Bulgaria

1 Recognition of the Genocide

1.1 Recognition, official texts

In Bulgaria, the Holocaust is recognised; however, there is no information whether the Roma are recognised or not as victims of the Genocide.

In Bulgaria, the 10th March has been designated as the “Day of the Holocaust and Rescue of the Bulgarian Jews”, also known as the Day of Holocaust Victims. This date was appointed by the Council of Ministers in its Decision No. 5 from February 2003 as the “Day of the Salvation of the Bulgarian Jews and of the Victims of the Holocaust and of the Crimes against Humanity” which is also known as the “Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and of the Victims of Crimes against Humanity”.

The date marks the anniversary of the day in 1943 when Dimar Peshev, the Deputy Speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly together with Metropolitan Bishop Stephan of Sofia, Metropolitan Bishop Cyril of Plovdiv as well as many other prominent public figures and with the support of members of the general population, prevented the planned deportation of 50 000 Bulgarian citizens of Jewish origin to the Nazi concentration camps. The day was first marked with an official commemoration in 2002. (See “CAHROM (2013)15 Overview on the Recognition of the Genocide of Roma and Sinti (Pharrajimos / Samudaripen) during World War II and on Related Remembrance Days in member States of the Council of Europe”, page 6)

1.2 Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)

Traditionally, the 10th March commemorative event is held in front of a plaque dedicated to the memory of Dimar Peshev, located near the National Assembly building.

During the Second World War, as an ally of Germany, Bulgaria introduced restrictive laws against the Roma. They were denied access to the central parts of Sofia, forbidden to use public transportation and were given smaller food rations than the rest of the population. In some areas, they were forcibly converted to Christianity (Marushiakova et al., 1993: 87). Roma were forced to work for the state, and marriages between Bulgarians and Roma were outlawed in 1942 (Kenrick and Puxon, 1998: 99). Although Bulgarian Roma, together with Bulgarian Jews, were put in camps in Bulgaria, neither of them were deported to concentration camps in Germany. According to the German Ambassador to Bulgaria in former times, “Bulgarians had grown up with Armenians, Greeks and Gypsies…,” and “they had no innate prejudice against the Jews” (Kenrick and Puxon, 1998: 100; Crowe, 1996: 19). The Jews and Roma who lived in territories occupied by Bulgaria, however, were sent to concentration camps. Still, Roma death rate in Bulgaria during the war was one of the lowest in Europe (Crowe, 1996: 19). These processes continued after 9th September 1944 when the Roma became the targets of purposeful, though rather inconsistent or formal, state policy.

1.3 Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue

According to the available information, there is no specialised institution, commission or research centre specifically dealing with the issue of the Genocide of the Roma.

Bulgaria participates in the “Decade of Roma Inclusion”, an international initiative to improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of Roma, like eight other governments committing themselves to "work toward eliminating discrimination and closing the unacceptable gaps between Roma and the rest of society".

The rights of the Roma people in the country are also represented by various political parties - most notably the "Graždansko Obedinenie 'Roma'" (Civil Union "Roma") - and cultural organisations.

The National Council for cooperation on Ethnic and Demographic Issues (NCCEDI)
Maya Cholakova, Ph. D.
Telephone: +359 2 940 20 15
E-mail: m.cholakova@government.bg
 
Roma Bureau - Sofia Foundation
96, Alexander Stamboliiski Blvd., fl. 2,
Sofia
Bulgaria
Telephone: +359 2 222105
Fax: +359 2 9201574
E-mail: rromabiuro@tt.m.bg
Contact: Rumyana Trayanova Asenova
 
Roma-93 Foundation
2, Petar Beron St.
5200 Pavlikeni
Bulgaria
Telephone: +359 610 2632
Fax: +359 610 2632
Contact: Sabi Kostadinov Atanasov
 
ROM – Foundation ROM in Lom
Contact: Niki Kirilov
 
Advancement Roma Foundation
34, Buzludzha St.
Pazardzhik
Bulgaria
Telephone: +359 34 82907
Fax: + 359 34 82907
Contact: Plamen Stoyanov Tsankov
 
Integrated Roma Union
5, Nikola Karev St.
Sliven
Bulgaria
Telephone: +359 44 23067
Fax: +359 44 36701
Contact: Petya Peeva Dimitrova
 
Association of Roma Women and Children
12 Malina St.
Plovdiv 4000
Bulgaria
Telephone: +359 32 622322
Fax: +359 32 273678
E-mail: romafon@plovdiv.techno-linc.co
Contact: Penka Karagyozova
 
Foundation for Regional Development ROMA - Plovdiv
Project Manager: Asen Antonov Karagyozov
12 Malina St.
Plovdiv 4000
Bulgaria
Telephone: +359 32 622 322
Fax: +359 32 273 678
E-mail: foundationroma@romavideodrom.net

1.4 Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)

In Bulgaria, the 10th of March has been designated as the “Day of the Holocaust and Saving of the Bulgarian Jews” (known also as the Day of Holocaust Victims). This remembrance day is nationally commemorated in Bulgarian schools with a special lesson called “10th March: Lesson of Dignity.” Commemoration activities include meetings with survivors, visits to monuments and other sites, art and essay competitions on the topic, and research projects on primary-source documents.

Representatives of the Bulgarian Government, the National Assembly, other institutions and civil society groups pay homage to the victims of the Holocaust as well as to individuals who rescued Bulgarian Jews. The President of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Speaker of the National Assembly, deputies as well as high-level officials from the Government and regional public institutions have participated in commemorative events on 10th March. Government officials at different levels also take part in various cultural events dedicated to the special meaning of the Day of Remembrance, as do municipal officials. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sciences provides support, information, documentation and resources for the 10 March commemorations. (See “CAHROM (2013)15 Overview on the Recognition of the Genocide of Roma and Sinti (Pharrajimos / Samudaripen) during World War II and on Related Remembrance Days in member States of the Council of Europe”, page 7).

In 2013, to mark the 70th anniversary of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews and to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, the Bulgarian Council of Ministers adopted a national plan of events and initiatives to commemorate the anniversary. The plan was prepared by the Initiative Committee with representatives of the president, the National Assembly, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Bulgarian Jewish communities, local authorities, the media and cultural and scientific communities. The programme included official, cultural and social events and conferences on the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews in 1943. The local authorities of Sofia, Burgas, Plovdiv, Lom and Kyustendil, Organisation of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” as well as Bulgarian diplomatic missions in Europe, the United States and Israel took part in the commemorations. The National Assembly adopted a declaration to mark the 70th anniversary.  

In the context of the anniversary, the Archives State Agency of Bulgaria launched a special website, “The Jewish Community in Bulgaria”, which has collected hundreds of original documents about the rescue of Bulgarian Jews during World War II. 

Bulgaria reported that the Bulgarian Jewish organisation “Shalom” also organises commemorations and events in relation to the Holocaust. (See OSCE report “Holocaust Memorial Days: An overview of remembrance and education in the OSCE region”, page 25)

On 27th January 2014, the Deputy Minister of Education launched the event with which Sofia became part of the ceremonies in memory of the Holocaust victims. A sample lesson about the fate of the Jews during World War II was presented by Mr Angel Yanchev, director of a school in the city of Veliko Tarnovo and a participant in the first training workshop for teaching topics of the Holocaust in Yad Vashem. The lesson he prepared involves working with documents and archives related to the history of the Holocaust and enabling students to interactively recreate history. Read the article

2 Teaching about the Genocide of the Roma

2.1 Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum

As per OSCE report “Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism”, page 74, the topic of Holocaust is integrated into individual mandatory subjects, including the history, ethics and law. Within the history curriculum, the issue is addressed in European history of the 20th century (10th grade), Bulgarian history of the 20th century (11th grade), and in Balkan Peninsula history of the 20th century (12th grade). The Holocaust is also addressed in a chapter on politics and law, and on democracy and totalitarian regimes as part of the subject ethics and law (10th grade).

With regard to Bulgarian history, students are taught that Bulgaria did not allow the Holocaust on its territory and that the Bulgarians stood decisively against the implementation of the Law for Protection of the Nation, which was passed under the pressure of National Socialist Germany. This is why, in Bulgaria, more emphasis is placed on the saving of the Bulgarian Jews than on the Holocaust.

2.2 Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks

The Ministry of Education informed the ODIHR that there is no definition of the Holocaust in school textbooks but "only the explanation of historical facts". (“Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism”, page 74)

2.3 Training of teachers and education professionals

No special training is provided for teachers. However, in 2002, training on how to celebrate 10 March - the Day of the Holocaust and Saving of the Bulgarian Jews - was organised for teachers in all twenty eight regions of Bulgaria. (“Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism”, page 74)

2.4 Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions

A Holocaust memorial day is marked in schools with a special lesson called “10th March: Lesson of Dignity”. The day involves meetings with survivors, visits to monuments and sites, art and essay competitions on the topic, and research into different information sources (photos, documents, literary texts, and newspaper articles). (“Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism”, page 74)

The document “CAHROM (2013)15 Overview on the Recognition of the Genocide of Roma and Sinti (Pharrajimos / Samudaripen) during World War II and on Related Remembrance Days in member States of the Council of Europe”, page 7, states that the teaching about the Holocaust and crimes against humanity is embedded in State educational requirements. The Centre for Jewish Studies and the regional structures of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science provide schools across the country with materials to support the 10th March commemoration. Events are held yearly in schools throughout the country. Such activities included: giving lessons entitled “10th March: Lesson on dignity”, which are specifically dedicated to Holocaust commemoration, and are delivered in classes on history and civilization, Bulgarian language and literature, arts and philosophy as well as during the Class Master’s class; studying monuments and sites related to the history of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews, carried out in the form of extracurricular activities; organising and holding meetings with persons who witnessed the historical events of 1943; tracing different sources of information -  such as photos, documents, newspapers, magazines and texts – about the events in 1943; organising drawing, poem or essay competitions with the theme of “10th March: Lesson of dignity” and watching documentaries and films telling the story of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews. The University Centre for Jewish Studies, based at Sofia University, supports many of these educational activities.

2.5 Remembrance day

In Bulgaria, the Roma and Sinti genocide is unofficially commemorated on 8th April.

The 10th of March has been designated as the “Day of the Holocaust and Saving of the Bulgarian Jews” (also known as the Day of Holocaust Victims).

3 Official contacts and resource persons

3.1 Responsible person in the Ministry of Education

According to the available information, there is no designated responsible person in the Ministry of Education and Science.

Blv. "Knez Dondukov" 2A
1000 Sofia
Bulgaria
Telephone:+359 02 921 77 99

3.2 Resource persons - list of experts and historians

Ilona Tomova, PhD, Institute of Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia

Lilyana Kovatcheva - expert on Romani education

Hristo Kyuchukov - expert on Romani education

4 Initiatives of the civil society

4.1 Relevant projects having a real impact on the people and/or the wide public

From 3rd to 8th October 2013 Amalipe Centre NGO participated in the annual “Roma Pride” event that takes place in 15 European countries on and around 5th October. During this week, several types of activities were organised in 9 regions in Bulgaria, all focusing on one joint topic - “My dream for Bulgaria – to live and study together!” These activities included: public readings of Roma literature, musical performances and dances, presentation of traditional dishes and clothes, exhibitions of paintings as well as of various antique household items and crafts, distribution of flyers, collecting wishes from Bulgarian citizens to the Roma people, organisation of the video contest in two parts: “I’m proud to be Roma, because…” and “My dream about the Roma people”. On 7th October the Amalipe Centre organised various activities on the Holocaust such as reading of texts and screening of documentaries about the Roma during the Holocaust in the Art club TAM, Veliko Tarnovo.

“My dream for Bulgaria – to live and study together!” continued to be the central topic for the celebration of the 2014 Roma Pride in Bulgaria organised by Amalipe Centre. Hundreds of students, teachers, representatives of institutions and individuals from across the country took part in the campaign on the occasion of Roma Pride that is organised by this NGO for the fourth consecutive year. During 2014, organisation of the Roma Pride was a part of the project “Youth is tolerance – combating anti-Roma stereotypes amongst young people”, funded by the European Commission under Fundamental Rights and Active Citizenship Program.

5 Point of view of the Roma community - including survivors' testimonies

The association “Youth Network for Development“ is a non-governmental youth organisation founded in 2007 by a female Roma student from the Roma Kaldarash group. The main aim of the NGO is to change exclusionary processes like segregation and lack of participation of the Roma youngsters. The organisation is a member of the “ternYpe - International Roma Youth Network” which was founded in January 2010 and unites different Roma youth organisations from Albania, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Slovakia, Spain and Poland. The most important project is "The Roma Genocide" initiative which brings together young Europeans of different cultures and backgrounds to commemorate the extermination of Roma in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau on 2nd August and to develop a dialogue on the topic of xenophobia and racism in Europe today.