Thursday

20th Sep 2018

Opinion

Bulgaria must stop this neo-Nazi Lukov march

  • Anti-fascists gather in Sofia, Bulgaria, to oppose last year's Lukov march of neo-Nazis (Photo: YouTube)

Every February, far-right extremists from across Europe flock to Sofia to pay tribute to a notorious Bulgarian anti-Semite, whose movement helped the Nazis send more than 11,300 Jews to their death in Treblinka during World War II.

Nazi symbols are put on display in the heart of the Bulgarian capital, and marchers clad in dark clothing shout vile slogans while parading through the city with torches.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The marchers call themselves nationalists, but they are no less than hard-core neo-Nazis gathering to honour the leading Bulgarian promoter of the Holocaust, Hristo Nikolov Lukov.

Every year, the Sofia municipality calls for a ban on this march, and every year it continues unfettered under heavy police protection.

This year, the World Jewish Congress and the Bulgarian Jewish community, represented by the Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', have joined forces in a petition signed by 175,000 people worldwide, demanding that the government enforce an administrative ban against this march and put a stop to the glorification of hatemongers like Lukov.

Lukov

Lukov was a top Bulgarian military and political figure who led the ultra-nationalist Union of Bulgarian National Legions from the 1930s until his assassination in 1943.

He served as minister of war from 1935-1938, during which he fostered close ties with senior Nazi officials in Germany; after retiring, he remained highly influential and strongly advocated for the Bulgarian Law for the Protection of the Nation, modelled on the infamous 1935 Nuremberg Laws in Germany that stripped Jews of their civic rights.

Marriages between Bulgarian Jews and non-Jews were henceforth prohibited, and the law forced Jews to pay a punitive tax on their net worth. Jews were expelled from universities, civil service and other professions, their properties were confiscated, and many were forced into labour camps.

Members of the Lukov movement cruelly beat Jews without respite and led pogroms on Jewish homes and shops. Their legionnaires' moto was: "We should expel from Bulgaria everyone who does not have Bulgarian blood."

In 1942, a 'Commissariat for the Jewish Problem' in the Bulgarian ministry of the interior was formed, that promised the Germans to hand over 20,000 Jews from the Bulgarian-controlled territories in Greece and Yugoslavia.

However, the Bulgarians overestimated the number of Jews living in these areas. They came up with a plan to include approximately 8,500 Jews from Bulgaria.

In 1943, German forces rounded up the Bulgarian Jews and led them to a square in the city of Plovdiv. But the Bulgarian Orthodox Church stepped in to stop their deportation. In this great act of courage, supported by the majority of society from intellectuals to average citizens, an estimated 48,000 Bulgarian Jews were saved from deportation.

But for more than 11,000 Jews living in the Bulgarian-occupied territories in northern Greece, Serbia and Macedonia, it was too late: they had already been put on cattle trains and ships, to be murdered in the gas chambers of Treblinka.

75 years on, no forgetting

Lukov was one of Hitler's willing helpers. Seventy-five years after his death, his hateful messages are still promoted, and every year on the anniversary of February 13, 1943 assassination, ultra-nationalists, fascists and neo-Nazis take to the streets to honour his despicable legacy.

The Bulgarian government's calls to ban this march as a threat to public order repeatedly fall on deaf ears, and across Europe, we see similar far-right marches continue unhindered.

This year, we must put a stop to this phenomenon. We cannot stand by in silence as neo-Nazis and anti-Semites march through the streets of Sofia or any other city, in the same dangerous manifestation of the very anti-Semitic ideology that brought about the near destruction of European Jewry.

Last month, Bulgaria assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. In this position of great responsibility, it must uphold the values of the European Union, including those of tolerance and the rejection of extremism and anti-Semitism.

Bulgaria has made welcome and positive efforts recently to combat anti-Semitic demonstrations. This Friday, I am going to meet with Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov in Sofia to hand over the petition.

I will urge him and his government to stand firm in their opposition to the glorification of Nazi ideology and the intimidation of minorities.

Moreover, we call on other European government to join in this critical movement and unite in ensuring the security and well-being of all citizens.

Across the globe this month, millions of people - including Pope Francis and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres - joined the World Jewish Congress' #WeRemember campaign, a social media initiative aimed at combating anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred, genocide and xenophobia.

We owe it to all the victims of the Nazi killing machine, in Bulgaria and elsewhere, to ensure that they are remembered.

We owe it to all righteous Bulgarians and others who so courageously saved so many Jews from certain death to remember them as well.

We must remember because the survivors among us are dwindling, and their lives and stories will soon be just recent memory.

We must remember because if we don't, it could happen again.

Robert Singer is executive vice-president and CEO of the World Jewish Congress

Bulgaria's corruption problem mars EU presidency start

A dispute between the government and the president over an anti-corruption law has put the spotlight on one of the Bulgaria's main problems - just as it is trying to showcase its economic and social progress.

Left flirting with antisemitism in EU parliament

It is outrageous that Leila Khaled, a member of a group listed by the EU as a terrorist organisation, was given a platform in the EU parliament, a body representing democracy and peaceful cooperation.

News in Brief

  1. Austria ex-chancellor hints at running for Juncker's job
  2. Greece to move asylum-seekers from overcrowded Lesbos camp
  3. Transatlantic soya trade soars due to trade wars
  4. EU tables strategy for connecting Europe and Asia
  5. Bulgaria backs Hungary in dispute with EU
  6. Trump urged Spain to build Sahara wall to stop migrants
  7. EU-Arab League summit proposed for February in Egypt
  8. Stop 'migration blame-game', Tusk tells EU leaders

Will the centre-right stand up for EU values?

Time for Christian Democrats in the EP to show where they stand on Hungary and on the EU's founding principles, say Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in a joint text.

Europe needs more modern leadership

If Europe wants to be a global leader, our political leadership has to change dramatically. Power needs a new face in Europe, and it needs to get legitimacy from the people, argues liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  4. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  5. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  6. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  7. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  8. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  9. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  10. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  12. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want

Latest News

  1. Rejected applicants for EU training return to Libya coast guard
  2. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner
  3. EU mulls action to prevent cattle suffering at Turkish border
  4. Safeguarding Schengen at Salzburg
  5. Denmark's image 'damaged' by bank scandal
  6. Real Brexit progress needed by October, Barnier says
  7. Poland to face EU top court on rule of law
  8. Austria's EU presidency: a bridge over troubled water?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  4. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  5. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  8. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  10. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us