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HOLOCAUST EDUCATION AND GENOCIDE PREVENTION

Bulgaria

Bulgaria

The Balkans and the Caucasus regions include those states on the Balkan peninsula, those on the Anatolian Peninsula, and those in the area around the Caucasus Mountains. These states are grouped together because of the intense ethnic struggles within and between many of them. These modern states were all part of the Ottoman Empire and 20th-century political realignments created national polities that included sizable ethnic minorities. Although most of these states had some level of historical engagement with the Holocaust, many of them view World War II almost strictly in terms of their own national histories. The Holocaust, therefore, is generally not a substantial topic of interest unless it fits into a larger national narrative.

BULGARIA’s postwar engagement with the Holocaust is mostly limited to its commemoration of its role as one of the few European countries not to deport the Jewish population residing in its core provinces, which numbered about 50,000, to the killing centers. Though its fascist government allied itself with the Nazis, passed anti-Jewish legislation, and deported the Jews residing in territory Bulgaria occupied in Yugoslavia and Greece, it nonetheless refused Germany’s request to hand over the Jews in its core provinces for annihilation. read more

The Bulgarian narrative is complicated, however, because the regime did deport Jews from areas under Bulgarian control, notably in Macedonia and Thrace. The memory of the Holocaust in Bulgaria, however, has focused almost exclusively on its protection of its native Jewish population. For example, the Bulgarian day of Holocaust remembrance is March 10, named “The Day of the Holocaust and the Saving of Bulgarian Jews” and a special lesson on the Holocaust is taught in schools on that day. The day includes meetings with survivors, visits to monuments and sites, art and essay competitions, and research on the subject. 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 March 10 commemoration. Government officials take part in commemoration events.

Though the Holocaust is taught in Bulgarian schools in the context of World History (10th grade), Bulgarian history (11th grade), and the history of the Balkans (12th grade), the curriculum emphasizes that “Bulgaria did not allow the Holocaust on its territory, 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.”  Further, there is no specific training for Bulgarian teachers on the teaching of the Holocaust.

The National Museum of History in Sofia features an exhibition on the Holocaust.

Though most of Bulgaria’s Jewish population left the country after World War II, Bulgaria has, nonetheless, in the past few years, seen a significant upsurge of antisemitic activity, including “vandalism, inflammatory rhetoric, and offensive graffiti.”  In reaction to this emergent antisemitism, NGOs have attempted to broaden Bulgarians’ awareness of the Holocaust. A local Jewish organization in the country’s capital, the Carmel Lodge of Sofia, began a Holocaust education program in five high schools that culminated in a multimedia and essay competition.  More recently, World ORT (a Russian NGO devoted to Jewish vocational training), with funding from the Claims Conference, has established an online Holocaust Education Research Centre as “a repository for lesson plans and other material which teachers can access and […] help each other’s efforts to raise awareness and understanding of the Shoah among teenagers.” In addition, World ORT funds training programs for about 180 Bulgarian teachers. According to Professor Albana Taneva, the program is particularly important because “the lack of Holocaust education has created a vacuum which has the potential of being filled with extremist ideas, including from abroad.”

RESOURCES

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON HOLOCAUST EDUCATION: Trends, Patterns, and Practices,  a publication of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and  the Salzburg Global Seminar, 2013
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LINKS

European Holocaust Research Infrastructure
http://www.ehri-project.eu/content/bulgaria

National Museum of History in Sofia
http://www.historymuseum.org/?lang_id=1

ORT
http://www.ort.org/news-and-reports/world-ort-news/article/world-ort-establishes-holocaust-education-resource-centre-in-bulgaria/

UNESCO:  Why Teach About the Holocaust?, 2013