The Sephardic Jews fleeing Spain settled in Bulgaria when it was part of the Ottomon Empire. During WWII, Bulgaria was initially neutral. However Hitler needsd access to cross the borders into Greece. He threatened to destroy Sofia unless access was given. Under threat of attack Boris the First, the reigning king, joined the Axis power and promised to send all the Bulgarian Jews to the concentration camps.

Due to mass demonstrations by the Bulgarian people against the deportation, King Boris asked for a delay of deportation by telling Hitler that the Jews were needed for war manufacturing. An extension was given but with time a 2nd attempt at deportation was ordered. During that attempt someone blew up the railway preventing the Jews again from being deported. On the 3rd time attempt, members of the Parliament stood up in front of the train refusing to let the Jews get deported to the camps. As a result of these efforts, 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were saved. After the war, an exception was made to allow Jews to leave for the newly established state of Israel. Half left and today there are only 5,000 Jews in Bulgaria.

We learned this history during our free waking tour of Sofia. The next day we went to visit the synagogue. The synagogue in Sofia is the 3rd largest in Europe.

Unfortunately the history museum had just closed when we arrived but we were able to tour the beautiful schul. Similar to our visit to a synagogue in Greece, there was an armed guard guarding the gate. We also had to pay 3 Lev or $1.80 each to enter.