The Republican head of the US House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee and the ranking member, a Democrat, have sent a letter to the Speaker of the Bulgarian Parliament calling on her and the government to oppose the Lukov March planned for February 17.
The Lukov March, organised by far-right groups in Bulgaria, honours a general who in the 1930s and 1940s led the pro-Nazi Union of Bulgarian National Legions.
The February 15 letter, from House foreign affairs committee head Edward Royce and ranking member Eliot Engel to Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva, said that Lukov supported policies during the Second World War that led to the deaths of thousands of Jews.
“We urge your government to strongly condemn the march and ensure public safety and adherence to the rule of the law by extremist racist groups who want to incite hatred and provoke violence…There must be no room on the streets of a European capital for a parade that pays tribute to a man who represented the most evil and sinister era in human history.”
The letter expressed appreciation for Bulgaria’s recent actions to combat anti-Semitism, specifically the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, and the appointment of a National Co-ordinator on Combatting Anti-Semitism.
“These significant steps indicate a commitment by your government to be a leader in combatting the troubling rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.”
The letter said that Lukov led an organisation that supported the deportation of 11 343 Jews from territories in northern Greece and Yugoslavia, ultimately sentencing these innocent people to their deaths in the Treblinka extermination camp.
“It is unacceptable to glorify a perpetrator of the most horrific genocide in human history,” the letter said.
Noting that Bulgaria currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the congressmen said: “In this leadership position, EU member states will look to your nation to uphold the value of tolerance and to reject extremism and anti-Semitism”.
The Lukov March has been held in Bulgaria’s capital annually since 2003. The parade, of young dark-clad ultra-right supporters bearing torches, has been the subject of bans by the municipal government, but these bans have been overturned in court. The 2018 parade, for which the municipality has not given permission but which will be permitted by court order, is expected to again proceed under a heavy police escort through the streets of central Sofia.
The Lukov March has been the subject of widespread condemnation both in Bulgaria and abroad. A petition against the February 17 2018 march, presented to the Bulgarian government by the World Jewish Congress, gathered more than 175 000 signatures.
In Bulgaria’s Parliament, the march has been the subject of formal declarations against it by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party and the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party.