Bulgaria regrets failing to save thousands of Jews in WWII

Nazi deportation of Jews - file pic
Image caption The Nazis rounded up Jews in the Balkans and sent them to death camps

Bulgaria has expressed regret that more than 11,000 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps from areas under Bulgarian control during World War II.

A Bulgarian parliament declaration did however praise Bulgarians for having blocked the deportation of more than 48,000 Jews during the war.

It said it could "not be disputed that 11,343 Jews were deported from northern Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia".

Most Jews sent to the Nazi German death camps in Poland died.

Referring to the 11,343 deported, the MPs' declaration said "we denounce this criminal act, undertaken by Hitler's command, and express our regrets for the fact that the local Bulgarian administration had not been in a position to stop this act".

Only a few hundred of those deportees survived, Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Centre says.

Yad Vashem lists 20 Bulgarians among its "Righteous Among the Nations" - individuals who acted to protect Jews from the Holocaust.

Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany during the war, when Jews were deported en masse from the Nazi-occupied Balkans to death camps such as Auschwitz.

In 1943, German forces took 8,500 Jews to a square in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv in preparation for deportation to death camps in Poland. But they gave up their plans following protests from ordinary Bulgarians, Christian clergymen, politicians and King Boris III.

The Bulgarian MPs on Friday praised the stand taken by Bulgarians against the deportations, saying Jews had been saved by being given Bulgarian citizenship or visas to Palestine issued by Bulgarian diplomats.

On 13 March a joint commemoration in honour of Holocaust victims will be held by Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece in Lom, northern Bulgaria. The Nazi deportations of Jews from the region began in Lom in 1943.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum says that "Jews of Bulgarian citizenship were relatively secure from deportation to German-held territory".

But the museum adds that all Bulgarian Jewish men between the ages of 20 and 40 were drafted for forced labour after 1941, and in 1943 the Bulgarian government expelled 20,000 Jews from the capital, Sofia, to the provinces.

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