Bulgaria Commemorates Decision to Protect Jews During Holocaust

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Members of a Jewish organization expressed their gratitude Sunday to Bulgarians who helped protect 48,000 Jewish citizens during the Holocaust.

In March 1943, Bulgarian society, members of Parliament and the Balkan country's Orthodox church opposed plans for the deportation of the country's Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

Sunday's commemoration activities included unveiling a memorial plaque in Sofia, along with commemoration activities and exhibitions across the country.

The memorial plaque, located in a park next to the Parliament building, was unveiled by Shalom Jewish organization chairman Maxim Benvenisti; Israel's ambassador to Bulgaria, Shaul Kamisa-Raz; and Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova.

"March 10th is ... a symbol for ... the courage and unity shown by the people of Bulgaria, its politicians and Orthodox Christian clergy", Fandakova said.

But the plaque also commemorates the deportation of more than 11,000 Jews to Nazi Germany from northern Greece and the kingdom of Yugoslavia. These regions had been occupied by Hitler Germany and administrated by Bulgaria, Germany's ally in World War II.

A parliamentary declaration Friday admitted that the local Bulgarian administration in these areas had not been in the position to stop the deportation of 11,343 Jews.

The commemoration ceremonies continued Sunday in the Sofia Synagogue and the Bulgaria Concert Hall, in downtown Sofia.

After several emigration waves to Israel, there are fewer than 6,000 Jews now living in Bulgaria.

Members of the Jewish community attend a service at the Sofia Synagogue, Bulgaria, March 10, 2013.Credit: Reuters
Members of the Jewish community attend a service at the Sofia Synagogue March 10, 2013. Credit: Reuters