… most nations of Central and Eastern Europe were occupied by or allied with Germany during this period. The Nazis made it clear that deporting their Jews to the concentration camps in Nazi territory was a condition for continued good relations; a serious threat, when bad relations could turn a protectorate-type situation into an outright invasion and occupation.
Pride of place goes to Denmark and Bulgaria, both of which resisted all Nazi demands despite the Germans having almost complete power over them. Most people have heard the legend of how, when the Germans ordered that all Jews must wear gold stars, the King of Denmark said he would wear one too. These kinds of actions weren’t just symbolic; without cooperation from the Gentile population and common knowledge of who was or wasn’t Jewish, the Nazis had no good way to round people up for concentration camps. Nothing happened until 1943, when Himmler became so annoyed that he sent his personal agent Rolf Gunther to clean things up. Gunther tried hard but found the going impossible. Danish police refused to go door-to-door rounding up Jews, and when Gunther imported police from Germany, the Danes told them that they couldn’t break into apartments or else they would arrest them for breaking and entering. Then the Danish police tipped off Danish Jews not to open their doors to knocks since those might be German police. When it became clear that the Nazis weren’t going to accept any more delays, Danish fishermen offered to ferry Jews to neutral Sweden for free. In the end the Nazis only got a few hundred Danish Jews, and the Danish government made such a “fuss” (Arendt’s word) about them that the Nazis agreed to send them all to Theresienstadt, their less-murderous-than-usual camp, and let Red Cross observers in to make sure they were treated well. In the end, only 48 Danish Jews died in the entire Holocaust.
Bulgaria’s resistance was less immediately heroic, and looked less like the king proudly proclaiming his identity with oppressed people everywhere than with the whole government just dragging their feet so long that nothing got done. Eichmann sent an agent named Theodor Dannecker to get them moving, but as per Arendt:
not until about six months later did they take the first step in the direction of “radical” measures – the introduction of the Jewish badge. For the Nazis, even this turned out to be a great disappointment. In the first place, as they dutifully reported, the badge was only a “very little star”; second, most Jews simply did not wear it; and, third, those who did wear it received “so many manifestations of sympathy from the misled population that they actually are proud of their sign” – as Walter Schellenberg, Chief of Counterintelligence in the R.S.H.A., wrote in an S.D. report transmitted to the Foreign Office in November, 1942. Whereupon the Bulgarian government revoked the decree. Under great German pressure, the Bulgarian government finally decided to expel all Jews from Sofia to rural areas, but this measure was definitely not what the Germans demanded, since it dispersed the Jews instead of concentrating them.
The Bulgarians continued their policy of vaguely agreeing in principle to Nazi demands and then doing nothing, all the way until the Russians invaded and the time of danger was over. The result was that not a single Bulgarian Jew died in the Holocaust.
Scott Alexander, “Book review: Eichmann in Jerusalem”, Slate Star Codex, 2017-01-30.
February 11, 2017
February 10, 2017
Published on 9 Feb 2017
While the US breaks off diplomatic relations with Germany in response to unrestricted submarine warfare, the Western Front is rather quiet. On the Macedonian Front, the Bulgarian Army is digging in at Doiran. They built a formidable defence network without the Entente realising it and this week 100 years ago the British get a first taste of that. The British also deal the final blow against the Senussi tribesmen on the Libyan Front.
September 6, 2016
Published on 5 Sep 2016
Visit the Fortress Museum in Przemyśl: https://goo.gl/maps/8vdZ8AbqapG2
Romania’s history before World War 1 was heavily influenced by the great powers surrounding them. Not only was a considerable minority of Romanians living in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Romanian royal family had ties to Germany, Britain and Russia. After fighting in the Balkan Wars, Romania remained neutral during the first two years of World War 1 but decided to join when the moment seemed right.
March 18, 2016
Published on 17 Mar 2016
The alliance between the Central Powers of World War 1 doesn’t seem to be as strong anymore. The Bulgarians, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany are following their own goals without really helping out the other. Erich von Falkenhayn is obsessed with Verdun, Conrad von Hötzendorf wants to go on the offensive again after the 5th Battle of the Isonzo and the Bulgarians don’t have the resources to pursue their own goals. At the same time the unrestricted submarine warfare of the Germans is taking a deadly toll.
February 16, 2016
Published on 15 Feb 2016
Even the appointment of Ferdinand I to become ruler of Bulgaria was not without controversy. All across Europe, leaders didn’t see him fit to do the job. Controversy followed him throughout his life, the Balkan Wars and the First World War when he had to see the defeat of his country. Find out all about that other Tsar in our episode.
December 19, 2015
Published on 17 Dec 2015
The morale of the Italian Army at the Isonzo Front is on an all time low. Catastrophic defeats against the Austrians, bad and broken equipment, unsanitary conditions, no supplies, no front leave and recreation for the soldiers. This week the first troops under Luigi Cardona are mutinying. At the same time the Entente is in real trouble against Bulgaria on the Macedonian Front and the evacuation of Gallipoli is still in the planning phase.
October 16, 2015
Published on 15 Oct 2015
By the numbers the Battle of Loos was a defeat for the British Army but they learned valuable lessons for the future on the Western Front. The creeping artillery barrage is used for the first time successfully and it is apparent that assault tactics have to be rethought completely. On the Balkans, Bulgaria officially declares war on Serbia and joins the Central Powers Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. On the same day they invade Serbia which is now in real trouble.
October 6, 2015
Published on 5 Oct 2015
Thank you Plamen Ganev for helping with the research for this episode!
Bulgaria joined the ranks of the Central Powers in World War 1 in October 1915 and shortly after invaded neighbouring Serbia to support the German-Austro offensive on Belgrade. A lot of promises about territory were made towards Ferdinand I and especially the chance of getting back territories lost in the Balkan Wars was music to Bulgarian ears. Find out all about Bulgaria joining World War 1 in our special episode.
September 18, 2015
Published on 17 Sep 2015
This week Indy dissects a contemporary source from autumn 1915 – the Hobart Mercury newspaper from Australia. You can find the whole newspaper right here: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/10429329
While the French and British prepare a new offensive on the Western Front, their Entente ally Russia is still suffering in the East when Germany is moving on the last big Russian city of Vilnius. Even though the propaganda says otherwise, the situation for the ANZACs in Gallipoli still looks grim.
September 11, 2015
April 3, 2015
Published on 2 Apr 2015
Not only the soldiers are suffering on the Eastern and Western Front, the Dardanelles or since this week also in Macedonia. More and more civilians become refugees in this modern war. Even far away from the battle grounds they are not safe anymore when German submarine sink civilian ships.
June 27, 2013
In the Guardian, John O’Brennan brings us up to date on the much less reported-on protests in Bulgaria:
Bulgarians are protesting against far-reaching and systematic corruption and the “capture” of the state by rent-seeking oligarchic networks. Oresharski was appointed by the BSP to head a so-called “expert” government, after a general election in April produced a tight outcome. The technocratic government came about because the leading figures within the two largest political parties, the BSP and the centre-right Gerb (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) were widely discredited. And although the prime minister has now withdrawn the appointment of Peevski, for protesters the episode suggested that even respected figures like Oresharski are incapable of shaking off the shadowy world of oligarchic power in Bulgaria.
In Bulgaria it is often impossible to know where organised crime ends and legitimate business begins. The nexus between the two is characterised by complex bureaucratic structures, opaque corporate accounting and a maze of offshore accounts. In Varna, Bulgaria’s third largest city, the protests have taken direct aim at TIM, a business conglomerate allied to Gerb and long the real power in the region. Some estimates suggest that it controls up to 70% of Varna’s economy, including most of the tourist infrastructure. When protesters in Varna yell “M-A-F-I-A” they are automatically collapsing business into politics and implicating local municipal officials as the agents of this powerful oligarchic network.
Varna perfectly illustrates why the current protests are largely non-party-political and anti-politics in tone: the definitive division in today’s Bulgaria is no longer between right and left, but between the citizens and the mafia. This is a world where the guilty don’t just go unpunished; they ascend to the highest citadels of power.
Although corruption and the abuse of power are the central themes of this protest, economic hardship also plays a role. New data from the EU demonstrates that Bulgarians have the lowest standard of living in the European Union, at around 50% of the EU average. Even Croatia, which will accede to the EU on 1 July, is significantly more prosperous than Bulgaria.
February 2, 2013
Romania’s Gandul has a bit of fun at Britain’s expense:
Public fears in the UK over mass immigration by Eastern Europeans has prompted a peculiar response from Romania: One newspaper published a series of ads playing on British cultural stereotypes, and saying why people should move to Romania instead.
“Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water,” one of the ads proudly states, hinting at the high costs of living in the UK. Another ad made fun of British cuisine: “We serve more food groups than pies, sausage, fish and chips.”
Other ads touched upon politics, weather and even women: “Half of our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister.”
The ‘Why don`t you come over?’ ad campaign was designed by the online Romanian newspaper Gandul and GMP Advertising firm in response to numerous reports in the British media about a possible government initiative to launch a negative ad campaign discouraging Romanians and Bulgarians from coming to work in Britain.
Update, 13 September: The campaign just won a Gold Award at AdStars.
November 9, 2012
A recent discovery in Bulgaria promises to tell us more about the culture of the Getae, a powerful tribe in Thrace:
Archaeologists in Bulgaria are chuffed today to announce that golden treasures and artifacts produced by the ancient Thracians have been discovered in a subterranean tomb complex in the north of the country.
The treasures include snake-headed bracelets, a golden crown or tiara type affair, a golden horse head and piles of smaller solid gold items including rings, statuettes and buttons. They’re thought to date from the third century BC and to have been produced by the Getae, a tribe among the ancient Thracians.
[. . .]
Thracian warriors played prominent parts in many of the wars of antiquity. The peltast javelineer style of fighting was said to have originated in Thrace, gradually superseding the armoured hoplite warrior: an entire phalanx of the formidable Spartans was crushed by peltasts fighting for Athens during the Peloponnesian War, and the lightly armoured Greek/Thracian warriors are also said to have inflicted severe damage on heavy Persian cavalry.
Alexander the Great — from the neighbouring area of Macedonia — is also said to have used Thracian mercenaries in his world-spanning campaigns, and later on Thracian warriors were prominent in the armies of Rome and then the Eastern empire. In particular, the famous gladiator and rebel Spartacus had originally been a Roman auxiliary soldier from Thrace. Later on — after the fall of Rome, when the Empire was ruled from Constantinople — both the emperor Justinian and the great general Belisarius are said to have been Thracians.