previous page: 16-10 The Economy of Bulgaria (1878-1939), summary
page up: Bulgaria FAQ
next page: 16-12 The Macedonian Question

16-11 Bulgaria and World War II


This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

16-11 Bulgaria and World War II

(by Luben Boyanov)
Basically, the person who was taking the major decisions
but not all !!! during the years around 1940 was King Boris III.
Both points are important as there are some controvercies and also
some propaganda. While it is true, that almost all general
decisions were masterminded by Boris III, it is also true that
the cabinet and the Prime Minister had some freedom to act and
did not consult the King on so many of their actions.

The entire story should be started back in the years 1932-35 when
it turned out that it is only Germany who is buying the agricultural
production of Bulgaria and in return was providing some high quality
industrial goods on low prices, from Bulgaria. In several years time
(Boris tried to convince Britain and France to allow more BG trade with
them, to get more of their products on the BG market on competitive prices,
but neither country gave a damn on that matter), Bulgaria was conducting
something like 65% (o even more) of its export and import with
Germany. The country became almost totaly dependent on Germany.
The overall situation was not bad for Bulgaria, as gave a good
market for BGs production and in return, the German tools/machines
were very well regarded for their quality and reliability in Bulgaria.

When WWII started, Bulgaria declared to stay neutral. Relations
with all major powers were good. It happened that there was a chance
to recover the purely Bulgarian land of Southern Dobruja, which was
lost to Romania after the Second Balkan war and then again - after
WWI. Russia, England, Germany were pressing Rumania but at the end
it was under German pressure that Romania returned the land. So - apart
from the huge economic dependance, a feeling of help and concern
was received from the German action. Still Boris was determined to keep BG
out of the war. There are numerous documents showing that Boris didn't like
and even despised Hitler and he was also rather scared what will next decide
to do the decorator from Austria. After some time, with the opening of
the war in Greece, Hitler got determined to get his troops there (I think
Gregory explained this well and why was so). . The German troops have
moved in Romania (if I'm not wrong about the time) and at some time Bulgaria
given 2 choices - to get on the side of the Germans, or to be crossed as
enemy by the Vermaht. There was absolute no support from England or France
(as far as I remember, Boris tried to get some help from there) and the
internal situation (no anti-German feelings, huge economic dependency) was
not helping at all. It was clear, that if Boris has refused to join
the Germans, a pro-German pupet regime would have been installed
in days, after the German army enters Bulgaria (BG had no army
after WWI !!! but even if they had, I doubt what could BG army on
its own, without British or French, or US help stand against the
Germans) and full colaboration of that pupet regime would have

Boris chose the other option. He put a lot of conditions to the
joining of the Axis - like no BG soldiers for Germany, no interference
of Germany in BG gov, etc, etc, then he appointed a Germanophille
(or maybe it was earlier he appointed him) Prime Minister - Filov
and he binded towards the pressure from Hitler. The memoirs of his
Chief of Staff show how much upset he was for that decision. Still
he was in some control of the situation, and for the next years, he managed
to influence few major events, despite the oposite pressure from
Germany and his own government - namely to help saving the
Bulgarian Jews being sent to camps in Poland, to give soldiers to
the German army, and to declare war on the USSR. Bulgaria was
a unique country, where German and Russian missions (diplomatic)
were together during the war.

Of course, the King was not able to avoid many of the stupid things
his pro-German PM did, but he couldn't do anything else, in order to
play the game of cat and mouse with Hitler. And the game was to
avoid doing anything Hitler wanted, and still to pretend being
a true ally to him. Boris was extremely angry that Filov's gov
declared war to Britain and the US but he was unable to avoid this.

In 1943, after a stormy meeting with Hitler, when Boris refused
again to give troops and to deport the Jews (under various
explanations), Boris died from mysterious death. There are
speculations whetgher he was poisoned and by whom, but from
what Iv'e read, it seems that he just couldn't stand that pressure
any more and had a heart attack.

It is also documented, that earlier in 1943, Boris was preparing
a pro-British/American government but if/how/when he would have
broken with Hitler and joined the other camp is a mere speculation
and mystery, which will be never solved as the death of the King
ruined all plans he had or might have had.


Continue to:

previous page: 16-10 The Economy of Bulgaria (1878-1939), summary
page up: Bulgaria FAQ
next page: 16-12 The Macedonian Question