The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria Radi Naidenov opened a Roundtable discussion on the Holocaust remembrance. Bulgaria’s top diplomat informed the participants that the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Bulgaria has adopted a decision to start the procedure for full membership of the country in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Minister Naidenov added that by its active participation as an observer at the IHRA in the past four years “Bulgaria has demonstrated a serious, multilateral and in-depth commitment to the commemoration, study and research of the Holocaust. The full membership of yet another EU member state in such a prestigious international institution as the IHRA will also play an important role in regards to an important EU priority, respectively, of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU Council – strengthening of the global role of the Union.”
Minister Naidenov also recalled that the rescuing of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews, which we mark today, is a result of multiple factors: the role of the Orthodox church in the country, the efforts of outstanding members of Parliament and political leaders, the support of the king and, mostly, the power of the Bulgarian civil society “to withstand as a rock the pressure of hatred, which at that time had spread in Europe” and to refuse to stand idly and betray its friends. The Bulgarian Foreign Minister described this as a “peak moment” in the country’s history. He also recalled the efforts of many Bulgarian diplomats across Europe to issue visas to escaping Jews and thus assist their rescue.
Bulgaria’s top diplomat stressed that it is our duty to commemorate the tragic fate of 11,343 citizens of Jewish origin, sent to the death camps from the Nazi-occupied territories, which were under temporary Bulgarian administration.
The European Commission Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism Katharina von Schnurbein described Bulgaria as “different from the rest of Europe” during WWII with the Bulgarian people’s refusal to be passive and betray their Jewish brothers. She voiced support for the Bulgarian initiatives for combating xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism and underscored that the European Commission will proceed with the attempts to incriminate the hate speech as a part of these efforts.
Addressing the participants in the roundtable, the Italian Head of Delegation at IHRA in 2018, Sandro de Bernardin, noted the importance of studying and commemorating the Holocaust, Bulgaria’s example and the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews during WWII.
“It is necessary to draw the attention, particularly of young people, to the commemoration of the Holocaust, as they should know that this is not only a past tragedy but something that should be known and remembered in present times, so as to prevent the occurrence of such a huge tragedy in the future”, Deputy Justice Minister Valeri Tarandov said.
Attending the roundtable talks were also Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria Irit Lillian, Bulgarian Ambassador to Israel Dimitar Mihailov, Deputy Ombudsman Diana Kovacheva, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mihail Gruev, Chair of the State Archives Agency, Maxim Benvenisti, Chairman of the Tzedakah-Shalom Foundation, etc.