Bulgarian deputy PM under fire for defending 'jokes' about Shoah
Fri, 19 May 2017
The head of Bulgaria's Jewish community has condemned statements made the country's Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov in which he belittled the Holocaust.
Alek Oscar, president of Bulgaria's Jewish umbrella organization 'Shalom', declared: "We are witnessing an ugly manifestation of disrespect toward the millions murdered in the concentration camps during World War II.
"Such behavior demonstrates a lack of political culture and sensitivity vis-à-vis the greatest tragedy in human history.
"When we talk about the Holocaust, joking is inappropriate," Oscar added.
After it emerged that Pavel Tenev, who was appointed as a deputy minister from the United Patriots party in the Bulgarian coalition government, had been photographed some years ago giving the Hitler salute, Simeonov reportedly made comments to the effect that in the 1970s, he had been taken on a visit to Buchenwald and added, "Come to think of it, who knows what kind of joke photos we took there…can anyone say now, submit your resignation and go back to the village."
The comments were reported by Bulgarian-language newspaper Sega. On May 18, Simeonov denied making them and said he would take court action against Sega. The newspaper responded by saying that it stood by its story.
Shalom President Oscar called on politicians and civil society not to let such incidents go unchecked and "to pay special attention to the language of hatred."
Several Holocaust survivors attended Oscar's press conference in Sofia on Wednesday, including a survivor of Auschwitz and of the Warsaw Ghetto. They expressed revulsion and dismay at "jokes" related to the Holocaust.
In the National Assembly, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms both called for Simeonov’s resignation as deputy prime minister.
Simeonov himself said that the controversy over Tenev’s Nazi salute was an attack against the coalition government and against him personally. He said that he would only step down if his coalition partners asked him to do so.
Photo above: Ladislav Ladislavov
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