Bulgaria Macedonia 1941

Skopje_41_group  

A rare piece of visual history. Spring 1941 - Drachevo, today a suburb of Skopje. Bulgaria opens its first cultural centre in newly occupied Macedonia. Dignitaries from Sofia share a meal and a blessing with Germany’s Consul General in Skopje, Arthur Witte (in Nazi uniform).

In late March 1941 Germany bombed Belgrade and other major Yugoslav cities. Despite the fierce resistance, the Yugoslav kingdom soon surrendered and the state collapsed, leaving all its constituent parts at the mercy of its neighbours, Germany’s allies - Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria.

Bulgaria’s historic and cultural claim over Macedonia had driven the country to join the Alliance with Hitler’s Germany, so the Bulgarian forces moved in quickly across Macedonia, advancing to the Western edges of the country, already taken over by Italian fascist troops. The new Bulgarian administration of Macedonia brought in officials from inside Bulgaria, focusing on cultural propaganda as one of its prime tasks among the local population.

Bulgaria is often seen as a somewhat reluctant ally of Nazi Germany. However, on this occasion, the senior Nazi official in Skopje, Arthur Witte is clearly treated as a guest of honour by the Bulgarian hosts. Two years later, in March 1943, Arthur Witte coordinated the deportation of the entire Jewish communities of Skopje, Monastir (Bitola), Štip to the Treblinka extermination camp, resulting in the death of more than 7,100 Macedonian Jews.

In the autumn of 1944, as Tito's partisans advanced on Skopje, cutting off the withdrawal of German forces from the area, as a high-ranking Nazi official in Macedonia Arthur Witte facilitated the escape from Skopje of the leader of the Bulgarian Macedonian nationalist organisation IMRO Ivan Mihaylov, his wife and a group of supporters. Under the protection of Wehrmacht soldiers, the IMRO group reached Belgrade and proceeded to Western Europe, by using Ivan Mihaylov’s close links to the Ustaše leader, Ante Pavelić in Zagreb.

Bulgaria’s occupation of Macedonia in 1941-1944 is still a taboo subject across Bulgarian society and education in Bulgaria.

Tags: Tito, Bulgaria, Communism, Sofia, Hitler, Macedonia, България, София, Macedoine , Македонија, Македония, KingBoris, Jewish, Nazi, occupation , Mazedonien , Skopje, Skoplje, Скопие, Shkup, IMRO, ВМРО, окупация, Holocaust, בולגריה, מוּקדוֹן, IvanMihaylov, Ustase, Ustashe, Pavelic, Павелич, Monastir, Bitola,  Deutschland, Германия, Germany, Германиja, Njemačka, Немачка

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