live in proscribed zones, and to remain within their homes after 5:00 P.M. Telephone communication was forbidden. In January 1943 a commission was established which confiscated almost all Jewish personal jewelry, bank notes, household silver, and any other valuables, depositing them under official seal in the Bank of Bulgaria.

On the night of 3 March 1943, all the Jews of Kavalla, Drama, Komotini, and elsewhere in the Bulgarian occupation zone were arrested and incarcerated in a number of tobacco warehouses in Kavalla. On 7 March they were transferred to Drama. Soon afterwards approximately 5,000 people were carried in two trainloads from Drama to Lom, Bulgaria, where they were interred in two camps. On 20 March they were herded onto four boats and sent up the Danube to Vienna.

The story of the fate of these Jews remains unclear. For a long time after the war the general belief was that all the Jews arrested in the Bulgarian zone had been drowned in the Danube. This method may have been used because the facilities at Auschwitz were unable to deal with the huge numbers of Jews from Thessaloniki. However, records in the Lochmei HaGetaoh Museum in Israel, dedicated to the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto, indicate a shipment to Treblinka of Jews from Greece in March 1943. These, undoubtedly, were the Jews of Bulgarian occupied Thrace and Macedonia who, according to eyewitnesses, were sent from Kavalla to Siderokastro in sealed cattle cars and then were marched to Lom on the Danube. At Lom they were put on several old river cruisers, some of which capsized, drowning the incarcerated Jews. The survivors were handed over to the Nazi authorities at the Austrian-Bulgarian border and then shipped, via Vienna, to Treblinka.

 The extermination of the Jewish communities in the German and Bulgarian occupation zones in Greece was completed by the summer of 1943. There remained only the Jews in the Italian occupation zone.

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