Around 300 right-wing extremists stormed Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, in a march made in honor of a pro-Nazi Bulgarian general who was known to have helped proliferate the anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish campaign during the Second World War.
Robert Djerassi who sits as the president of the Central Israelite Religious Council, informed the press from Sofia that Mayor Yordanka Fandakova have issued a statement outlawing the march. However, the organizers of the march changed their original plans and proceeded to march via a different route in a rally honoring General Hristo Lukov.
Members of an anti-fascist movement assassinated the general in 1943. For the neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists in Bulgaria, Gen. Lukov remains a hero and an icon. One of the assassins was identified as a female Jewish partisan resistance fighter.
“Lukov [march] is a manifestation of a nationalist group of Bulgarians. He was very close to the Nazi government and providing the Nazi policy in Bulgaria,” Djerassi said.
Lukov was responsible for the creation of the Bulgarian National Legions which “fought against Jews, destroyed their shops.”
The pro-Lukov rally of this year was not the first. Similar marches have been reportedly taking place every year since the year 2003. Djerassi also said that the marchers number around 2,000 bearing torches and donning uniforms of the Bulgarian National Legions.
The pro-Lukov march was immediately met a few days after with a counter-protest.
“We protest this every year, with other religious organizations,” said Djerassi.
He further noted that they have gathered around 150 demonstrators against the march for Lukov. Shalom, the organization of Jews in Bulgaria, issued a declaration against the march.
The declaration read, “The annual reminder of the political role of Gen. Hristo Lukov is a demonstration and propaganda of pro-Nazi and xenophobic ideas desecrating the memory of millions of victims of the Holocaust and representing a denial of the repression and humiliation faced by the Bulgarian Jews during the implementation of the anti-Jewish laws in the Kingdom of Bulgaria in the period 1941-1944. As a leader of the legionaries, Gen. Hristo Lukov is one of those people responsible for this suffering and humiliation.”
The declaration further stated that Shalom “opposes the holding of the Lukov March, since it legitimizes publicly the neo-Nazi ideology in Bulgaria, revives slogans and political programs from the fascist past, and attempts to rewrite the history of World War II in Bulgaria.”
Various groups coming from different spectrum came forward with their signatures to support the declaration. Among these is the Grand Mufti’s Office of Muslim Denomination of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Roma Public Council Kupate, the National Council of Religious Denominations in Bulgaria and the Ronald Lauder Foundation in Bulgaria — all of which are big organizations in the country.
Only last year, an extremist right-wing party, Ataka, was able to penetrate Bulgaria’s parliament garnering enough votes to gain seats.
Dr. Elena Zaharieva, an expert on xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Bulgaria, noted in her essay published this year that “in total Ataka and other far-right formations received 12.9% of the votes (equal to 456,453 votes) in the May 2013 elections.
Ataka itself got 7.3%, i.e. 258,581 votes. Ataka is a fiercely anti-Western party, whose name was taken from Goebbels’s Nazi newspaper Der Angriff (The Attack). Ataka, which appeared to be well funded ever since its creation in 2005, started in the fall of 2013 a massive campaign.”
The essay was published on a website of The Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. The center is headed by Dr. Clemens Heni who is also an expert on European anti-Semitism and who is based in Berlin.
The Jerusalem Post reports that Dr. Zaharieva further commented in the essay that Volen Siderov who heads the Ataka is an “outspoken anti-Semite.”
She further stated, “Hundreds of billboards in the capital and elsewhere around the country advertise Ataka’s TV channel Alfa as ‘the channel of truth.’ Ataka’s newspaper is being distributed free of charge in metro stations.”
Further, she wrote, “Even though every Bulgarian sees Siderov’s huge face on billboards a dozen times every day, not many have seen his photo in the company of Holocaust denier and bin Laden admirer Ahmed Rami and David Duke from the Ku Klux Klan, taken at the ‘revisionist’ conference in Russia in 2002, where Siderov gave a lecture.”