Over 1,500 people participated in the ‘Together for Bulgaria, together for Europe’ march of tolerance and unity took in Sofia last Sunday.
World Jewish Congress president Ronald S. Lauder travelled to the capital city to show solidarity with Bulgarian Jews.
The march took place on the 76th anniversary of the rescue of Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust.
The rally was a response to the torch-lit neo-Nazi Lukov parade last month honouring a Nazi collaborator who sent 11,300 Jews to deaths in Treblinka despite government opposition.
“We have sent a clear message to those participating in the Lukov March, we have said no to modern day Nazis, no to hatred and no to divisions in our society,” commented Lauder.
WJC joined affiliate Organistion for Jews in Bulgaria Shalom for the march which began at the City Squaren and culminated with a flower-laying ceremony at the Monument of Gratitude, which recognises the rescue of Bulgarian Jews.
Bulgarian officials included Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva, Speaker of Parliament Tsveta Karayancheva, Chairman of GERB Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova.
Dr. Alexander Oscar, President of the Bulgaria Shalom and WJC CEO Robert Singer also participated with ambassadors from the United States, Israel, Germany and United Kingdom.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev awarded Lauder with the Stara Planina Order 1st Degree, the highest honour for a non-Bulgarian citizen.
intolerance, opposition to xenophobia and discrimination, and increased cooperation with Bulgarian institutions on anti-Semitism and hate speech.
He added, “The salvation of Bulgarian Jews is not only a historical event but an inspiring example for today and tomorrow.”
Lauder praised the Bulgarian people for standing up to Nazis during World War Two and rise of neo-Nazis.
“Once again today, you showed the entire world that courage, moral clarity, and decency begin right here in Sofia,” he said. “The Bulgarian people along with their leaders have stood together.
“We will not tolerate anti-Semitism or hatred of any kind.
“President Radev and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov have been responsive to any kind of anti-Jewish hatred, setting an example for all world leaders.”
Lauder thanked NGOs across Bulgarian civil society who have signed the Memorandum to Fight Hate speech in Bulgaria.
He added, “The future lies with tolerance, good neighbours and everyone working together to build a better world for our children. Hate will not be part of our future. Intolerance will not be part of it. “Bulgaria reminds us that we must never be silent in the face of evil, it takes courage to stand up to evil and a small country can tower over others. Let the world use Bulgaria as its model.”
Dr Alexander Oscar, Bulgaria Shalom president, commented: “The Sofia municipality and government of Bulgaria have sent an important message to the world that hatred and manifestations of anti-Semitism have no place in this country.
“We are both encouraged by the unbelievably strong show of support given by thousands of Bulgarian citizens who took part in this march, making it clear that while neo-Nazis may be gaining steam across Europe, unity and tolerance will always be the way of life here in Bulgaria.
“Today is a day to remember the responsibility we bear to never stand still when other people are trying to destroy the world we are living in.”
By Leah Waxler