Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, who accepted the resignation of a deputy minister who became notorious for a photograph of him making a Hitler salute at a wax museum in Paris but who claims it was a “joke”, says “it’s human while on business trips to make such jokes”.
On May 17, Pavel Tenev resigned as deputy minister of regional development and public works just two days after taking office, having been named to the post from the quota of the nationalist United Patriots minority partner in Borissov’s coalition government.
Tenev said after his resignation that he had taken a series of photos at the Grevin waxworks museum and “there is a humorous element in most of the photos”. In the photo that cost him his job, Tenev was pictured between effigies of two Nazi officers, making a Hitler salute.
Borissov, speaking after Tenev’s resignation, said: “I signed the resignation, and for me the case is closed. I responded in the best possible way”.
“Of all the deputy ministers from the United Patriots, Tenev was the best and the most prepared, and I really regret that this is happening for such foolishness on his part, that’s a blow to his career,” Borissov said.
The Prime Minister said that he had discussed the matter with Valeri Simeonov, co-leader of the United Patriots and a deputy prime minister in Borissov’s cabinet.
As the story broke, Simeonov himself had caused outrage on social networks for reportedly having told local media that he himself had been taken on visit to Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald in the 1970s, and “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”.
Borissov said that he had not heard what Simeonov said and would find him to clarify it.
On May 18, Simeonov told the media that he intended taking court action against Bulgarian-language daily Sega, saying that he had not said what the daily had attributed to him.
“Never, in any way, did I use those words that have been reported in that publication. I was at Buchenwald, and I don’t think there is anyone who has been there and would in any form make a joke or mockery,” Simeonov said.
He said that anyone would find it very hard to portray him as an anti-Semite.
Tenev, he said, was a worthy young person and a very good specialist. A ridiculous joke had no place on Tenev’s Facebook profile, but Tenev had not been chosen on the basis of his Facebook profile, but on his qualities, Simeonov said.
Tenev, speaking to local television station bTV, said that the photo was not a reflection of his nature.
“If people see all the pictures, they will understand that I was looking for another effect, my idea was different,” he said.
Tenev said that the photo was taken eight to 10 years ago.
At the museum, he had taken photos of most of the wax figures.
“I prefer to have effects and scenarios in every picture … there is also a humorous element in most photos,” he said.
Asked why he had made such a gesture, Tenev said that he was looking for a humorous effect in each of the pictures and that there was a group of Poland in front of him who made Nazi greetings.
“The mistake was I made this picture and uploaded it to social networks, “he said.
Tenev said that it had been his decision to resign.
He had asked to speak to Simeonov, who invited him to his office, where they discussed the matter.
According to Tenev, Simeonov said that he understood the situation and that, from a political point of view, this was a very unpleasant situation. Tenev said that that was the extent of the conversation between him and the deputy prime minister.
He declined to comment on Simeonov’s remark about possible Buchenwald photos.
“I am a responsible person, and I understand how I put the whole government in an unpleasant situation … we do not need to pour more oil into the fire. We need a cohesive government right now, it needs time to carry out its ideas in the long run,” Tenev said.
“It’s very hard for my family to take it, very hard … it’s hard to explain to my daughter why some people say bad things about me … The worst thing I’ve heard and read is that I’m a fascist … I do not share this philosophy,” said Tenev, who added that he was not a member of any party.
“I was hoping to be elected as an expert … I sympathize with many ideas from different parties – everything that is good for Bulgaria needs to be implemented,” Tenev said.