Bulgaria marked the 76th anniversary of the deportation of 11,343 of Jews living in Bulgarian-administered lands to Treblinka, with an annual memorial service on 10 Marcha the Monument of Gratitude in Sofia. Under the leadership of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and other noteworthy individuals who resisted a deal between the Bulgarian government and the Nazi regime, nearly 50,000 Jews living in Bulgaria were saved from certain death.
Dr. Alexander Oscar, President of the WJC-affiliated Organization of Jews in Bulgaria-Shalom, talked about the bravery of the Bulgarian people who stood up against the Nazis and “found the strength to oppose an inhuman ideology and did not allow their brothers and sisters of Jewish organization to be deported to the Nazi death camps.”
“Let us remember and never forget that each of us is responsible for the world we live in. Let us remember that, despite the circumstances, there is always a way to counteract injustice,” Dr. Oscar said.
The memorial ceremony was attended by Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria Yoram Elron, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandukova, Director-General of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Plamen Bonchev, Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister and National Coordinator Against Antisemitism Georg Georgiev, and Sofia Deputy Mayor Associate Professor Todor Chobanov.
Last year, on 10 March, the WJC and the Organization of Jews in Bulgaria-Shalom drew more than 1,500 people from across Bulgarian society onto the streets of Sofia in the first-ever March for Tolerance and Unity. The march was held in response to the annual neo-Nazi Lukov March, honoring Hristo Lukov, whose Union of Bulgarian National Legions supported the deportations of Jews during the Holocaust.
This year, the organizers of the Lukov March agreed to obey a Supreme Administrative Court decision to uphold a municipal court order limiting the event to only flower-laying at Lukov’s home. The Sofia Municipal Police also reportedly advised the organizers of the march that any person who violated this order would be stopped. In the end, only some 60 supporters were in attendance. Lauder thanked the Bulgarian authorities for doing everything in their power to ensure a peaceful outcome to the day, and said: “For the first time in more than a decade, the Jewish community of Bulgaria has been spared its yearly day of fear and apprehension from shameful flame-wielding thugs who parade through the streets to glorify the very ideology that brought the near destruction of the Jewish people,” Lauder said. “At this frightening time of rising antisemitic activity across the world, this is a moment of true victory for the Jewish community, the people of Bulgaria, and all promoters of justice and tolerance worldwide.”