(photo credit: Reuters)
Although March this year marked the 70th anniversary of the execution of the
Final Solution in Macedonia, this particular chapter remains on the margin of
mainstream Holocaust narrative.
While the issue of the Holocaust in
Macedonia is almost invisible in discussions concerning Europe’s delineation of
the tragedy’s peripheral geographical borders, the fact remains that it did
occur in Macedonia and is neither a scientific, historical nor political secret.
The events that took place in are verifiable and the information is accessible,
hence not hidden history; and any objection to this fact would be – at the very
least, inappropriate – and would only reveal a most unseemly approach to the
eschatological dimensions of the Holocaust in relation to the utter annihilation
of the Jews of Macedonia.
Under Bulgarian occupation and the
German-Bulgarian alliance, the Holocaust brutally took the lives of 7,148 Jews
from Macedonia, deported to Treblinka and murdered upon arrival in the gas
chambers of the Treblinka II death camp. After their bodies were burned their
ashes were plunged into the ground by a bulldozer. This occurred in March
Among the compromises Bulgaria had to make in order to save itself
from German occupation or a war with Germany, was the solution of the Jewish
Question. As a reward for its loyalty, territories Bulgaria had lost in the
Second Balkan War in 1913 and World War I were returned, thus realizing King’s
Boris imperial dream of a united and powerful royal Bulgaria. In April 1941 the
new map of Bulgaria, included most of already-divided Macedonia and the Vardar
area, over which the Bulgarian occupier now celebrated the victory of so-called
“newly liberated” territory.
The then-fascist Bulgarian government, lead
by Bogdan Filov, adopted and implemented the Final Solution over the Jews from
Vardar Macedonia in a grand manner. The Bulgarian administrative-political
system was urgently established and actively implemented. The ideological,
linguistic, cultural and other assimilation of the Macedonian people was
implemented, while simultaneously the Final Solution was urgently
institutionalized by way of the Law for Protection of the Nation and the
numerous anti- Semitic laws that were meticulously implemented in all their
The Macedonian subject was renamed the Bulgarian subject, and
Jews in Macedonia were treated as “temporary residents.” This last was a crucial
element in the tragic destiny of the Jewish people of Macedonia.
deportation of the Jews from the Vardar area of Macedonia was fastidiously
organized by the Bulgarian political elite, administration and police, and
conducted by way of the Bulgarian State Railways in three “Jewish transports”
(on March 22, 25 and 29, 1943), from the Monopol temporary concentration camp in
Skopje to the central railway line between Warsaw and Bialystok and finally to
the Malkinia station at Treblinka.
Here the Macedonian Jews were
delivered to the German authorities, who took them to immediately to the gas
chambers in Treblinka II for execution.
The previously signed agreement
between Aleksandar Belev, head of the Commissariat for Jewish Questions and his
German colleague, SS Hauptsturmführer Theodor Dannecker on February 22, 1943,
legally regulated the institutional guarantee “that Bulgaria in future shall not
under any circumstances demand the deported Jews back, nor shall exhibit any
interest in them.” Not one deported Jew returned from Treblinka II to
Exactly 70 years have passed since then.
BULGARIA’S deportation of Jews from the “newly liberated” section (occupied
Vardar Macedonia) of its reunited kingdom, in its older sections, a powerful
institutional resistance was taking place, organized by Bulgarian intellectuals,
artists and writers, the Managing Council of the Bulgarian Lawyers, then-justice
minister Dimitar Peshev, the Lawyers’ Association, the Central Consistory in
Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Physicians’ Union, as well as the Holy
Forty-eight thousand Jews from the old parts of Bulgaria were not
deported and were saved.
The Final Solution implemented over the Jews
from Macedonia must rise from its anonymity and marginalization and receive
proper, correct and explicit treatment within the general science of the
I suggest a comparative approach towards the difference in the
treatment of the Jews from the newly liberated areas, compared to that of those
from the old parts of Bulgaria during the same period by the same anti-Semitic
administrative-ideological Bulgarian cabinet, and the same fascist government of
Bogdan Filov. I suggest a scientific review and reexamination.
years after the deportation of the Macedonian Jews and their annihilation, and
just as many years after the non-deportation of the Jews from the old parts of
Bulgaria – Europe’s attitude to the peripheral borders of the Holocaust remains
On few occasions the European Parliament has said that the modern
European state of Bulgaria today holds resolutely remains to the “Denmark”
model, emphasizing solely the fact that 48,000 Jews were saved from the
Holocaust, the Jews from the old parts of Bulgaria, today’s Bulgarian
Questions need to be asked. Is the guarantee that Bulgaria gave, in
writing, to its German partner in 1943, claiming that “in no case shall Bulgaria
demand back the deported Jews, nor exhibit any interest for them in the future,”
still valid today even after 70 years? Is the stand which hides the truth about
the tragic ending of Jews from Vardar Macedonia being exported? At the time
Macedonia bore the status of newly liberated territory within Bulgaria, and yet
it would appear that the political elite deported the Jews from Vardar Macedonia
and thus, implemented the Final Solution over the Jews of Macedonia.
this then mean that Europe has still not closed the question of the Holocaust on
its periphery, as in the case of Macedonia, regarding the responsibility of
implementation despite the fact that the Holocaust did away – among many others
– with the lives of 7,148 Jews from Vardar Macedonia, at the time of the
Bulgarian occupation and the Bulgarian-German partnership? ■ Sofija
Grandakovska, author of:
The Discourse of the Prayer (2008) and
The Portrait of
the Image (2010) is editor and co-author of the bilingual chrestomathy
from Macedonia and the Holocaust: History, Theory, Culture (2011) and coeditor
of the bilingual bookzine edition
DOMA [HOME], vol. 1 (2010). She is co-curator
of the multimedia exhibition “The Jews from Macedonia and the Holocaust”
(Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 2011, and Gallery of the Jewish
Community Belgrade, 2013).