The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has decided to accept Bulgaria as a liaison country, the first state to take the next step towards full membership since 2009.
The decision was taken at the IHRA’s first bi-annual plenary meeting under the Swiss Chairmanship in Geneva, the organisation said after the conclusion of the meeting on June 29 2017.
The IHRA unites governments and experts to strengthen, advance and promote Holocaust education, remembrance and research world-wide, and to uphold the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration.
At the four-day meeting in Geneva, more than 200 experts and policymakers from the IHRA’s 31 member countries, 11 observer countries, and seven international partner organizations gathered to discuss Holocaust education, research and remembrance as a contemporary political issue.
The Bulgarian government decided on March 8 2017 to apply for full membership of IHRA.
Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the country’s candidacy had prompted a strong interest among the member states that have highly appreciated Bulgaria’s performance as an observer in the IHRA from December 2012, as well as the commitments made to strengthen the commemoration, education and research activities on Holocaust issues.
During the presentation of the Bulgarian candidacy, the honorary president of the IHRA, Professor Yehuda Bauer, expressed his full support for Bulgaria’s membership and noted that the alliance held open discussion and the presentation of concrete results on all issues on the agenda of the organization, and that Bulgaria has the capacity and opportunity to contribute to this process, the Foreign Ministry statement said.
Bulgaria was allied to Nazi Germany in World War 2, but in 1943, thanks to the initiatives of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, some political leaders and civil society, refused to hand over Bulgarian Jews to the death camps of the Holocaust where more than six million Jews were murdered. In northern Greece and Yugoslavia, under Bulgarian control on behalf of Germany, a total of 11 343 Jews were deported, mainly to Treblinka, where they were murdered by the Nazis. These Jews, through earlier legislation approved in Sofia, did not have Bulgarian citizenship.
Because of the events of 1943, a number of Bulgarians are honoured at the Yad Vashem Museum as Righteous Among the Nations. An initiative is underway for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its role in the prevention of the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the Holocaust.
(Main photo: The Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Israel. Noam Chen for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism)