Some 1,500 Nazis marched the streets of Sofia today, on February 17th, 2018, in order to honor Hristo Lukov, a notorious antisemite and ardent worshipper of Nazi Germany, who was shot in 1943.
Next to Sofia’s famous Aleksandar Nevski Cathedral, the most recognizable building in the Bulgarian capital, they lit torches. One drum was dictating the pace, just like in an army. The procession was led by a young woman who held a photograph of Lukov.
Swedish and German groups joined the Bulgarian participants. One German Nazi told Magazine79, he was part of a group of about 100 people, who flew to Sofia from the city of Dortmund, in order to be part of the march. Many of the Germans were holding the so-called “Reichsflagge”, a flag in black, white and red, which was used by the Third Reich.
Before the actual march commenced, a German Nazi held a speech, which was translated word by word. He actually said, “the belief in our blood has brought us together before”, obviously referring to Germany under Hitler, in which the “Aryan race” was worshipped, while millions of Jews, and tens of thousands of Gypsies and others were murdered.
“The European Union is a jail in which profits are being generated for the parasites of the world”, the German speaker said. Goebbels and other leading Nazis were known for very similar speeches, including the wording.
A war hero from World War I would be honored, the Bulgarian organizers of the torch procession had said. The speeches held sounded very much like they were worshipping Lukov because of his antisemitic views and actions. But this was known anyway.
The Nazis marched from Sveta Nedelya Square in the center of Sofia to Nevski Cathedral, Nevski Square, and Hristo Lukov’s birth place. Hundreds of police officers were present, in order to make sure the situation would not escalate.
At the end of the march, the participants were scheduled to visit Lukov’s former home, located close to Sofia’s city center. This event produced a ghostly atmosphere in Sofia. That many Nazis in one place also looked scary.
In the evening, the U.S. Embassy in released a statement saying it was “saddened and troubled to see the display of intolerance represented by the Lukov March. General Hristo Lukov was a Nazi supporter who promoted hate and injustice, and is not someone deserving of veneration.”
A few hours before the Nazi march, some 150 to 200 people joined a protest event against Lukov March, in front of Sofia’s Central Bath. This event had been organized by the antifascist group “Antifa Bulgaria” and included mostly people in their twenties.
Many wore black and hid their faces with scarfs. Members of the Bulgarian LGBT community took part as well. So did about seven to eight German citizens. Five of them had traveled all the way to Sofia for this small anti-Nazi event. One young woman was visiting her friend who lives in Bulgaria.
Today’s big Nazi event had been preceded by big discussions and efforts to stop Lukov March from going ahead. In October, Shalom, the organization for the Jews in Bulgaria, had released a declaration against the march. “There must be no room on the streets of a European capital for a parade that worships a man and an age that represented this most sinister part of our history”, it read.
At the beginning of February, the Chief Executive Officer of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Robert Singer was in Sofia. Along with Shalom’s President Alexander Oscar, he spoke to Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva, asking them to take action against the big Nazi march.
Yesterday, Singer sent out a WJC statement, saying this: “As tomorrow approaches, we stand with the Bulgarian Jewish community and all Jewish communities worldwide under similar threats.”
Moderates in the Bulgarian government, including Minister Zaharieva and Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev, have condemned the Lukov March. So have foreign diplomats, including the Israeli Ambassador to Bulgaria, Irit Lillian, and U.S. Ambassador Eric Rubin.
On January 26, the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Minister Zaharieva had said Bulgaria needed to show the young generation “that the Bulgarian people has traditionally been tolerant and peaceful. The Bulgarians could and did co-exist with people of different religions, or those who were different otherwise.”
Last Thursday, a conference entitled “Sofia Says No to Hate Speech” took place at Sofia University. During the event organized by the NGO Marginalia, speakers demanded action against hatred and hate speech. In a pre-recorded video message to the participants, the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder said, there was “nothing more important right now than the fight against the rising tide of antisemitism.”
Ambassador Lillian said at the conference, even though Lukov had been seen as a war hero during World War I, he had spread the message of racism and antisemitism. “It is for those ideas that these people will be marching for him”.
This year’s Lukov March coincides with the 75th anniversary of the events in 1943, when the Jews of Bulgaria proper were saved, thanks to the courage and efforts of non-Jewish Bulgarians, including Orthodox Christian priests, while more than 11,000 Jews from Thrace and Macedonia were deported and murdered by Nazi Germany.
Bulgaria’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union started in January. Therefore the world is looking at Bulgaria more closely than it usually does. Observers believe today’s Nazi event may have damaged the country’s reputation further.