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Bulgaria Expresses 'Regret' For Holocaust Deportation Of Jews

For the first time, the Bulgarian National Assembly is expressing "regret" for deporting more than 11,000 Jews to German death camps.

The declaration passed today is truly bitter sweet, because while it calls the deportations a "criminal act," it also praises Bulgarian citizens and politicians for saving more than 48,000 Jews during the Holocaust.

The BBC explains:

"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."

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that earlier this week, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and Israeli President Shimon Peres opened a related exhibition of of archival materials at the European Parliament in Brussels. The exhibit is titled "Tough choices that make a difference: The fate of the Bulgarian Jews."

The National Assembly passed the declaration ahead of the 70th anniversary of the start of the deportations.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.