A neo-Nazi group in Bulgaria this week launched an online attack against World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer, in an antisemitic social media post criticizing the WJC’s thorough efforts to ban a march held in Sofia each February that glorifies General Hristos Lukov, a Nazi collaborator whose movement promoted the deportation of Jews.
The organizers of the Lukov March responded to the WJC’s campaign against the annual demonstration with the following message:
“No mister, with a name of a brand of sewing machines, the problem of Bulgaria is not Lukovmarch. The problem is that there are people with too long noses like you, who are burning with desire, snooping where they do not belong. But be sure that whatever you do, General. Lukov will receive a worthy honor from the Bulgarian youth!”
Comments on the post ranged from those declaring that the Lukov March should take place in another Bulgarian town next year to protect Lukov’s honor, to overtly aggressive messages of antisemitic hate speech directed at the Bulgarian Jewish community and the world Jewry.
The annual neo-Nazi march in Sofia has been held since 2003, with dark-clad demonstrators mounting a torch-lit parade in honor of the Lukov, leader of the Nazi-era Union of Bulgarian National Legions. Lukov was a major backer of the introduction of anti-Semitic laws, and his movement supported the deportation of 11,343 Jews from Bulgarian-controlled territories in Macedonia, northern Greece, and east Serbia to their deaths in Treblinka.
In the months leading up to the 2018 march, the World Jewish Congress and the Bulgarian Jewish community, represented by the ‘Shalom’ organization, drew more than 180,000 people from around the world to sign a petition urging the Bulgarian government to issue an administrative ban against the event, which continues to occur each year despite efforts to sanction it, and to establish legislative measures under which such rallies could be banned in the future.
WJC CEO Robert Singer delivered this petition in person to Bulgarian Prime Minister Bokiyo Borissov ahead of the march.
As a result of the intervention and subsequent actions by the WJC and the Bulgarian Jewish community, the organizers of the march were told that they must alter the parade route, diverting it to less important streets, and the march was moved from evening to mid-afternoon, to eliminate the annual torch-lit spectacle. But the organizers of the march disregarded government orders, and the demonstration began close to nightfall.
GERB party MPs and Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev, Bulgaria’s National Coordinator in the struggle against anti-Semitism, have publicly condemned the march and those behind it. Furthermore, the government pledged to elaborate an appropriate legal framework to prevent such acts of incitement in the future.
In response to the post, WJC CEO Singer said: “The Lukov march is a reprehensible demonstration that celebrates the darkest and most inhumane moments in European history, and it must not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form. It is saddening to see that in 2019, neo-Nazis continue to attack Jews with age-old antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories. The World Jewish Congress will continue to do everything it can to stop the Lukov march and other glorifications of the antisemitic ideology that brought about the near destruction of European Jewry. We are grateful to the Bulgarian government, including its president, prime minister, and the mayor of Sofia for their declarations of opposition to this abominable demonstration. They are on the right side of history and it is our deepest hope that the parliament of Bulgaria will do its part in legislating against such hateful neo-Nazi manifestations. We will also continue to work to remove offensive and antisemitic material such as this post from the internet, in our efforts to help make the digital world a safe space for all."