Descendants of Bulgarian Jews need to be able to restore their “legal roots” and get Bulgarian citizenship – fast and easy

This article is inspired by our Client, an American doctor with Jewish and Bulgarian roots. She has been fighting the system in Bulgaria, together with us, for quite some time already. Her only goal – to obtain the citizenship of her father. The citizenship her father was born with and later deprived of during our dark times in 1943.

She wrote me today something that touched my heart:

I just want to make sure that this is a realistic possibility (to obtain Bulgarian citizenship), and I am not just chasing a dream.

Chasing the dream

Our Client is not chasing the dream of many other “foreigners” (the quotes are for as I don’t consider her to be a fofeigner), who desperately need EU passport so they can travel visa-free. She doesn’t need the freedom to live and work in the EU. As far as I know she is doing fine with her US passport and she doesn’t fancy relocating to Europe anytime soon. What she wants is the right to be who she is. The right to be Bulgarian, as her father once was.

Alexander Dobrinov
author: Alexander Dobrinov


Escaping the holocaust – “one stop from Auschwitz”

Our Client’s father is of Jewish origin and has been born as Bulgarian citizen in 1921. Actually, at that time he has been Bulgarian “subject”, as Bulgaria was still a Kingdom (see proving Bulgarian origin after emigration).

When the fascist virus strikes Bulgaria, her father along with his family is forced to leave the country. In 1941 he gets a passport with permission to leave for Argentina. After a lot of hardship and detention in Serbia, our Client’s father reaches Argentina in 1943 and then ultimately, the USA. Later he becomes US citizen and passes away in the early 2000’s. Our Client is born in 1958 as US citizen and is living in the US ever since.

The Bulgarian citizenship of our Client’s father

The story of the Bulgarian citizenship of our Client’s father is buried deep within the evil ideology of the Nazis.

The Nazis “approach” towards citizenship 1

Nazi Germany’s approach to depriving German Jews of their citizenship has gone through several steps. In the beginning, the citizenship of the Jews has been revoked by an individual decision on a case-by-case basis. Almost 8000 people are left without German citizenship this way.

Later, with one of the anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws – the Reich Citizenship Law of September 15, 1935, the individual approach was replaced by the collective deprivation of full citizenship of persons of Jewish origin who were declared as special category subjects with a reduced rights compared to other German citizens. Thus the way was opened for the series of extraordinary legal provisions which followed in the following years, by which the rights of the Jews were restricted.

The culmination of this process was the final deprivation of citizenship of a large part of German Jews by an ordinance of November 24, 1941. It deprived persons of Jewish origin whose permanent residence was established abroad, regardless of their reasons or motivation for residence, of citizenship outside Germany. The ordinance was applied not only to Jewish emigrants who chose to leave the state, but also to those deported to concentration camps in Poland and other countries, as if they themselves had chosen to establish their “permanent residence” in Auschwitz and Treblinka.


The Jews in Bulgaria – also deprived of citizenship during WW2

In Bulgaria at that time, the “problem” for the authorities is the Constitutional text, stating that:

All Bulgarian subjects (citizens) are equal before the law. Separation of castes is not allowed in Bulgaria.

Art. 57 of the Tarnovo Constitution of 1879

The Bulgarian state, under enormous pressure from Nazi Germany, issues in 1941 the highly controversial Law for the Defense of the Nation. The problem is that it contradicts the Constitution, so the Bulgarian politicians have to find a way around it. The “solution” is found in art. 15 of the Citizenship law (law on the subjects) of 1940.

A Bulgarian subject of non-Bulgarian origin, who emigrated from the Kingdom, loses Bulgarian citizenship with the fact of emigration.

He is obliged to liquidate his properties within three months from the date of departure. Otherwise, they are dealt with in accordance with the procedure provided for in Art. 20, par. 2 of this law.

The Bulgarian subject also loses his Bulgarian citizenship, who, by virtue of an agreement between Bulgaria and another country, has emigrated from the Kingdom, unless otherwise stipulated in the agreement itself.

Art. 15 of the Citizenship Law of 1940

These texts become the legal basis for the outrageous Ordinance № 106 of 02.03.1943 by the Council of Ministers. The Ordinance foresees that all Jews will be deprived of their Bulgarian citizenship when they are deported as per the Agreement between Bulgaria and Germany. Obviously this is the end of our Client’s father’s Bulgarian citizenship.

Restoration of Bulgarian citizenship immediately at the end of WW2

Shortly after Bulgaria is no more influenced by the Nazi regime, the new government offers temporary solution to the Jews who have lost their Bulgarian citizenship. This is done through the 1944 amendment of the Law:

Bulgarian Jewish subjects (citizens) who emigrated from the country after January 1, 1940 and have lost their Bulgarian citizenship according to par. 1 of this article, are re-accepted as Bulgarian subjects (citizens) if they return to the country within 6 months after the conclusion of the peace treaty and request this within the same period. Until the expiration of this term, in relation to the same persons, the provision of par. 2 does not apply.

In the event that they have acquired another citizenship, they must present evidence that they have renounced their foreign citizenship.

Remark/addition from 1944 to Art. 15 of the Citizenship Law of 1940

Obviously this is a very positive move by the new regime to help our Jews return to Bulgaria. At the same time, the short timeframe of only 6 months is definitely not adequate. Six months is way too short, especially during the horrible times after the end of the war. The requirement to relinquish any newly acquired citizenship (ie US citizenship) is another hurdle. As result, there aren’t many Bulgarian Jews who make use of the 1944 amendment.

How can Bulgarian Jews restore their Bulgarian citizenship now?

I was thinking of how to begin explaining the available options in a polite and structured way. But I can’t! Because it’s bloody difficult for those Jewish people, who were deprived of their Bulgarian citizenship, to get it restored. The current Bulgarian laws make it a NIGHTMARE for them. There are basically two scenarios:

  1. Restoring Bulgarian citizenship by the persons who have lost it in 1940-1944;
  2. Obtaining Bulgarian citizenship by origin by the descendants of the Bulgarian Jews as per p.1.

Citizenship restoration by the Bulgarian Jews who were deprived of citizenship during WW2

The first scenario is unfortunately very rare now. Even a Jewish baby, who has left with its parents in 1943, would be now a 80 year old person. It may be just too late for these people to get justice done. Still, it is possible, albeit not easy. Under the current Citizenship Law, they can restore their Bulgarian citizenship:

The citizenship of a person deprived of Bulgarian citizenship can be restored if it is established that there was no reason for deprivation or if the reason has lost its meaning.

Art. 27 of the current Citizenship Law

Sounds easy to prove there was no reason? Well, think again. There was a Law and an Ordinance, hence a reason. Were the legal texts fascist? Absolutely yes. But where is that written? Now, has the reason lost its meaning? It’s a big YES from me. But what will the Citizenship Council think of that?

Who says life is fair, where is that written?

William Goldman

So by now you may be thinking that all this is way too difficult. Then wait to see what happens to the descendants of these Jews.

Bulgarian naturalization for the descendants of the Bulgarian Jews (the case of our Client)

The descendants of those who were treated inhumanely have a much more difficult task. They can not restore their Bulgarian citizenship, as they have never been Bulgarian citizens. Instead, they have the only option to be naturalized as persons of Bulgarian origin.

But the Bulgarian legislation has so many “black holes” when it comes to who is of Bulgarian origin and who is not. You should also read our article Bulgarian, Bulgarian citizen or person of Bulgarian origin. Proving Bulgarian origin is much easier for someone with no ties with Bulgaria whatsoever. It’s enough if he has birth certificate issued hundred years ago somewhere in Ukraine or Moldova, where someone has written by hand that his great grandfather is “Bulgarian”. Who cares on what ground this remark has been written. But for the descendants of the Bulgarian Jews, it’s a much harder procedure.

As “Bulgarian origin” seems to be an enigma for the authorities, the Jewish descendants need to be prepared for serious legal battle if they want to become Bulgarian citizens. But it’s worse than that. The problem is that they can’t even get to the Court to fight for their rights. This is because the decision of the Citizenship Council can not be appealed in the Court of Law. Crazy huh? Who said life is fair, it ain’t. Our suggested solution is to first apply for permanent residence by origin and only then for citizenship. Nothing more ridiculous have I written since a long time. But this may work to get justice. Rather to get the chance to get it.

What should Bulgaria do and what will happen to our Client’s Bulgarian citizenship

Bulgaria has to adopt legislative amendments to enable Bulgarian Jews and their descendants to reclaim their roots and get Bulgarian citizenship. The procedure must be easy, fast and straightforward. The recommendation of the Citizenship Council should be made possible to be appealed in Court. The Bulgarian law should be at least as favorable to the Bulgarian Jews as is the Portuguese Law for the Sephardic Jews. After all, Bulgaria did the harm 80 years ago, not in the 15th century.

As to our Client, we will encourage her to keep on chasing her dream. And we will make all possible effort to make her dream come true, soon! One way or another, she will get her roots back and her father’s citizenship.

I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.

Stephenie Meyer

We hope to be heard

We need to spread the word so justice to prevail. All people who need help in getting Bulgarian citizenship or who may provide help in lobbying for a good cause, please contact us at once! We appeal to the Jewish organizations in Bulgaria and abroad – get in touch with us. Let’s do a good thing together. Let’s make it easier for the Jewish Bulgarians not only to chase, but to also get hold of their dreams.

It’s Shabbat in Bulgaria already. Soon it will be in NY too. I hope next year, many dreams will come true. I hope people will do each other good and everyone’s dreams will come true. Blessed are those who have the courage to chase them!

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