During World War 2, Bulgarians proved that civil society and the ordinary person have the strength to change history and that even the greatest evil may be averted, President Rossen Plevneliev told an Anti-Defamation League event in Washington DC.
Plevneliev spoke at an event that was part of celebrations of the 100th anniversary of establishment of the the Anti-Defamation League.
During World War 2, Bulgaria did what no other nation succeeded in doing – it managed to save its whole Jewish population of 50 000, he said.
“ Unfortunately, however, Bulgaria was in a situation which did not allow it to do the same for the Jews in Northern Greece and parts of Yugoslavia who were not Bulgarian citizens. “We are extremely sad about their lost lives, as well as about all Holocaust victims, who we will always remember,” Plevneliev said.
He emphasised that tolerance and mutual respect are values that the international community shares today and are at the heart of democracy.
“I believe that the efforts of all democratic states are directed toward building a just and peaceful world and Bulgaria, together with strategic partners, actively contributes to the fight against hatred and violence,” Plevneliev said.
He praised the Anti-Defamation League for its 100-year record of defending democratic values by drafting programs and launching initiatives that educate the generations in a spirit of tolerance, respect for human rights and equality.
“When you teach your son, you also teach the son of your son,” Plevneliev quoted a Jewish saying, and emphasised that “education is the correct way to root out biases, the language of hatred and discrimination.”
He said that history should be remembered and correctly narrated.
“Any neglect of human suffering is unacceptable,” Plevneliev said, reiterating his appeal for everyone to remember the lessons of the Holocaust.
“I promise that no matter where I am and what I do, I will always tell the story of the tolerance between the people and religions, as is the story of the citizens of the beautiful, small, and ordinary Bulgarian town of Gotse Delchev,” he said.
Plevneliev recalled the words of Shimon Peres, president of Israel, with whom he had opened a travelling exhibition in the European Parliament, dedicated to the feat of the Bulgarian people accomplished 70 years ago.
“This gives us once again reason to carefully listen to what President Peres said, that ‘it is better to have an economic crisis than a moral catastrophe and that it is better for us to be faced with economic problems than be filled with historical shame’,” Plevneliev said.
“We should never accept nor tolerate injustice. We should never stop devoting our hearts and energy to building a world where cultural diversity is highly appreciated, tolerance is a shared value and humanism is the supreme value,” he said.
He quoted Edmund Burke, that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
“Today, as never before, can we allow ourselves to do nothing,” Plevenliev said.
Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, said that it was not by chance that the 100th anniversary of the organization was marking the salvation of the Bulgarian Jews. “What would the world be if the majority of the nations were like the Bulgarian,” Foxman said.