SOFIA (Jan. 19)
There has been no organized anti-Semitism in Bulgaria since the third century. Despite the new anti-Jewish law, there is no organized anti-Semitism today.
As one Bulgarian Jew put it, “Almost everybody, from King Boris down, is opposed to anti-Semitism; yet we have an anti-Semitic law.” It is the Bulgarian version of appeasement.
There was no official mention of anti-Semitism in Bulgaria until last August, when Premier Bogdan Filoff and Foreign Minister I. Popoff visited Hitler at Berchtesgaden. During the visit the German station, Radio Donau, remarked that Bulgaria could not be a friend of Germany until she had passed a law against the Jews.
Immediately afterward, Interior Minister Peter Gabrovsky, who was master of the Bulgarian Masonic lodge, assembled the Bulgarian Masons and told them that, “in the interests of Bulgaria,” it was best to dissolve the organization.
A few weeks later Gabrovsky introduced in Parliament the first anti-Semitic bill in this country’s history. The bill was opposed by the Association of Bulgarian Writers, the Bar Association, the Medical Association, the National Workers and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church. Even the Officers’ Reserve went on record against the bill.
The only groups in the entire country who favored the bill were the pro-Nazi Ratnik, the “Combatants for Progress in Bulgaria” and the National Youth Legion. But the total membership of these organizations is fewer than 40,000.
In Yugoslavia, where German influence is stronger, there has always been a certain amount of anti-Semitism, especially among the Croats and Slovenes, who formerly pertained to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Even there, however, anti-Semitism was limited more or less to the German, Polish and Hungarian Jews, who form less than one-third of the country’s Jewish population of 70,000. The Spanish Jews, who have been living in Yugoslavia over four centuries and are almost wholly assimilated, were excepted from the more stringent provisions of the anti-Jewish law.
On the other hand, more than 90 per cent of Bulgaria’s 40,000 Jews are Sephardim who have been living in the country since the 16th century, when they were expelled from Spain by the Inquisition. Since Bulgaria’s liberation from Turkey 62 years ago the Jews have become so highly Bulgarized that their traditional Spanish-Hebrew dialect, Ladino, is beginning to disappear.