Friday

19th Jul 2019

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

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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.

Six takeaways on digital disinformation at EU elections

For example, Germany's primetime TV news reported that 47 percent of political social media discussions were related to the extreme-right AfD party, when in fact this was the case only for Twitter - used by only four percent of Germans.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. EU goes on holiday as new UK PM arrives This WEEK
  2. Survey: Half of EU staff 'don't know' ethics rules
  3. Von der Leyen signals soft touch on migrants, rule of law
  4. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  5. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  6. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  7. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  8. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us