SOFIA, Bulgaria – Bulgarians on Sunday commemorated public protests that led to the rescue of more than 48,000 Jewish countrymen from deportation to Nazi death camps.
Ceremonies across the country Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of protests by Bulgarian clergymen, intellectuals, politicians and others that ultimately stopped the Nazis from deporting any Jews from Bulgaria.
Though an ally of Germany during the war, Bulgaria was the only Eastern European country that saved its Jews from the Holocaust. This act of salvation is a unique chapter in the history of the Holocaust, but its full story remained largely unknown until the fall of communism in Bulgaria in 1989.
But Parliament admitted for the first time on Friday that Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps from areas under Bulgarian control during World War II.
"The objective evaluation of the historic events cannot ignore the fact that 11,343 Jews were deported from northern Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, then under German jurisdiction," legislators said in a declaration and expressed regrets that "the local Bulgarian administration had not been in a position to stop this act."
The Shalom Organization of Jews in Bulgaria had repeatedly demanded the state to take responsibility for the deportations.
"The Bulgarian government must assume the moral responsibility for the Nazi death camp deportation of ethnic Jews from the regions of Thrace and Macedonia regardless of the fact that Bulgaria saved its almost 50,000 Jews," the group's chairman, Maxim Benvenisti, told The Associated Press before the declaration.
Later Sunday, Shalom will unveil a memorial sign near parliament for the deported Jews, after which a solemn ceremony will be held at the Sofia Synagogue.