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Written By: Peter Ayers Wimbrow III
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Tzar Boris III of Bulgaria(l) and Adolf Hitler(r)
Royal Monogram of Tzar Boris III of Bulgaria
March 1, 1941, Bulgarian Prime Minister Bogdan Filov signing the Tripartite Pact in the Belvedere Palace in Vienna.
German Field Marshal Wilhelm List(l) and Bulgarian Tzar Boris III(r)

    THIS WEEK, seventy years ago, BulgariaÙs Tzar, Boris III, traveled from Sofia to meet with the German Fürher at his military headquarters, the WolfÙs Lair (Wolfsschanze), in, what was then, East Prussia, and is, today, Poland.
    Boris ascended the Bulgarian throne upon the abdication of his father, Tzar Ferdinand, following BulgariaÙs defeat in World War I. Initially, Bulgaria had not entered that war, which began in August, 1914. But, in October 1915, sensing that the Central Powers were on the ascendency, and wanting to recover territories lost in the Second Balkan War, the Kingdom of Bulgaria entered the war on the side of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires. With the defeat and collapse of the Central Powers, Bulgaria was forced to sign the treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine, which stripped it of even more territory, required it to pay reparations of £100,000,000 and constricted its armed forces. Most importantly, because of the loss of Western Thrace to Greece, it was denied access to the Aegean Sea. Similar harsh penalties were imposed upon its former allies by the Treaties of Versailles (Germany), St. Germain (Austria), Trianon (Hungary) and Sévres (Turkey). In all of those treaties were sown the seeds of a future war.
    Under pressure from the German Reich, the Kingdom of Romania executed the Treaty of Craiova, on September 7, 1940, which returned Southern Dobruja, on the Black Sea, to Bulgaria, requiring 110,000 Romanians to evacuate the area. This territory had been lost to Romania in the Second Balkan War, after which most of those Romanians had relocated there. This would be used as inducement to cooperate with the Axis. That year, Bulgaria adopted its version of the "Nuremberg Laws," disenfranchising its Jewish citizens.
    On March 1, 1941 the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Bogdan Filov, traveled by train to Vienna, where he executed the Tripartite Pact, at the Belvedere Palace, allying his country with the German Reich, the Empire of Japan, the Slovak Republic and the Kingdoms of Italy, Hungary and Romania. In June, The Independent State of Croatia would execute the document.
    Germany was planning to aid its ally, Italy, which was struggling in its ill-conceived war with the Greeks. The alliance did not require the Bulgarians to enter the war - only to allow the Germans transit through their country. Of course, this was an act of war, but to the Bulgarians not so blatant. The pay-off would be the recovery of Western Thrace and access to the Aegean Sea, and Eastern Macedonia, that Bulgaria had lost to Greece and Yugoslavia.
    Three days after Prime Minister Filov executed the Tripartite Pact, on BulgariaÙs Independence Day, German troops crossed from Romania into Bulgaria. On April 20, 1941, the Bulgarian First Army, without resistance, occupied Western Thrace, while the Fifth Army occupied Eastern Macedonia and part of Serbia, and proceeded to expel 100,000 Greeks. Ultimately, the Bulgarians killed another 40,000. On May 14, these areas were formally annexed by Bulgaria.
    When, a few months later Germany and Slovakia, joined a few days later by Finland, Hungary, Romania and Croatia, attacked the U.S.S.R., Bulgaria declined to participate. The reasons were several: (1) Bulgaria already had achieved its territorial aims; (2) it had no desire to enter a war against fellow Slavs; (3) the Germans, with typical Teutonic arrogance, didnÙt feel as if they would need the assistance of the Bulgarian untermenchen to whip the Russian untermenchen.
    On December 12, the Reich declared war on the United States and Bulgaria dutifully followed suit the next day, figuring that the U.S. was so far away, that it did not pose a danger to Bulgaria. For good measure, Bulgaria also declared war on the United Kingdom. The closest British military installation was in Alexandria, Egypt. The following month, Reichsminister of Propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, described the Tzar as, "...a sly, crafty fellow...."
    In 1943, the Germans pressured Bulgaria to solve its "Jewish Problem." Deportations were scheduled to begin in March and the Jews were ordered to the train stations. But, at the last minute, the deportations were halted and the Jews were returned to their homes, on order of the Tzar. He explained to the Germans that he needed them for road building! Bulgaria is the only European country whose Jewish population actually increased during the war. However, those Jews living in the recently annexed areas of Western Thrace and Eastern Macedonia were not so lucky. Most were shipped to the camps with a resultant loss of 90 percent.
    Not only did the Tzar refuse to deport his countryÙs Jews to the German death camps, he still refused to take his country into the war with the U.S.S.R. On August 9, 1943, the Tzar was summoned to meet the German Fürher at the Wolfsschanze. The Tzar arrived, by plane, on August 14 and was subjected to a Hitlerian harangue. Although the Fürher did not mention BulgariaÙs Jewish problem, others, such as Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, did. Hitler did request, at least, two Bulgarian divisions for service on the Eastern Front, to which the Tzar demurrerd, saying that the army was in a very poor state and its resources had to be husbanded, because one never knew when the Turks might strike. The two leaders also discussed the Italian situation. By this time the Italian Duce had been deposed and was being held prisoner, and Italian allegiance to the Axis cause was teetering.
    The Tzar returned to Sofia on August 15. The next day he went to his mountain retreat for some mountain climbing and hunting with his brother, Prince Kyril. He returned to Sofia on Monday, August 23. That evening, he began to feel ill and called his sister complaining of shortness of breath and chest pain. Shortly after the call he lost consciousness. Both Bulgarian and German doctors were consulted, but on Saturday, August 28, he took a turn for the worse and that afternoon, died. He was 52. Although there was much speculation that he had been given a slow-acting poison while at Wolfsschanze, there was never any evidence of it. The official cause of death was listed as, "...thrombosis of the left coronary artery, two-sided pneumonia, lungs and brain edema."
    The TzarÙs six-year old son, Simeon II, now ascended the throne. On September 9, 1943, a regency consisting of SimeonÙs uncle, Prince Kyril, Bogdan Filov and Lt. Gen. Nikola Mihov was appointed to rule in his stead.
    On November 14, 1943, the United States Army Air Force began bringing the war to Bulgaria when it sent 91 Mitchell bombers to attack Sofia. Ten more times the American planes would attack, inflicting over 3000 casualties and destroying 2670 buildings. During the air war over Bulgaria, Stoyan Stoyanov became BulgariaÙs only "Ace" by shooting down at least six American bombers.
    Despite Bulgarian protests to the Soviet Union that it had not joined the Axis war against the U.S.S.R., Bulgaria had declared war on the Soviet UnionÙs allies, the U.S. and the U.K. So, on September 5, 1944, the U.S.S.R. declared war, and the Red Army invaded Bulgaria. The Bulgarian army was ordered to offer no resistance, and on September 9 a new government declared war on Germany. Three Bulgarian armies, with 455,000 soldiers, invaded Yugoslavia. The First Army, commanded by Vladimir Stoychev, continued into Hungary as part of Marshal Fyodor TolbukhinÙs Third Ukranian Front. In these operations, the Bulgarians suffered 32,000 casualties.
    On February 1, 1945, the three regents were, after a brief trial, executed, along with 67 members of Parliament and various other government officials. The communists murdered another 40,000.
    After the fall of communism, Simeon II returned to the country after 50 years of exile and was named Prime Minister on July 24, 2001. He held that office until 2005. He and King Michael of Romania are the last remaining heads of state from World War II, although Simeon II was but a child during his brief reign.


Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own. Mr. Wimbrow can be contacted at
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