It is with the greatest sadness that the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) commemorates the 74th anniversary of the deportation of nearly all of Macedonia’s Jewish community during World War II by Bulgaria.
UMD calls on the Bulgarian government to recognise that, as a result of Bulgaria’s collaboration with Nazi Germany, 7,144 Macedonian Jews were deported to Treblinka, a Nazi extermination camp in occupied Poland. UMD calls on the current Bulgarian government to issue a long overdue apology.
On March 11, 1943, Bulgarian armed forces arrested Jews of Bitola and Stip and transported them to Skopje’s Monopol tobacco factory, where they were incarcerated along with Skopje’s Jews, for deportation to the Treblinka camp. For the Macedonian Jews crowded into this building, food was scarce and violence was frequent at the hands of the Bulgarian guards. Following a series of deportations starting on March 22, the Bulgarians handed over Macedonian Jews to the Nazis, and nearly all of them were murdered in gas chambers upon their arrival to Treblinka. As a result, the Macedonian Jewish community consisted of only about 50 survivors by the end of the war.
Although Macedonia’s current Jewish population is small, at only around 200 members, the group continues to work to revive Jewish traditions and to preserve their identity. The Macedonian government has worked to ensure that the history of the Macedonian Jews is never forgotten, opening the Holocaust Memorial Center in March 2011 – one of the largest Holocaust memorials and museums in the world.
UMD believes enough is enough. Bulgaria may join the rest of the world in shouting “Never Again”, but it does so on a false moral pretense. It uses its protection of Bulgarian Jews to eclipse its complicity in Macedonia. Bulgaria needs to be held accountable for its actions and atone for its history.