Former mistress warns Jews of future deportation dates

One night, in the beginning of March 1943, the doorbell of a famous Jewish lawyer rang. A young, beautiful lady was standing at his door. Her name was Liliana Paniza, and she was the private secretary of Alexander Belev, the head of the Commissary of Jewish Affairs. She was about to reveal her boss’s plans for the deportation of 20,000 Bulgarian Jews. She was about to inform the most influential activist of the Jewish community. She was about to play an important role in the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews.

Liliana was 27 years old when she started working for Belev. She had met him when he was a head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs She came from a family with well-defined democratic views, and Liliana was not an anti-Semite at all.

But she was devoted to her work and her boss. Gradually Liliana fell in love with Alexander Belev and later became his secret mistress.

They were almost never seen together in front of the public. On the outside, Liliana appeared a perfect secretary completely devoted to her work. However, from inside, Liliana was a passionate and emotional young lady who strictly kept her secret affair with Belev. Her colleagues started to gossip about their relationship, but Liliana denied everything saying that Belev had an affair with his cousin, Liliana Stoika. Actually, Liliana Stoika was often coming to Belev’s office, and it appeared she had great influence on Belev. Paniza did not like her, and once when she started to quarrel with his Liliana Stoika, Belev called Paniza and said, ” I am the boss here; if you do not like it, you can go.”

Liliana says she has never hidden her feelings toward Belev. She states she “always admired his sincerity.” At the same time though, she says, “He was cruel and his cruelty was without limits.”

Their relationship, though, did not work out. They stopped seeing each other and Liliana was deeply hurt by their splitting up. In a letter to him she wrote, “My life is changed forever. My mind and body live, but my soul is dead.”

Liliana Paniza was deeply in love with Belev, but this fact did not stop her betraying him by warning the Jews about their future deportation.

That is why she went to see her close friend, Nissim Levi, who was one of the biggest activists of the Jewish society. Liliana Paniza was close to Levi’s family, and especially to his wife. That is why she met him, and she betrayed the entire deportation plan.

She even revealed the dates, the 10th and 11th of March. She realized that by warning Levi, she was warning the whole Jewish society. Liliana even told Nissim that he was under number two in the list. Liliana Paniza shared with Levi what she had heard from Belev, “If I can deport only one Jew, I would choose Dr. Levi.”

From the time Liliana started to work on the deportation process, Belev warned her that for the secrecy of the mission, she was to guarantee not only with her job but also with her life.

Some people say Liliana had a romantic relationship with a Jew in the past, and that is what motivated her actions. Others believe she acted from the position of a woman left by her beloved, looking for revenge.

Or maybe she was concerned with the fate of her Jewish friends.

But no matter what was the reason for her bravery, Liliana Paniza was an important element of the chain of coincidences that saved the Bulgarian Jews in 1943.