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February 14, 2018 1:20 pm

Jewish Organizations Join Call to Ban Upcoming Neo-Nazi March in Bulgaria

avatar by Ben Cohen

Neo-Nazis dressed in paramilitary uniforms participating in the annual Lukov March in Sofia. Photo: Reuters/Pierre Marsaut.

International Jewish advocacy organizations have joined a chorus of protest against a planned march by neo-Nazis in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Saturday.

Hundreds of neo-Nazi and white supremacist activists from across Europe are expected to attend Saturday’s annual “Lukov March” – a torchlit parade that honors the late Bulgarian War Minister Gen. Hristo Lukov, a collaborator with the Nazi regime who was assassinated by Communist partisans in February 1943.

Held since 2003, this year’s march has taken on greater significance because it takes place just a few weeks before ceremonies honoring the 48,000 Jews in Bulgaria who were saved from the Nazis during the Holocaust. More than 175,000 people have signed a petition to the Bulgarian government organized by the World Jewish Congress urging that the march be banned.

A statement on Wednesday from B’nai B’rith International accused the march organizers of “spreading xenophobia and intolerance in Bulgaria.”

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“For the past two years the march was technically banned, however it was allowed to continue nonetheless without police intervention,” the statement noted. “The rally brings together neo-Nazis and other extremists united in hatred. Such blatant public displays of anti-Semitism and xenophobia must not be ignored.”

The founder of the pro-Nazi Union of Bulgarian National Legions, Lukov developed close ties with Hitler’s regime during his tenure as the country’s war minister. After retiring from that position in 1938, he became an influential advocate of antisemitic legislation targeting Bulgaria’s Jews, later advocating their mass deportation. While the Jewish population in Bulgaria itself was spared deportation as a result of the intervention of King Boris III in March 1943 – one month after Lukov’s assassination – more than 11,000 Jews under Bulgarian occupation in Greece and what is now the Republic of Macedonia were sent to their deaths.

Saturday’s march has been called by the far-right Bulgarian National Union, which regards itself as Lukov’s inheritor. Representatives of other Bulgarian far-right organizations, a leader of the German Neo-Nazi organization Die Rechte, and neo-Nazis from Russia and Sweden are also expected to attend.

The march has drawn widespread condemnation from within Bulgaria, including from the main governing party GERB; the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party; Georg Georgiev, Bulgaria’s National Coordinator for the Fight against Antisemitism; and the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom.”

An attempt by Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandukova to ban the march or restrict its route was overturned by the Supreme Administrative Court. The march goes through the center of the Bulgarian capital, stopping to pay tribute at Lukov’s former home.

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