*** World War II -- Bulgaria

World War II Country Trends: Bulgaria

=World War II Bugaria
Figure 1.--This Bulgarian boy had his portrait taken January 3, 1942. He was dressed up in an army uniform, but it looks more like a Balkan Wars uniform just before World War I than a World War II uniform. Click on the image to see the message on the back. At the time this portrait was taken, the war in the East was raging with the Red Army driving the Whermacht back from the gates of Moscow. Unlike the NAZIs other Axis allies, Bulgaria refused to participate in the war against the Soviets.

The NAZIs duting the 1930s gave considerable diplomatic effort to drawing the Balkan coyntries unto the German orbit. The King resisted as best he could, but by 1941, NAZI military power and Bulgarian Fascist elements left King Boris III few options. Hitler as part of a Balkans settlement transferred Southern Dobrudža from Romania to Bulgaria (1940). Romania had fought with the Allies in World War I while Bulgaria had joined the Central Powers. The NAZIs applied considerable force and Bulgaria finally joined the Axis and agreed to the entry of German forces (March 1, 1941). The NAZIs offered Bulgaria the return of Macedonia. Bulgaria participated in the attack on Greece and Yugosalvia (April 1941). The Bulgarians in large part because of King Boris III who was very popular. The King refused to turn Bulgarian Jews over to the NAZIs as part of the Holocaust. The King employed a range of delaying tactics. The Bulgarians did, however, turn over Jews in the occupied areas of Greece and Yugoslavia. Bulgaria also refused to partcipate in the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). King Boris who was very popular died mysteriously in 1943, possibly by heart attack or by assassination. The King's 6-year old son, Simeon II, succeeded under a regency. The Red Army driving the NAZIs back on the Eastern Front reached Romania (1944). The Soviets next declared war on Bulgaria abd crossed the Danube (September 8, 1944). Bulgarian army units and partisan bans joined with the Red army and quickly took Sofia. There was only limited NAZI resistance. Unlike Romania with the key Ploesti oil fields, Bulgaria wa of only marginal strategic value to the Reich. The Soviets on the next day seized the rest of Bulgaria (September 9). This day is now known as Liberation Day.

Bulgarian Monarchy

The Bulgars invaded and soon dominated the Balkans in the 7th century. They accepted Christianity under Tsar Boris I in the 9th cetury. Tsar Simeon greatly expanded Bulgarian territory in the 10th century. The Christian kindoms in Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkans were conquered by the Ottomon Turks in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Bulgarian royal dynasty was restablished in the 19th century after the decline of Ottomon rule. A member of the German royal family was selected for the Bulgarian monarchy.

World War I

Bulgaria believed that it had a right to Macedonia. Nationalists were upset with thecsmall part of Macedonia it received in the First Balkan War (1912-13). As a result it largely caused the Second Balkan War (June–Aug. 1913). This time Bulgaria not only fought Turkey, but its former Christian allies as well. Not surprisinly Bulgaria lost the War and substantial territory, primarily to Serbia. The territory gained by Serbia made it a growing threat to Austria-Hungary which had a Slavic minority in its southern provinces, especially newly annexed Bulgaria. The desire to destroy Serbia as a threat to the Empire was why Austrian authorities made such onerous demands on Serbia following the assasination of Arch-Duke Franz Ferdinand (June 1914). With the outbreak of the World War I (August 1914), Germany courted allies. One of the few countries to respond was Bulgaria. German diplomats promissed Bulgaria territories it lost during the Balkan Wars if they joined the Central Powers. And Bulgaria was still intent or obtaining Macedonia. Even before Bulgaria joined the Central Powers, the Bulgarians allowed the German to ship pontoon bridges to the Ottomons to be used in crossing the Suez Canal in an attack on Egypt. Bulgaria participated in the attack on Romania after that country joined the Allies (1917). A new front opened up when Greece entered the War on the Allied side (1917). Although Romania was defeated, the Bulgarians had to face a new front opened from Greece with Greek, Serbia, and British troops. The demise of Austria-Hungary and the defeat of Germany on the Western Front ended the War. The defeat of Germany on the Western Front (1918), With his failures to obtain Macedonia in the Balkan WSars and World War I, King King Ferdinand abdicated in favor of his son (1918). Bulgaria was punished by the victorious Allies in the the Peace treaty of Neuilly (1919). Te Treaty became known as the Second National Catastrophe. Bulgaria had to cede southwest Thrace to Greece and much of Macedonia to Serbia which became Yugoslavia. Bulgaria as a result lost access to the Aegean Sea. Bulgaria also had to ceed territory to Romania.

Inter-War Era

Bulgaria was devestated by World War I, but unlike the other Cental Powers (Austraia, Germany, and the Ottomans) did not lose the manarchy. Bulgarian domestic politics largely turned inward. Bulgaria had a range of foreign policy goals aimed at recovering lost territory and regions with Bulgarian populations, this included territory assigned to Allied countries (Greece, Serbia, and Romania). The War was such a harrowing event in Bulgarian history that all but the most extreme nationalists were not prepared to seek redress through military means. And Bulgaria did not have the military means to do so. The Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine ending the war,like the Versailles Treaty limiting the German miliitary, placed severe limitations on the Bulgarian military. The Treaty prohibited conscription and set a 20,000 man limit on the military (including internal forces and border guard). Acquiring tanks, navl vessels (with an emphsis on submarines0, aircraft, and heavy artillery was also prohibited. Bulgaria managed to evade some of these prohibitions. Bulgaria was, however, not a rich, industrial power. It did not have the capanility of building a military that was able to win back those territoiries and did not have a sponsor to help arm it as was the case of Germany in World War I. Thus Primeminister Stamboliiski sought a rapprochement with all European powers, including the Allied countries as well as the Turkish government of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey. They joined the new League of Nations. And they sought to regularize relations with their former arch enemy--Serbia. The Serbs were in the processof creating the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes / Yugoslavia. Relations with Turkey, another former arch enemy, but World War I partner were also improved. Stamboliiski supported Atatürk's revolutionary Turkish Republic (1920). Stamboliiski's vision was a multi-ethnic Balkan peasant federation. The Army officers participated in repressions during the Tsankov regime as part of paramilitary groups known as shpitskomandi. The Army, along with shpitskomandi and Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) militia, violently suppressed the leftist September Uprising (1923). A correct relationship with Yugoslavia required confronting the powerful Macedonian extremist movement which wanted an independent country. Stamboliiski began a 2-year effort to supress IMRO (1921). Yugoslavia and Bulgaria agreed at the Nis Convention to cooperate in supressing extremist groups. Complicating this was Bulgaria's relationship wuth Greece.Stamboliiski was less sucessful in developing a new relationship with Greece. A serious border incident developed requiring League of Nations adjudication (1925). This was a short-lived Greek invasion of southwestern Bulgaria, known as the War of the Stray Dog. After the NAZI seizure of power in Germany, the Germans began a diplomatic effort to undemine Allied influemce in the Balkans. A source of advanced weaponry thus became available in limited quantities. The Army had begun an open expansion in violation of the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine, but without the reources available to the German Army. The Bulgarian military began to obtain combat aircraft from Germany and France, and light tanks from Italy. As with the other future Axis allies (Hungary and Romania), the Germans would provide some advanced weapory, but not enough to give these countrie the capability of tking on well-armed modern army. (Here there were not only limitations created by Germany's industrial capacity, but also Hitler's desore to limit their military capavility.) At the time that Hitler and Stalin launched World War II, Bulgarias did not have the military capability to invade its neighbors, but it did have the capability of occupying territory seized by the Germans.

Outbreak of World War II (September 1939)

Bulgaria declared itself neutral when NAZI Germany launched World War II (September 1, 1939). The monarchy and ruling clique had led Bulgaria into World War I. This time King Boris was a force for moderation. Many Bulgrarians remembered the terrible losses of World War I and had no desire for another such experience, despite the desire to reclaim the territory lost as a result of the War. The early phase of the War was fought in northern Europe and with Germany and the Soviet Union virtually allied, the war seemed far away, although the Italian invasion of Greece brought the war into the Balkans (October 1940). Bulgaria had a small army and weith few modern weapons. Poised against either the Soviet Union or Germany, the country would be quickly overwealmed. At the same time Bulgarian nationalists saw the War as offering the possibility of regaining the territory lost in the Balkan Wars and World War I.

Balkan Disputes (1940)

Hungarian nationalists also had desires to regain territory lost in World War I. War was threatened between Hungary and Romania. This threatened to disrupt NAZI plans for Brabarossa which were being developed. Hitler intervened and large areas of Romania were awarded to Hungary. Bulgaria was awarded southern Dobrudja, which had been lost to Romania in the Balkan Wars and again in World War I (Autumn 1940). THe Soviets had also seized Romanian territory.

NAZI Diplomacy (1940)

The NAZIs duting the 1930s gave considerable diplomatic effort to drawing the Balkan countries into the German orbit. The King resisted as best he could, but by 1940, NAZI military power and Bulgarian Fascist elements left King Boris III few options. Hitler as part of a Balkans settlement transferred Southern Dobrudža from Romania to Bulgaria (1940). Romania had fought with the Allies in World War I while Bulgaria had joined the Central Powers. Some reports suggest that King Boris admired Hitler. We do not yet have precise details on this. This was before the NAZIs had launched the killing phase of the Holocaust. Soviet Foreign Minister visited Berlin (November 11-12, 1940). The NAZIs and Soviets were essentially Allies at the time. He raised several troubling issues. one of which was Bulgaria. Molotov mentioned possible Soviet guarantees to Bulgaria. This bothered Hitler who was attempting to reconstruct a secture Balkans which Mussolini had undone with the invasion of Greece (October 1940). Hitler was increasingly thinking about Barbarossa and wanted a secure southern flank. As soon as Molotov was back in Moscow, Hitler summoned King Boris to the Obersalzberg. Smaring from his fristrating meetings with Peten, Franco, and Mussolini in October, he expected a more compliant Boris. The press covered up the curt German demabnd by claiming the King was making a private trip to Germany. The King proved no more compliant than the other leaders (November 16). He was not anxious to join the Axis or to have German troops stationed in Bulgaria, especially if it was seen as an anti-Russian action. There was considerable public sympathy toward the Russians. Thus the King put off Hitler. Hitler in a letter to Mussolini wrote, :Bulgaria, which has always shown little enthusiasm for joininging the Three Power Pact, is now completely desinclined to even contemplte such a step." [Hitler letter to Mussolini, November 9, 1940.] This was the beginning of a very difficult relationship between the two which would last throuhout the War until the King's misterious death, days after an even more difficult meetung with Hitler.

The Ratnizi

The Bulgarian Fascist movement was the Ratnizi. Unlike the situation in other Balkan countries, the Fascist Ratnizi had few adherents and relatively little political influence. There was, however, considerable right-wing feeling in Bulgaria and King Boris was concerned throughout the 1930s that they might seize power. The rise of the NAZIs in Germany put the King in a difficult position. The Bulgarian right wing was not as virulently anti-Semitic as right-wing partiesin many other European countries, but under NAZI influence this increased over time.

Bulgaria Joins the Axis (March 1941)

The NAZIs applied considerable diplomatic force on Bulgaria. This increased after Romania joined the Axis (November 1940). This brought the Whermacht to the Bulgraian border. There was no doubt that Bulgaria did not have the military force to resist a NAZI invasion. Bulgaria essentially had the choice of joining the Axis or risking a German invasion. At the time after its victories in the West, Germany looked like it could not be stopped--certainly not by the small Bulgarian Army. For Hitler the overriding objective was the need to secure the southern flank of Barbarossa. Mussolini by invasing Greece has seriously destabilized the Balkans, endangering both the southern flank of Barbaossa and exposing the vital Ploesti oil fields. Of course at the time, Hitler and his diplomats did not explain about Barbarossa. The Bulgarian public had mixed emotions about an alliance with the Germans. Unlike Yugoslavia, there was no great objection to joining the Axis. Nationalists were impressed when Hitler coerced Romania to restore south Dobrujain, a priovince lost in World War I. And they saw the possibility of territorial gains. Bulgaria had fought with the Germans in World War I. Even so, there were also historic and ethnic ties with the Russians to be considered. But that did not seem to be a problem in March 1941. The Soviet Union and NAZIs were virtual allies as a result of the NAZI-Soviet Non-agression Pact (August 1939). Hitler promised King Boris that Bulgaria once it joined the Axis could obtain the territory lost in World war I. Bulgaria finally joined the Axis. Boris agreed and prime-minister Bogdan Filov signed the Axis Pact (March 1, 1941). With accession to the Axis, German military units moved into Bulgaria, putting them in a position to move against northern Greece and southern Yugoslavia. At the time, Italy's misguided invasiion had pushed Greece toward the British. Yugoslavia Hitler hoped could also be forced into the Axis. Macedonia would prove to be an inducement. Bulgaria had lost the province in the Balkan Wars and World War I. While forced into the Axis, Bulgaria would play only a minor role in the conflict. Joining ther Axis did not commit Bulgaria to join in offensive German moves.

Balkans Campaign: Invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece (April 1941)

The Soviert seizure of Romanian Northern Burkovib=na and Besserabia led the Romaniab Governmenbt to appeal to Hitler for assistance (July 1940). Hitlers concern over the Ploesti oil fields led to a positive resoponse. This brought the Germans to the Bulgarian border. And contacts wih the Germans meant German military teams in civilian clothes (October 1940). The focus at first was on Yigislavia abnd prepration for Luftwaffe planed to build airfields in Bulgarai. The first German troops crossed the Danube into Bulgaria (Februasry 18). This was a day before Bulgaria formally joined the Axis (March 1). [Shores, Cull, and Malizia, p. 171.] The 12th Army commanded by Von Kliest who would play a major role in Barbarossa as well as VIII Fliegerkorps, folloed (March 2). At the time the NAZIs and Soviets were allies. As a result thev Russian oriented population welcomed the Germans. [Miller, pp. 46] The operational orders were initially directed at Greece. The uprising in Yugoslavia against cooperation with the NAZIs (March 1941), caused Hitler to order an invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece. Führer Directive 25, however, reoriented the operation (April 8). Kliest positioned the forces in Bulgaria in three groups: along the Turkish border, along the Greek border, and long the Yugoslav border. Motorized transport was shifted from Romania for thise movements, especially the drive toward Belgrade. The Bulgarian Army did not actively participate in the attack on Greece and Yugosalvia (April 1941). The fighting was conducted by the German forces. The German troops that moved into Bulgaria played a major role in the invasion. The Bulgarian Army, however, was not involved in any heavy fighting. The NAZIs rewarded Bulgaria with territory it had lost during the Balkan Wars and World War I, including areas in both Greece and Yugoslavia. The Bulgaria Army was commited to occupatiion duty as the Germanms moved fiorces out of Greece, Yugoslacua, and Bulgria into positions for Operation Bulgaria. After the Balkan Campaign, there were no longer a need for substAbntial German forces in Bulgaria. Mosd of the German firces began to reposition in Romania in preparatuin for Barbarossa. Many were replaced by Bulgarian units for occupation duty in Yugoslavia and Greece. As a result, the Bulgarians would have more flexibility in dealing with the Germans.

The Holocaust

The Bulgarians were nominally a German ally in World War II. The Bulgarians under King Boris III were one of the few peoples in NAZI-dominated Europe to defy Hitler. Much of this was due to King Borris who was very popular. The Bulgarians y refused repeated NAZI demands that the Bulgarian Jews be handed over for deportation to the death camps in Poland as part of the Holocaust. The King employed a range of delaying tactics. Bulgaria's 48,000 Jews were thus saved. The Bulgarian Army did cooperate with the round up and transport of Jews in the northern area of Greece and southern Yugoslavia (Macedonia) that they occupied in 1941, although Bulgarian civil authorities do not appear to have been involved.

Barbarossa (June 1941)

Bulgaria also refused to partcipate in the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). Bulgaria thus did not declare war on the Soviet Union. The Government managed to do this without incurring any major NAZI reaction, insisting that gtheir Army did nit have the equioment or training needed to paricupate. Bularia's location in the southern Balkans that it's Army was not in a posution tom partivipare. Hitler's major objective in the Balkans was securing the Romanian oil fields and the Reich's southern flank. Intervening in Bulgaria to install a more submissive government would have necesitated an even greater commitment of forces than the occupatuin of Yugoslavia and Greece already required. Thus it would have been counter productive. The whole focus of Barbarossa was to concentrate forces on the Eastern Front to defeat the Red Army in a massive sift blow. This alsommeabnt that the Germasn forces moved into Bulgaria wa shifted out. And the Bulgarian Army was useful for occupatio duty feeing upn German forces. .

Bulgarian Participation in the War (1942-43)

The NAZIs pressed the Bulgarians to increase their participation in the War, especialy as thecampaign began to go wrong in the the East. The Bulgarian Government adamently refused to declare war on the Soviet Union. And Bulgarian troops were never deployed on the Eastern Front. After Hitler declared war on the United States (December 1941), the Government declared war on Britain and the United States. We do not fully understand why they took this action, but presume it seemed a relatively save way of apeasing Hitler while staying out of the war in the East. The increasingly hard-pressed NAZIs demanded greater Bulgarian economic support for the War. Hitler increased pressure on King Boris after Stalingrad (January 1943). The King according to some accounts was preparing Bulgarian troops for the Eastern Front. He stood up to Hitler in a face to face meeting. . We are not sure about this. The Communists and Agrarian Reformers launched a spirited resistance campaign. They assassinating more than 100 pro-Nazi officials. King Boris at this critical point suffered a heart attack. The King's 6-year old son, Simeon II, succeeded under a regency. The Regency Council remained loyal to Germany, in part because of the presence of German troops, although the presence was hardly overwealming. Anti-Communist orientation seems a more important factor. Successive governments rose and fell, but did not commit Brlgarian troops to assist the the Germans in their increasingly desperate struggle on the Eastern Front. The Wehrmacht had seized virtual control of the Bulgarian transport and communications network. This gave the Germans effective control of the country's economy to ensure that Bulgarian industry and agriculture was used to support the war effort. Here, the NAZIs treated Bulgaria essentially as an occupied country, exploiting the Bulgarian economy with no substantial payment in exgange for the shipments to the Reich.

Air War

The Luftwaffe along with the Wehrmacht deployed to Bulgaria when Bulgaria joined the Axis (March 1941). The Luftwaffe was thus in position for the invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece (April 1941). It was also in a position to orotect the vital Ploersti oil fiekds. The Bulgarian declaration of war against America and Britain seemed a relatively safe action (1941). Allied successes in North Africa, however, brought Bulgaria within range of Allied bombers. The Allies bombed Sofia and other Bulgarian targets (1943). Allied air strikes from North Africa on Ploesti had to pass over Bulgaria and Bulgarian occupied Yugoslavia and Greece. Thus the Bulgarian Air Force became part of the German air defenses protecting Polesti. Luftwaffe units were deployed in Bulgaria, primarily to defend Polesti. The Allied invasion of Italy resulted in the seizure of air bases in southern Italy. This enabled the Allies to expand attcks on the vital Ploesti oil fields in Romania. The Allies also targeted NAZI allies in the Balkans, including Bulgaria. Sofia was taegetted (late 1943-early 1944)

NAZI Presence in Bulgaria

The German military presence in Bularia agter the Balkahns xampaihn (April 1941) was not large. The German focus was on the Barbarossa. Thus only a small force wes kept in Bularuia, primarily to secure the rail system. This permitted them to seze resources useful in the War effort, but not to control the country politically.

King Boris and the NAZIs

The NAZIs forced Bulgaria into the Axis. While the German military presence in the country permitted them to seze resources useful in the War effort. It could not force them to declare war on the Soviet Union and deploy the Bulgarian Army on the Eastern Front. King Boris could not openly defy Hitler, instead he played a dangerous game of equivocation. Some auth\ors paint him as a NAZI collaborator. This seems simplistic and perhaps unfair. Hitler in particular wanted Bulgarian to 1) join his anti-Soviet crusade and 2) deport the country's Jews. The King did not adamently refusedm but temporized, postponing major decesions until the tide of war changed. Hitler was not fooled, but neither could he force the issue without disrupting plans for Barbarossa. If they attempted to replace the Government, they would have to take on the Bulgarian Army. While the Bulgarian Army was not a major military force, it hardly made sence for Hitler to attack the very force he wanted deployed as an ally on the Easrtern Front. Here the King played an important role. He was also doing his best to porotect Jews which further antagonized the NAZIs. Goebbels wrote in his diary, "Several reports indicate that anti-German sentiment in certain Bulgarian Government circles is slightly on the increase. Especially Czar Boris is said to be playing a somewhat double-faced game. He is a sly, crafty fellow, who, obviously impressed by the severity of the defensive battles on the Eastern Front, is looking for some back door by whuich he might eventually escape. This is a very shortsighted policy which will, of course, immediately be reversed, once our offensive has started again ... " [January 25, 1942--Goebbels, p. 47.] The King was one of many individuals that Goebbels suggested that there would be scores settled.

Bulgarian Communist Party

While Bulgaria had not declared war on the Soviet Union, it was an Axis country and the Bulgarian economy was supporting the NAZI war effort. The Bulgarian Communit Prty (BCP) which was largely controlled by Moscow was quiet (Auguust 1939-May 1941). Stalin sought to avoid problems that Hitler might use as an excuse for war. This changed after Barbarossa (June 1941). The BCP began organizing resistance to the monarch and Governnment. Guerrilla groups began to organize in the countryside. They stage attacks on industrial and other targets, although on a small scale. The BCP promoted a common front against the Government (Mid 1942). The BCP initiative was called the Fatherland Front. Other parties were at first reluctant to join, but as the War turned against the NAZIs after Stalingrad (January 1943) and other NAZI defeats, there was increasing interest. The BCP, the BPAU left wing, the left social democrats and the Zveno political group all joined the Fatherland front (August 1943). The BCP orchestrated attacks in know pro-MAZI officials. With the German defeat at Kursk (July 1943) it was clear not only that the NAZIs were losing the War, but that the Soviet Red Army was moving toward the country.

Confrontation with Hitler (August 1943)

Bulgaria was the only European Axis country that did not declare war on the Soviet Union and fight on the Eastern Front. Reverses in the East forced a desperate Hitler to increase pressure on his allies, especially King Boris who had not committed troops. He summoned King Boris to his headquarters at Rastenburg in East Prussia (August 9, 1943). It was not a pleasant meeting. King Boris arrived by plane from Vrazhdebna (August 14). Hitler demanded that Bulgaria ente the war against the Soviets. Hitler earlier in the War could fly into tirades and browbeat other European leaders. The Whermacht by this stage of the War had suffered massive defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk and was not only fighting thr British and Soviets but the United States as well. It was now obvious that Grmany could not win the War, although how badly they woukd lose the War was still not clear. If the King would not enter the War when the Germans seemed invincible, he would obviously not enter now with the Red Army driving west. The King offered two principsl excuses to Hitler for his refusal. First, many ordinary Bulgarians had strong pro-Russian views and declaring war on the Soviet Union would threaten his government. Second, Bulgaria could not commit its army in the East as long as Turkey was an unfriendly power. Hitler was furious, but no longer had the capability of forcing the issue--especially in the southern Balkans.

King Simeon (1943)

King Boris who was very popular died mysteriously (August 28, 1943). His cause of his death is not with any certainty, possibly by heart attack or by assassination. The fact that he died rather misteriously only a few days after futher meeting with an antagonizing Hitler has raised suspicions among historians. Hard evidence, however is lacking. The King's 6-year old son, Simeon II, succeeded under a regency. This left Bulgaria without any real leadership at a critical time in its history. The Bulgarian germanophile bourgeoisie which had been a major support forthe monarchy began to grow desperate as the Red Army advanced west. Rumors spread in Bulgaria of a program to democratize society or to reach a truce with the Allies. In fact no real action was taken.

The Red Army (1944)

The Soviet Union finally reached the Balkans (summer 1944). The Red Army driving the Germans back on the Eastern Front reached Romania, the most important Germany ally in the East. Romania had been a major partticipant in Barbrossa. Bulgaria was very different. It had been forced into the Axis. It was atepid Axis member ar best abhd did not participate in Barbarossa. In fact, Bulgaria had maintained diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union throughout the War, the only Axis country besides Japan to do so. The Red Army destroyed the only major NAZI force in the south at Lassi-Kishinev (August 1944). The destruction of the Axis defences around Iaşi and Chişinău opened the approaches to the Balkans. The Soviet destruction of Germany Army Group Central to the north as well as the liberation of France in the West forced the German to withdrawl from the Balkans in a desperate effort save the forces there anf to protect the Reich. Romania withdrew from the Axis and declared war on Germany (August 23). The Romanians allowed the Red Army to cross its territory unhindered to reach Bulgaria. The Fatherland Front decided to launch an armed rebellion against the government (August 26). The BCP Central Committee decided to join with with other parties in the Fatherland Front. A new Bulgarian Government was organized (September 2). The Fatherland Front refused to support it because it inckluded members ghat had cooperated with the Germans. The Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria (September 5) and invaded the country by crossing the Danube (Septenber 8). There was only limited resistance from the small German force in Bulgaria. Unlike Romania with the key Ploesti oil fields, Bulgaria was of only marginal strategic value to the Reich. The Bulgarian Government ordered the Army not to resist the Red Army. The Soviets proceeded to occupy northeastern Bulgaria and the two major ports (Varna and Burgas). Bulgarian Army units and partisan bans joined with the Red Army and quickly took Sofia. The Army's Sofia garrison with Zveno-supporting officers and under orders of the Fatherland Front took control of strategic points in Sofia. Zveno was a Bulgarian military and political organization. They overthrew the government and arrested the Government ministers (September 8).

Fatherland Front Government

The Fatherland Front publicall announced that it had seized power and formed a new government. The new primeminister was Kimon Georgiev (September 9). The Red Army on the next day seized the rest of Bulgaria (September 9). This day is now known as Liberation Day. The Fatherland Front Government changed sides and joined the Soviet Union in the war against NAZI Germany (September 10). Georgiev's Government had no problems establishing its authority. It was supported by the Zveno-infiltrated military and BCP guerrilla detachments. There was no domestic opposition. The Soviet Red Army moving through the country largely intemidated the conservative politicans that had been gioverning Bulgaria. Propblemns with the BCP would come, but not

Subsequent Balkan Operations

Hitler disparched a weak force to invade Bulgaria and restore the Axis Goverment. They were easily repulsed. The Bulgarian Army divisions occupying Yugoslav Macedonia, howver, were in a difficult position. They were in a position to isolate the the German forces in Greece. Some staff officers who had been working closely with the Germns deserted and went over to the German side. Unlike the Italians in a similar position the previus year, the Bulgarian firces did not surrender to the Germans. They fought their way back to the Bulgarian border. The Bulgarian Air Force played an important role--its only major action of the War. Flying the approiximtely 500 planes provided by the Germansearlier, they enable most of the Bulgarian force to withdraw safely. By ghis tiome the Luftwaffe had been largely destroyed thus could not priovide significant ir cover for its forces. The Bulgarian airmen did significant danage to the Germans.


Goebbels, Joseph. ed, Louis B. Lochner, The Goebbels Diaries, 1942-1943 (Doubleday: New York, 1948), 566p.

Hitler, Adolf. Letter to Mussolini, November 9, 1940. in Max Domarus, Hitler Speeches and Proclamations 1932 - 1945.

Miller, Marshall Lee). Bulgaria during the Second World War (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1975.).

Shores, Christopher F., Brian Cull, and Nicola Maliz. Air War for Yugoslavia, Greece, and Crete, 1940–41 (London: Grub Street, 1987).


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Created: 4:50 AM 4/14/2006
Last updated: 8:30 AM 3/13/2023