During the commemoration of the Holocaust of Balkan Jews in Sofia, two separate events were held. During the larger one, Bulgarian politicians and guests from Israel held a somber ceremony, during which the effort of Bulgaria to resist deporting most of its Jews were lauded, but it was also remembered how the Jews from the modern day Republic of Macedonia, parts of Thrace and the now Serbian Pirot county, which were then held by Bulgaria, were deported to near certain death.

The smaller event, though, included commentators such as journalist Ivo Ivanov and Spas Tasev, who insisted that respect must be paid to King Boris III, Bishop Stefan and Minister Dimitar Pesev for their role in rejecting the Nazi German request to deport Jews from Bulgaria proper. In his remarks, Ivanov insisted that Bulgaria had not occupied the Republic of Macedonia and parts of Greek Thrace but was merely “administering” them and therefore should bear no blame for the deportations of some 11.000 Jews that did take place. Ivo Ivanov went as far as to claim that material evidence about the role of the Bulgarian army in the deportation of the Jews in March 1943 were fabricated.

There is proof that in the 1970ies, German manipulators were visiting the Sofia archives and were forging photographs about this alleged ‘deportation’ of Jews from White Sea Thrace and Vardar Macedonia, in order to ‘prove’ some alleged Bulgarian fault in the non-saving of the 11.000 Jews. Nobody wants to reveal the original photographs! You can see German trains with the letters BDZ (Bulgarian railways) inscribed onto them in photographic laboratories, Ivanov said.

The journalist blamed former Bulgarian President Zelu Zelev of accepting this evidence as factual and promoting the narrative that Bulgaria bears blame for the deportations.

In the past, Bulgarian officials would also react angrily when on the Macedonian side it would be pointed out that the Jews from Skopje, Bitola and Stip were deported by the Bulgarian army. Bulgaria wants to promote the story of the heroic refusal to deport the Jews from Bulgaria proper, while the deportations that were carried out are described in passive terms, or “failure to rescue”. Bulgaria was part of the Axis for most of the war, and switched sides as the German defeat became inevitable.