Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva: ‘Bulgaria governed the regions from which Jews were deported’

Written by on January 26, 2018 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva: ‘Bulgaria governed the regions from which Jews were deported’

The Foreign Minister of Bulgaria, Ekaterina Zaharieva, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, has recognised that the country governed the regions from which Jewish residents were sent to Nazi Germany’s death camps during the Holocaust. It is the first time a cabinet member has done so.

More than 11,000 Jews from Thrace and Macedonia, women, children and men, were deported in order to be murdered by the Nazis. They were sent to those concetration camps in freight trains, which passed the territory of Bulgaria proper.

On the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be marked tomorrow, on January 27, Zaharieva said at her ministry, in front of some 200 guests, it was not enough to just remember the inexplicable cruelty of the Holocaust. “We need to serve as role models to our children, and show them that hate speech and intolerance must not be tolerated.”

Ekaterina Zaharieva hosted the Holocaust Remembrance Day event. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Ekaterina Zaharieva said she was touched when several members of the European Parliament had expressed their gratitude to Bulgaria on Thursday, for saving 48,000 Bulgarian Jews in 1943. Their deportation was prevented by non-Jewish, courageous Bulgarians, including Christian Orthodox priests.

Zaharieva also said that regrettably, as many as 11,343 who lived in today’s territory of Northern Greece and Macedonia, had not been saved. “On a day like this one, we need to honour their memory.”

“Today, we need to show the young generation that the Bulgarian people has traditionally been tolerant and peaceful”, she added. “The Bulgarians could and did co-exist with people of different religions, or those who were different otherwise.”

US Ambassador Eric Rubin thanked the minister, Shalom and others for the event. Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

The Foreign Minister thanked cultural organisations as well as the embassies of Israel and The United States of America for organising an exhibition entitled “Beyond Duty” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The exhibition presents diplomats who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

During the event at the ministry, Eric Rubin, the US Ambassador to Bulgaria, announced this year’s two “Gratitude to Scandinavia Scholarship” winners, who will study in America. These scholarships are being offered as an expression of gratitude to the heroism of the Bulgarian people, who prevented the deportation of their Jewish compatriots. Rubin thanked the Fulbright Commission in Bulgaria for its contribution to those scholarships, as well as the Scandinavian Foundation.

Alexander Oscar, the President of Shalom, the organisation of the Bulgarian Jews, said that during World War II the world had not prevented the biggest mistake in human history. “But have we learned the important lessons of the Holocaust?”

Today, 72 years after the war, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and hate speech were actually on the rise, Alexander Oscar said. “Today we are witnessing the same kind of populism which brought Hitler and the Nazi ideology to power.”

Alexander Oscar: “The Bulgarians are victims of populism again.” Photo by Imanuel Marcus.

Now, 75 years after the events of 1943, when tens of thousand of Bulgarian Jews were saved, the Bulgarians were again victims of populism, Dr. Oscar stated. He meant the rather weird discussion about the convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence.

“Some Bulgarian politicians prefer to be on the side of populism, instead of being guardians of society”, Alexander Oscar said in the direction of high-ranking government officials in Sofia, who are part of the radical right-wing “United Patriots” and who rejected the so-called Istanbul Convention, with support from the socialists.

On January 27, 1945, the Nazi’s death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army. Therefore, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day is being marked on this date, on an annual basis.



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