Bulgarian leaders’ messages on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, we bow our heads to the millions of Jews and other innocent people who fell victim to the Nazi genocide during the Second World War, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said in a message marking January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“During this period, our country managed to save nearly 50 000 Bulgarian Jews,” Petkov said.

“After Bulgaria’s accession to the Tripartite Pact in 1941, the government was forced to pursue an anti-Jewish policy, but a sharp reaction from the public, the church, politicians and intellectuals halted plans to deport Jews to Nazi concentration camps,” he said.*

Today we pray in the hope that the events of eight decades ago will not be repeated. But history must be remembered so that mistakes are not repeated, Petkov said, adding on that on this day “we also look ahead” because after the war, Europe was built up on the promise of peace.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry said: “The memory of the victims of the Holocaust fills us with determination to oppose intolerance, hatred and discrimination together.

“Unfortunately, antisemitism, which was the driving force of the Holocaust, has not disappeared. It is our common duty to fight its modern manifestations. It is our common responsibility not to allow crimes like the Holocaust to happen again,” the ministry said.

Opposition GERB party leader and former prime minister Boiko Borissov said: “We mourn the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust. With gratitude we preserve the memory of the rescuers of the Bulgarian Jews.

#WeRemember and will never forget,” Borissov said, using the hashtag used in recent years in a campaign initiated by the World Jewish Congress.

A commemorative event was planned for Sofia on the afternoon of January 27, organised by the embassy of Israel, the Foreign Ministry and the Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom”.

The event was scheduled to hear addresses from the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Foreign Minister, the rector of Sofia University, the Israeli ambassador, the president of Shalom, the German ambassador and a representative of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

In a post on Facebook, Shalom noted that the United Nations had in 2005 declared January 27 International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in memory of the more than six million Jews and millions more from other ethnic groups, people with physical and mental disabilities, people of different sexual orientation, Roma people and others, murdered by the Nazis.

The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the liberation of the largest death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Shalom said that 2022 also marks the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, at which the Nazis decided on their plan to destroy the Jewish people.

In a statement on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The Holocaust was a European disaster. Antisemitism led to this disaster. Antisemitism dehumanises the Jewish people.

“In Nazi Germany, this dehumanisation opened the door to the Shoah,” Von der Leyen said.

“We must never forget. The heart of our action is to ensure that Jews across Europe can live their lives in accordance with their religious and cultural traditions.

“Because Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities prosper, too. Because Jewish life is an integral part of Europe’s history and of Europe’s future,” she said.

The World Jewish Congress said of its #WeRemember campaign, which encourages people around the world to have photographs taken of themselves holding signs with that hashtag and post them on social networks: “These past few years have been difficult for us all – and has shown us why Holocaust education is needed now more than ever.

“While confronting the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen a rise in hateful and racist ideologies around the world. False conspiracy myths about minority groups are spreading like wildfire. Social media platforms are being overrun with harmful content. It can all feel overwhelming for many. Even frightening,” the WJC said.

It said that January 27 2022 marked 77 years since the Allied troops arrived at the gates of Auschwitz, “but it is clear that the story of how they came to be there in the first place must be shared more widely”.

“The Holocaust – the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators – didn’t occur in a vacuum. It was the product of unchecked hatred and collective silence. Now, more than ever, we must join together to remember the past, to build a better future for all,” the World Jewish Congress said.

On its website, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has a database of events of Holocaust commemoration around the world this year: https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/international-holocaust-remembrance-day-event-database?field_date_range_value_1=All&tid=All&page=0

The Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center has information online, including educational testimonies and a video testimonies resource centre: https://www.yadvashem.org/remembrance/intl-remembrance-day.html

#ProtectTheFacts: The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has information about the problem of Holocaust denial and distortion: https://holocaustremembrance.com/task-force-against-holocaust-denial-and-distortion

(*Editor’s note: Bulgaria’s antisemitic Defence of the Nation Act came into force on January 23 1941, having been approved by parliament in December 1940 and signed by Tsar Boris III on January 15 1941. After prolonged pressure from Hitler’s Nazi regime, Bulgaria joined the Axis on March 1 1941. The culmination of events that led to the suspension of the plan to deport Bulgarian Jews to the death camps of the Holocaust came in March 1943. In territories in Greece and the then-Yugoslavia, then under Bulgarian administration, 11 343 Jews were deported to be murdered at Treblinka)

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