A History of Knowledge about the Holocaust in Bulgaria


With Nadège Ragaru

Marco Behar: “Their Last Way” (from the Series “Past”, detail, 1958), Courtesy of the Bulgarian National Gallery, Sofia.


Since the immediate aftermath of the end of World War II, a narrative concerning the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews from deportation and genocide has nurtured the self-representation of the governments in Sofia and the public discourse in the country. From the decades of state socialist rule to the post-1989 political transformations which led to Bulgaria’s entry into the European Union, the international framework of Holocaust remembrance as well as some references in this discourse have changed, yet the bulk of the rescue narrative which sees the Jews as passive entity persists. This episode discusses how historiography can critically engage with the complex and fragmented knowledge of the Holocaust in Southeast Europe through a journey into different voices and different sources, from trial attestations to popular fiction movies to visual material.


Nadège Ragaru is Research Professor at Sciences Po Paris. Her works explore the history, the historiography, and the memory of the Holocaust and World War II in Southeast Europe. She is currently working on a book project dedicated to war crimes trials in the final months of World War II.


To cite this episode: Nadège Ragaru, Andreas Guidi (2021): A History of Knowledge about the Holocaust in Bulgaria. The Southeast Passage #040, http://thesoutheastpassage.com/ragaru-history-knowledge-holocaust-bulgaria/.



Edoy: Chance


Text Excerpt:

Deposition by Berta and Milko Noah, Skopje, December 27, 1944. The document was produced within the Preliminary Investigation for anti-Jewish crimes in Bulgaria. Source: Vărban Todorov and Nikolaj Poppetrov (eds.), VII săstav na narodnija săd. Edno sabraveno dokumentalno svidetelstvo za antisemitizma v Bălgarija pred 1941-1944 g., Sofia : Iztok & Zapad, 2013, p. 188-193. Translated by Naemi Haberkorn, read out for The Southeast Passage by Nisrine Rahal.


Further reading:

Chary Frederick, The Bulgarian Jews and the Final Solution, 1940-1944, Pittsburgh (Pa.), University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972.

Cohen Mark, Last Century of a Sephardic Community: The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943, New York (N. Y.), Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture, 2003.

Benveniste Rika, Die Überlebenden. Widerstand, Deportation, Rückkehr. Juden aus Thessaloniki in der 1940er Jahren, Berlin, Ed. Romiosini CeMoG, 2016.

Danova Nadja and Avramov Roumen (eds.) Deportiraneto na evreite ot Vardarska Makedonija, Belomorska Trakija i Pirot, mart 1943 g. Dokumenti ot bălgarskite arhivi, Sofia, Obedineni izdateli, 2013, 2 vol.

Giorgos Antoniou and A. Dirk Moses (eds.), The Holocaust in Greece, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Grinberg Natan, Dokumenti. Părvata kniga za deportiraneto na evreite ot Trakija, Makedonija i Pirot, Sofia, I.K. Gutenberg, 2015 [1945].

Haskell Guy H., From Sofia to Jaffa: The Jews of Bulgaria and Israel, Detroit (Mich.), Wayne State University Press, 1994.

Himka John-Paul and Michlic Joanna Beata (eds.), Bringing the Dark Past into Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe, Lincoln (Neb.), University of Nebraska Press, 2013.

Manoschek Walter, “Serbien ist judenfrei”: Militärische Besatzungspolitik und Judenvernichtung in Serbien 1941/42, Munich, Oldenbourg Verlag, 1993.

Matkovski Aleksandar, Tragedijata na evreite od Makedonija, Skopje, Kultura, 1962.

Matkovski Aleksandar, “The Destruction of the Macedonian Jewry in 1943,” Yad Vashem Studies, 3, 1959, 203-258.

Ragaru Nadège, Assignés à identités. Violence d’État et expériences minoritaires dans les Balkans post-ottomans, Istanbul, Les Éditions Isis, 2019.

Ragaru Nadège, “The Madding Clocks of Persecution: Anti-Jewish Policies in Bitola under Bulgarian occupation (1941-1944),” in: Xavier Bougarel, Hannes Grandits and Marija Vulesica (eds.), Reconsidering the History of the Second World War in Southeastern Europe, London, Routledge, 2019, 161-195.

Ragaru Nadège, “Bordering the Past: The Elusive Presences of the Holocaust in Socialist Macedonia and Socialist Bulgaria,” Südost-Forschungen, 76, 2017, 1-32.

Ragaru Nadège, “Nationalization through Internationalization. Writing, Remembering, and Commemorating the Holocaust in Macedonia and Bulgaria after 1989,” Südosteuropa. Journal of Politics and Society, 65 (2), 2017, 284-315.

Todorov Tzvetan (ed.), La Fragilité du bien. Le sauvetage des Juifs bulgares, Paris, Albin Michel, 1999.

Troebst Stefan, « Macedonian Historiography on the Holocaust in Macedonia under Bulgarian Occupation », Südosteuropäische Hefte, 2 (1), 2013, 107-114.

Troebst Stefan, « Salvation, Deportation or Holocaust? The Controversy over the Fate of Bulgaria’s Jews in World War II – before and after 1989 », in Muriel Blaive, Christian Gerbel, Thomas Lindenberger (eds), Clashes in European Memory. The Case of Communist Repression and the Holocaust, Innsbruck, StudienVerlag, 2011, 37-52.


A caricature by Marco Behar, a Jewish Bulgarian artist, from the December 7, 1944 issue of Evrejski Vesti. This newspaper was published by the Jewish Section of the Homeland Front, a coalition dominated by the Communist Party of Bulgaria. The caption read “Changing roles”.


Cover of Evrejski Vesti (Jewish News), March 16, 1945. This issue included a summary of attestations by witnesses in the framework of the prosecution for anti-Jewish crimes at the 7th Chamber of the People’s Tribunal.

The Southeast Passage
The Southeast Passage
A History of Knowledge about the Holocaust in Bulgaria