We offer you the first issue of the newsletter on Anti-Semitic acts in Bulgaria.
The newsletter’s format was chosen to stay clear of emotionally coloured
evaluations and analyses which are not helpful for following, recording and reacting
to Anti-Semitic phenomena. The newsletter presents concrete and easily available
information on the “banal”evil – Anti-Semitism in Bulgaria during the last two years.
It was conceived and accomplished as chronology of events. The choice of the
last two years was determined by the period of existence of an organized Anti-
Semitic acts monitoring system. Why was it necessary to build up such a system
now, is another subject but what you have here is the result of its operation.
We would not rush to a hasty assessment of what is happening as it might
be wrong but we should strike an alarm bell. Because, in the conditions of an
economic and spiritual crisis when some circles in “old” Europe” are beginning
to export xenophobia and Anti-Semitism, and the world is becoming increasingly
intolerant to those who are different in terms of religion, ethnicity and even way
of life, there is a danger for our country to mar and even lose its reputation of an
ethnically and religiously tolerant country.
A lot has been written about the traditional friendship between Bulgarians and
Jews and that is true. A lot has been said about the remarkable rescue of Bulgarian
Jews from death during the Holocaust. The stories of those events reveal the deep
gratitude of Jews for those Bulgarians who stretched a helping hand, often at the
risk of their own wellbeing, to save their Jewish compatriots. We thank G-d that
those Bulgarians were the majority of the Bulgarian people.
Very little was written about Anti-Semitism in Bulgaria during the last 130 years.
Anti-Semitism in Bulgarian lands in more recent times had, blessedly, a modest
history. It recorded the pogroms against Jewish shops in Karlovo at the close of the
19th century; the attempts of individual lumpen elements to instigate persecution
of Jews on accusations that they used Christian blood for preparation of matsot
for PESACH; the active publishing activities of the “patriotic” organizations of
“Ratnik”, “Bulgarian National Legions”, “Father Paisiy” etc. in disseminating Anti-
Semitic literature in Bulgaria. Anti-Semitism in Bulgaria reached its apogee with
the anti-Jewish legislation, passed and enacted in the country in 1940-1944 which
resulted in looting and humiliating 50 000 Bulgarian Jews and dispatching 11 343
Jews from Thrace, Macedonia and Pirot to Nazi death-camps in 1943. With the
political changes after 9th September, 1944, Anti-Semitism decreased temporarily
but reappeared in new forms during the “struggle against cosmopolitism” and the
“doctors’ plot” in the Soviet Union in 1949-1953. Later on, some sporadic Anti-
Semitic acts and activities took place under the guise of “struggle against Zionism”
which disturbed the normal life of those 5000 Jews who remained in Bulgaria.
Nowadays, Anti-Semitism is not a state policy in Bulgaria and is not supported
by the majority of public forces. It spreads out under the influence of outside
factors; as a result of some lapses in the legislation and as part of the political
activity of extreme nationalistic, anti-NATO circles. The best thing in this sad
review of Anti-Semitic acts in Bulgaria is that most Bulgarians have never shared
Anti-Semitism as a political belief and have had and still have a negative attitude
to this shameful phenomenon. But doesn’t hate of those who are different have a
future in our country?
This newsletter mirrors the Bulgarian Jewish community’s concern not only
and not that much for its own fate but mostly for “the health” of the Bulgarian
society which has never encouraged fanatics and extremists. We are hopeful that
the society has a vigilant civil conscience as it had at the time of the rescue of
Bulgarian Jews back in 1940-1944. The millions of people conscience and ethics
are the key to the survival of our world.
Our thanks go to those who accomplished this newsletter and are the driving
force of the Anti-Semitic acts in Bulgaria monitoring system – Victor Melamed,
Annie Avtova and Pepa Ilieva. I would also like to express appreciation of the help
provided by our partner, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJJDC),
the Anti-Defamation League (ADL, New York), American Jewish Committee
(AJC) and the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, Israel which we
consulted in establishing the Anti-Semitism in Bulgaria monitoring system and
preparing this publication.
President of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria