Stefan I of Bulgaria
Stefan I was a Bulgarian prelate. He was elected Metropolitan of Sofia in 1922 and, from 1945, also served as Exarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. He actively contributed to the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews in World War II.
In the 20’s and 30’s, the Sofia Metropolitan Stefan (born Stoyan Popgueorguiev), became one of the most eminent figures in the spiritual, political and social life of Bulgaria. During the war he was an outspoken enemy of the Bulgarian alliance with the Third Reich. In his articles in the press he expressed his scathing criticism of Hitler and the Nazis and the censor often suppressed his articles. ”It is not true that I am anti-German, was his answer, I am an admirer of many Germans, like Stefan Zweig, Thomas Mann and Jacob Wasserman”. During the discussions held in the Bulgarian parliament in the second half of 1940 on the antisemitic Law for the Protection of the Nation, which would curtail the legal rights of Bulgarian Jews, Stefan, as a member of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, voiced his opposition. On November 15, 1940, the Holy Synod petitioned the government to treat Bulgarian citizens of Jewish origin who had converted, or were willing to do so, in the same manner as Christian Bulgarians. On April 2, 1943, Stefan called for a plenary session of the Holy Synod in which it was decided to protest to Prime Minister Filov and Interior Minister Gabrovski, stating that the Church deplored the Law for the Protection of the Nation, which had become an instrument for “restricting and persecuting the Jewish minority in our country…. Our people…cannot tolerate injustice, cruelty, and violence against anybody.”