Bulgaria Admits Failing to Save Thousands of Jews
Bulgaria's parliament for the first time admitted Friday it failed to save over 11,000 Jews from territories under its control as it commemorated the start of deportations 70 years ago.
Bulgaria, an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II "refused the deportation of over 48,000 Jews -- Bulgarian citizens -- to the death camps," parliament said in a declaration, according to the AFP news agency.
"An objective assessment of the historical events cannot however reject the fact that 11,343 Jews were deported from northern Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia that were under German jurisdiction at the time," it added.
"While condemning this criminal act, undertaken by the Hitlerist command, we express regret that it was not in the capabilities of the local Bulgarian administration to prevent it," parliament said, according to AFP.
Bulgaria has prided itself on being the only ally of Nazi Germany to save its Jewish population.
However, despite pressure from historians, officials have, thus far, carefully avoided any mention that Bulgaria deported Jews from the territories it administered in what are now Greece and Macedonia.
The issue had fuelled tensions in the Macedonian and Bulgarian media.
Bulgaria will honor for the first time the memory of all those who were deported, at a ceremony on Wednesday in the northern town of Lom, where the first deportations -- of non-Bulgarian Jews -- took place on March 13, 1943, the foreign ministry said.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov is due to attend together with Macedonian and Greek officials.
Israel has always honored Bulgaria as a Jewish savior and the two countries have launched a series of joint events to mark the anniversary.
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres opened Wednesday an exhibition of archive documents and pictures, called "Tough choices that make a difference: The fate of the Bulgarian Jews," at the European Parliament in Brussels.
A plaque commemorating the 11,343 victims will be inaugurated on Sunday in Sofia, followed by an official ceremony at the central synagogue and a classical music concert of Bulgarian and Israeli performers.