“It is important to say on this day that just remembering what none of us can explain is not enough! What matters most is to be a role model, showing by our personal actions that hate speech and violence against those different from us are absolutely unacceptable.”
By these words, Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ekaterina Zaharieva opened an exhibition entitled “Beyond the Call of Duty”, dedicated to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Organised by the State Institute of Culture under the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Embassies of the State of Israel and of the United States, the display tells the stories of 36 diplomats from 21 countries who, at the risk of their own life, saved hundreds of Jews from deportation to death camps during World War II.
“Let us pay tribute to those diplomats who, acting beyond the call of their official duty, helped save so many people from the gas chambers,” Minister Zaharieva said. “We remember, and we must set an example to the coming generations”.
“One such example is the self-sacrifice by which the Bulgarian people and public saved more than 48,000 compatriots of Jewish origin during World War II,” she added. “Let us pass on the message that the Bulgarian people is tolerant and compassionate and wants to live in peace with all different religious and individuals,” the Minister emphasised.
“As Bulgarian Foreign Minister I was touched when last week, during an exchange of views at the European Parliament, several MEPs thanked Bulgaria for saving the Bulgarian Jews during World War II,” Minister Zaharieva said. “Regrettably, another 11,343 Jews, then living in Nazi-occupied but Bulgarian-administrated territories, lost their lives. Let us today pay tribute to them, too!”
On behalf of the State of Israel, Israel’s Chargé d’Affaires Iman Amasha thanked for the consistent efforts that Bulgaria has been making in recent years in the fight against anti-Semitism and hate speech. “We hope that in the coming months during the Bulgarian Presidency, other European countries will follow this example,” she said in her greetings address at the opening.
Taking the floor, US Ambassador Eric Rubin wished “many such joint celebrations this year, when Bulgaria marks 75 years since the saving of its Jews.” Ambassador Rubin announced the winners of the winners of Fulbright Bulgaria’s Thanks to Scandinavia Scholarship Programme.
On behalf of the Bulgarian Jews, Shalom Organisation of Jews in Bulgaria Chairman Alexander Oscar thanked the State for the efforts and Minister Zaharieva for her personal commitment in standing up for the Bulgarian position on the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
“Every year on this day we say that we shall remember, we shall not forget and we shall not allow innocent people to be brutally killed yet again. Today, however, 72 years after the end of World War II, we are witnessing proliferating manifestations of intolerance towards the different, populism and extreme nationalism. As a Bulgarian citizen, I would like to thank you, Mrs Zaharieva, for not yielding to populism.” Dr Oscar also thanked Bulgaria for “being among the first countries in Europe which have adopted a working definition of anti-Semitism and the first one which has designated a National Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism.”