JEWISH PROPERTY IN BULGARIA

During their century-long presence in the Bulgarian lands, the Jewish communities acquired various property in the respective towns  - synagogues, schools, graveyards, etc. Very often next to these sites some profitable projects were built, which provided financial support for the former's religious and educational activities.

The plundering of Jewish property, as well as the expropriation of Jewish enterprises and communal estate was mainly performed on the basis of the Defence of the Nation Law (DNL), enacted as of January, 1941. For example, all Jewish communal property was confiscated by administration of this law.

After World War II, in March 1945, by a special decree, the Jewish communal and private property, formerly nationalized in conformity with the Defence of the State Act, was restored. The same applied to the possessions that had been forcibly sold. The whole package of anti-Jewish acts and regulations were repealed.

The Jewish communities retained their ownership even after 1957, when the pre-war Consistory was transformed into a Public Cultural and Educational Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria (PCEOJ).

Over the whole 45-year period of its rule, the Communist Party did not dare adopt any official act to nationalize the Jewish communal estate. This, however, was achieved by forcing PCEOJ  to concede its right over the entire communal property, without any compensation, to the Communist administration.

In 1990,  PCEOJ successor, The Organization of Jews in Bulgaria "Shalom",  inheriting by law the traditional Jewish communities and the Consistory, asked for the restoration of  Jewish property in Bulgaria by the state.

It was in connection with this claim that in November 1992, i.e. as soon as it was formed, the first democratic Bulgarian government headed by Mr. Philip Dimitrov, issued a special decree for the transferrence of all Jewish property to "Shalom". By virtue of this act, almost the whole existing estate was restored. The exceptions can be counted on the fingers of one's hand, and the fact that "Shalom" has not yet assumed possession of it, is due to some legal claims of  former tenants, rather than to any unwillingness on the part of the state. Such is, for instance, the case of the "Rila" hotel in Sofia - constructed in the 1960's on a site owned by the Jewish community.

The rest of the Jewish communal estate, which had been destroyed and   later replaced by new construction, will be regulated by a law providing for compensation by shares or by some other property.

In this instance it is extremely important that the Jewish community and the Jewish organisation never ceased their formal (by law) existence (which was not the case of the other confessional, ethnic, political, cooperative, etc. organisations). This circumstance makes the juridical arrangement of the existing problems easier. It has also made it possible to restore the property of some public Jewish formations outside the communities - e.g. the one-time charity organisations that had already been liquidated in agreement with the provisions of the anti-Jewish pre-war laws.

 


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