Approximately 47,000 Jews lived in Bulgaria before the Second World War and virtually none of the country’s Jews were deported to Nazi death camps. In Bulgarian-occupied Thrace and Macedonia, however, nearly 12,000 Jews were deported; almost none returned.
Some 40,000 Bulgarian Jews emigrated to Israel in the late 1940s-1950s. During the Communist decades, there was no real organized Jewish life. That changed radically after 1989. The community today, although small, is well organized and quite proud of rebuilding its communal institutions.
Centropa’s Bulgarian interviews were carried out by a team coordinated by Nelly Rousseva of The Bulgarian Photographers’ Association and edited by Mihaylina Pavlov of Shalom, the Jewish Community of Bulgaria.
What you will notice in the pictures we’ve collected in Bulgaria is a high percentage of people dressed in traditional Sephardic costume.
The other great Balkan Sephardic communities of Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, and Bosnia were almost wholly wiped out during the Holocaust, so those family stories, and the images that go with them, are now lost to us.
That makes this particular collection all the more historically important.