The community says it is deeply offended by the recent naming of a Bulgarian cultural association in Ohrid after the king who led Bulgaria into a wartime alliance with Nazi Germany.
North Macedonia’s small Jewish community on Tuesday condemned the decision by an association of Bulgarians in Ohrid, North Macedonia to name itself after King, or Tsar, Boris III of Bulgaria – the wartime monarch under whom Bulgaria joined the Nazi-led Axis in World War II and occupied much of today’s North Macedonia.
“It is obvious that the registration of associations with Bulgarian self-consciousness that bear names of proven collaborators of Nazi Germany is becoming more common. This represents an intentional provocation and offense for the Jewish community, and an offense for the Macedonian state and its citizens,” the community wrote.
“Or maybe someone thinks differently, that by promoting and glorifying Fascism and Nazism, it will help strengthen good neighborly relations,” it added, cynically.
The Jewish Community recalled that when another Bulgarian cultural club, named after another Nazi collaborator, Ivan Mihailov, was registered in the town of Bitola in April, they reacted as well, urging institutions in the country to investigate whether it is legal to name clubs and associations after such people.
“Our country can and must stand in the way of the more frequent cases of registering these kinds of associations, which through their provocations spread hate speech and stay unsanctioned [hiding] under the veil of freedom of speech and good neighborliness,” the community demanded.
The two associations opened recently amid a bitter ongoing dispute between North Macedonia and Bulgaria over history and identity. According to the data in the central registry, the Tzar Boriz association has been registered in November last year. However, the wider public in North Macedonia found out about it this week.
Bulgaria insists that the Macedonian Identity and language have a Bulgarian origin. Among other things, Bulgaria opposes the fact that North Macedonia’s textbooks refer to the three-year Bulgarian occupation of most of today’s North Macedonia in the war as “occupation”. They insist that the right term is “Bulgarian administration”.
For nearly three years, Bulgaria has blocked North Macedonia’s EU accession due to this dispute. A recent French proposal aims to end the blockade and resolve the dispute.
Nazi-allied Bulgaria refused to deport its Jews to Germany during World War II, and is widely praised for it – but this was not the case with the territories it occupied.
Under Bulgarian rule, 7,144 Macedonian Jews in 1943 were deported to the Nazi death camp in Treblinka, Poland. Only a handful survived. The Macedonian Jewish community was virtually wiped out. On the site of the Jewish neighborhood in Skopje stands a Holocaust Museum run by the Jewish Community.
The Ohrid association did not reply to BIRN’s question by the time of publication.
King Boris died of heart failure in August 1943 aged 49 shortly after returning from a turbulent meeting with Hitler where he had refused to join the war against the Soviet Union. A belief remains widespread that his sudden death was the result of poisoning.