Stop Lukov Neo-Nazi March in Sofia, Bulgaria!

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The global Jewish community stands with the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria in calling on the national and municipal authorities to impose an effective ban on plans to hold a "Lukov March" in the capital city Sofia in February 2018.

First held in Sofia, the "Lukov March" is organised by far-right grouping in honour of Hristo Lukov, who during WWII was leader of the Union of Bulgarian National Legions, a pro-Nazi organisation that - among other things – overtly supported the Defence of the Nation Act that came into effect in Bulgaria in January 1941.

This anti-Semitic legislation, modelled on Nuremberg laws of Hitler's Germany, deprived Jews in Bulgaria of the spectrum of civil rights, and runs counter to Bulgaria's constitution and its traditions of ethnic tolerance. The legislation was part of the state-sanctioned policy of the time that not only humiliated Jews, but caused untold financial and economic damage to the community by depriving its members of the right to earn a livelihood. A punitive tax on Jews, and the imposition of forced labour on male Jews in camps where conditions were dire soon followed. It was these inhumane and abusive measures that Lukov, who had considerable influence on the regime of the time, enthusiastically supported.

The anti-Semitism embodied by Lukov and his ilk was the antithesis of that bright moment in Bulgaria's history when, led by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, political leaders, and the majority of society – from intellectuals to ordinary people – led a campaign which succeeded to prevent the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to the death camps. However, at the same time, the regime that Lukov supported the deportation of 11,343 Jews from territories in northern Greece and Yugoslavia to meet their deaths in Treblinka.

For the first half of 2018, Bulgaria will hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. In this position, the nation of Bulgaria will be looked to for leadership and to uphold the shared values of the European Union, including those of tolerance and the rejection of extremism and anti-Semitism.

It would be anomalous for the country at the helm of the EU to permit a parade of torchlight-wielding, dark-clad supporters of a man and an ideology that epitomised the darkest period of 20th century.

Now, in the 21st century, when intolerance including anti-Semitism is again on the rise in Europe, this continent and its countries and capitals cannot afford displays that echo those disastrous times.

Administrative action against the Lukov March must go further than the mere announcement of withdrawal of permission for the event, while in effect allowing it to proceed. There must be no room on the streets of a European capital for a parade that worships a man and an age that represented this most sinister part of our history.

In the context of Bulgarian and of European history, permitting the "Lukov March" would be an abomination.



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