Patriot games: Nationalists in Bulgarian Parliament make politics of Rosh Hashanah

Written by on September 21, 2017 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Patriot games: Nationalists in Bulgarian Parliament make politics of Rosh Hashanah

The United Patriots, the grouping of nationalist and far-right parties that is the minority partner in Bulgaria’s government, made a formal declaration in the National Assembly on September 21 marking Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year – laced with a political sideswipe against the “enemies of Bulgaria”.

The Jewish year 5778 began on the evening of September 20.

In Parliament, United Patriots MP Alexander Sidi read the statement, congratulating the Bulgarian Jewish community on the new year.

“Jews in Bulgaria are an example of successful integration. An example that all minority groups in our homeland should follow. The Bulgarian Jews have died side by side with their Bulgarian brothers on the battlefields in defence of the Motherland. And the tolerant Bulgarian people replied with the same, creating the miracle of salvation,” the declaration said.

It said that in 1943, Bulgaria had carried out a highly humane act that saved 60 000 people from certain death, who would have been sent to death camps purely because of their ethnic origin.

“Today, the enemies of Bulgaria, actively supported by people with no country born here, try to downplay this fact and stick a shameful accusation against the Bulgarians, deleting the memory of salvation, emphasizing only the fallen Jews from Macedonia and Thrace,” the declaration said.

These passages referred to the fact that in 1943, planned deportations of Bulgarian Jews to the death camps of the Holocaust where more than six million Jews died at the hands of the Hitler regime were not carried out. The deportations were postponed because of stern opposition from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, politicians notably including then Deputy Speaker Dimitar Peshev, as well as a range of Bulgarian society from leading intellectuals and professionals to ordinary people in the cities and the countryside.

In May 1943, there were large-scale deportations of Bulgarian Jews from Sofia and other cities into internal exile in country villages. As a result of the anti-Semitic Defence of the Nation Act of 1940, adult male Jews were put in labour camps where condition were harsh, while a number were detained in political prison camps such as Samovit in northern Bulgaria.

While the deportation of Bulgarian Jews was prevented, Bulgaria allowed the deportation of Jews from the “new lands” in northern Greece and parts of Yugoslavia placed under Bulgarian administration on behalf of Nazi Germany. The vast majority of these more than 11 000 Jews were murdered in Treblinka soon after their arrival.

The rationale of the Bulgarian authorities of the time was that these deportations from the “new lands” could not be stopped because the Jews there were not Bulgarian citizens. However, the earlier anti-Semitic legislation had provided that they would not be granted Bulgarian citizenship.

The United Patriots’ declaration said that the beginning of a New Year was a time to take stock.

“For the Jews, in the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a book is opened in heaven, in which the Lord records the works of every man, and he has the opportunity to change and correct his mistakes.

“That is why we too must learn from our mistakes today and do so to remember our past and to live together in the future,” the declaration said.

(Photo: Zak Kolar/flickr.com)

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About the Author

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015).