The Speaker of Bulgaria’s National Assembly, Tsveta Karayancheva, opened on January 25 an exhibition dedicated to the work of diplomats who helped rescue Jews from the Holocaust, at an event in Parliament two days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The presentation of the exhibition was co-organised by the Bulgaria – Israel Friendship Group of Parliament and the embassy of the State of Israel.
At the event, leading figures in Bulgaria’s Parliament, Israeli ambassador Irit Lilian and Maxim Benvenisti, head of the Tzedaka Foundation of the Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom”, posed for a group photograph to associate themselves with the international campaign #WeRemember.
Karayancheva said that while elsewhere in Europe, there had been Jews who had been rescued from the Holocaust, Bulgaria was the only country that had rescued its entire Bulgarian Jewish community.
This was a historic feat with no equivalent that should be studied as an example of courage, humanism and civic courage, she said.
Israeli ambassador to Bulgaria Iri Lillian said that it is not enough to say “never again”, we must take real action that such things will not happen in the future. We have to fight the language of hatred, stop intolerance, take concrete action so that such events do not find a place in our society, she added.
In Parliament, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party issued a declaration marking January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The declaration said that almost 80 years after the Holocaust, this genocide and crime against humanity that cost six million lives continued to raise questions about hatred found expression in the desire to persecute and murder innocent men, women and children.
Bulgaria, although an ally of Hitler’s Germany, did not allow more than 48 000 Jews to be sent to the concentration camps.
“The pressure of the Nazis was not enough to break the spirit of the Bulgarian people and overcome their tolerance,” the GERB declaration said.
A group of MPs from the 25th National Assembly, headed by Deputy Speaker Dimitar Peshev, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, prominent public figures and representatives of cultural circles, resolutely opposed and thwarted the mass deportation of tens of thousands of Bulgarian citizens – Jews to the death camps.
Bulgaria had given an unequivocal example of tolerance and respect for the human person, regardless of religion or ethnicity, the declaration said.
“But history has the sad ability to repeat itself,” it said.
Faced with global challenges, when extreme populism and attempts to extract all sorts of political dividends cast doubt on democracy and its achievements, “as MPs we must be irreconcilable against any attempt to undermine fundamental human freedoms.
“With concern, we note that there is no shortage of hate-based actions in our times,” the declaration said, citing vandalism of monuments and religious houses of worship, in particular the recent stone-throwing attack on the Sofia Central Synagogue.
At the same time, the declaration said, Bulgarian institutions – in co-operation with the NGOs sector – responded to every complaint of such crimes, showing determination to punish the guilty but also to come up with steps to offer working mechanisms to prevent such crimes.
The declaration noted that Bulgaria had adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA) Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, had appointed a National Co-ordinator for Combating Antisemitism, while the continuing commitment of Prime Minister Borissov and Bulgarian diplomacy had led Bulgaria to its well-deserved place as a full member of IHRA, the GERB declaration said.
“Membership, which obliges our country to be an active part of the community that puts on the international agenda the need to take timely and adequate measures to ensure an environment free of racial, ethnic and religious crimes,” it said.