site.bta80th Anniversary of Rescue of Bulgarian Jews Marked in European Parliament
The 80th anniversary of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews was marked in the European Parliament (EP) here on Wednesday evening. The event was organized by the Bulgarian delegation in the European People’s Party (EPP) Group and was attended by Bulgarian MEPs from other political groups.
In an address to the participants, delivered by MEP Andrey Kovatchev, EP President Roberta Metsola said on the occasion of the anniversary that today people know how even in Europe’s darkest hours, there was light glimmering in Bulgaria, which chose to rescue its Jews despite being Nazi Germany’s ally. Today, when the 80th anniversary of these events is marked in times of geopolitical tensions, “caused by the aggressor in the East”, people should remember how important it is to never stay silent in the face of evil and always stand up for what’s right, Metsola said.
EPP President Manfred Weber noted that the Bulgarians have dared to ask the country’s authorities to save their Jews – a choice that was not left without consequences and required much courage. The Bulgarians rescued close to 50,000 people from certain death, Weber said, adding that the Jews who were deported to Nazi death camps from lands under Bulgarian administration in WWII must not be forgotten. “We also remember them,” Weber said.
Andrey Kovatchev noted that he has found a document belonging to the Nazis, which gives an assessment that the measures against the Jews in Bulgaria are doomed. Bulgaria managed to withstand until the end the pressure from Berlin to deport its Jews. Around 2,500 foreign Jews in Bulgaria have also been rescued, as well as around 15,000 European Jews, to whom Bulgarian diplomats issued transit visas, he explained. “We bow before the memory of all the victims,” Kovatchev said, expressing regret that the Bulgarian state in WWII failed to rescue the Jews in the lands under Bulgarian administration.
Israel’s Ambassador to the European Union (EU), Haim Regev, underscored the cooperation and lasting ties between Bulgaria and his country, describing the story about the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews as inspiring. Many Jews owe their lives to the Bulgarian authorities’ decision, he added.
Bulgaria’s Ambassador to the EU, Rumen Alexandrov, said the anniversary is something to be proud of, and that the Bulgarian public has always been tolerant, which is why the antisemitic sentiments never picked up in Bulgaria. He said that Bulgarian Jews have significantly contributed to the country’s development.
The Director of the Transatlantic Institute of the American Jewish Committee, Daniel Schwammenthal, described the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews as unprecedented during the Holocaust, which came to show that even in the darkest hours, there is hope and the possibility to resist. If the other governments had done what the Bulgarian authorities did, there would have been no Holocaust, he argued.
MEP Alexander Yordanov described the Bulgarian Jews’ rescue as a feat, undertaken in WWII’s cruelest of times. According to him, the fact that Bulgaria failed to rescue the Jews in the lands under its administration remains a sensitive topic for the Bulgarian public. He added that this is explained by the fact that Germany did not recognize Bulgaria’s jurisdiction in those lands. According to Yordanov, history from 80 years ago brings a lesson for today, when Nazi aggression is being carried out against Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. He also said that the Bulgarian people have failed to rescue the Bulgarian Jews’ rescuers, many of whom were killed or thrown into concentration camps after Bulgaria’s occupation by the Soviet Army.
MEP Asim Ademov noted that the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews is a lesson about the perseverance of freedom over brute force and hatred. Bulgaria gave the world a lesson on courage and humanity, he said, adding that such sentiments against any minority must never be allowed to take shape again.
Historian Michael Bar-Zohar, who was born in Bulgaria and left for Israel as a child, recalled how in 1993, when he was in the US, he came across an article in the New York Times about the rescue of some 7,000 Jews in Denmark. He called the newspaper and told them the story about the Bulgarian Jews, which its journalists were unaware of.