March 11th, 2021 marks 78 years since the deportation of 98% of Macedonia’s Jews to a Nazi extermination camp.
The Bulgarian pro-Nazi army forcibly evicted 7,144 Jews from their homes in Skopje, Bitola, and Shtip in 1943 and sent them to the Tobacco Factory transit camp in Skopje, from where they were dispatched to Treblinka. There were no survivors.
This is a harrowing part of Macedonian history that should never be forgotten.
The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) calls on the current Bulgarian government to formally acknowledge the role that Bulgaria played during its Second World War occupation of Macedonia, and to provide its official apology both to the Jewish people and to Macedonia.
In an open letter to Bulgaria in December 2020, Macedonia’s Jewish community said:
“We publicly call on the Government (or the officially elected political authorities – Prime Minister, President, Speaker of Parliament) of the Republic of Bulgaria to face the truth about the Holocaust against the Jews in the occupied territories for which the pro-Nazi government in the Kingdom of Bulgaria at that time was directly responsible and to apologize and accept responsibility.
“The sooner the Democratic Republic of Bulgaria faces the painful and dark moments of its past, a reconciliation will be possible because the denial of crimes is the first step towards their repetition.”
The Macedonian government has made great strides in preserving the history of the Macedonian Jews by the opening of the Holocaust Memorial Center in March 2011, one of the largest Holocaust memorials and museums in the world.
UMD and The Holocaust Fund of Macedonia launched a strategic partnership and a joint Holocaust Memory Initiative in 2018, with the aim of protecting and promoting the traditions and cultures of the Macedonian Jewish community.
A significant step towards facing up to its pro-Nazi past is for Bulgaria’s current leaders to express their deep shame for the atrocities committed, and to recognize the lessons learned from them. A formal apology, after 78 years, is well due.