King Holds Up Bulgarian Anti-jewish Law; Plans to Ease Effects

The Bulgarian anti-Semitic law which was passed on Dec. 28 against the opposition of a large section of Parliament has not yet been promulgated by King Boris.

Although on paper the law is more severe than its counterpart in Yugoslavia, it probably will not be so strictly enforced. In fact it is understood that the King is holding up promulgation until details can be worked out whereby the hardships caused by enforcement can be minimized.

Bulgaria has a long tradition of tolerance and inasmuch as Jews are such a small minority–the numerical proportion is only 0.85 per cent of the population–the law against them is not taken too seriously. Besides 40,000 Jews in Bulgaria, there are 20,000 Russians, 30,000 Armenians, 80,000 Rumanians, 100,000 gypsies, 650,000 Turks and 700,000 Macedonians. Altogether one-fourth of Bulgaria’s 6,000,000 population is represented by minority groups.

Precisely for this reason enforcement of the numerous clauses against Jews is regarded by Bulgarians as unrealistic. Of 2,000 lawyers practicing in Sofia only 80 are Jews and these “menace” no one. Nevertheless, according to the law’s letter, 65 must give up their practice, leaving 15 in Sofia, 24 in all Bulgaria, or 0.85 per cent of the country’s 3,000 licensed attorneys.

Medicine is the only profession not touched by the Jewish law. Not only will all Jewish doctors be allowed to continue practicing, but they will not be allowed to emigrate from Bulgaria until the war danger is over and they are not needed by the army.

The law has provided a numerous nullus, however, for Jews in the case of professions like pharmacy, theater proprietors, enterprises like hotels, movies and cabarets. While the anti-Semitic Ratniki claimed that a third of Sofia’s merchants were Jews, the actual percentage of Jewish storekeepers, according to objective observers, is not more than 12 per cent–which is not strange since half of the Jews in Bulgaria live in Sofia and they number eight per cent of the capital’s population.

Nevertheless, the law provides that the number must be reduced to the actual proportion of Jews in the total population. The Jews and opponents of anti-Semitism, however, are confident that the King’s enforcement decree will provide for exceptions or delays and thus furnish Bulgarian Jewry with some chance of weathering the storm, which the Government hinted was only a temporary measure designed to avoid international complications.

How many leaders feel about the measure was indicated by the open letter sent to Premier Bogdan Filoff by the former Bulgarian Minister to Belgrade Kasasoff who protested that passage of the law “was not only a blot on the history of Bulgaria but also a blot regretted by the Premier himself.”

Meanwhile, the Orthodox Metropole Steven of Sofia has informed the Government that he will oppose application of the law against all converted Jews, whenever they were baptized. About 100 were baptized after Sept. 1–the deadline established by law. In the light of such fearlessly expressed sentiments, and also the fact that no fewer than six members of the Government, including Filoff and Foreign Minister I. Popoff, are well-known Masons, Bulgarian Jewry is hopeful that the actual measures taken against them will be limited to the barest essentials necessary to satisfy the Nazis that Bulgaria is cooperating to enforce the “new order” in Europe.

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