|History of Greek Jewish Community
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.