Bulgarian deputy PM defends ‘jokes’ about Holocaust

Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister is under fire for making light of anti-Semitism and joking about the Holocaust.

Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov is under fire after reportedly making light of anti-Semitism and cracking jokes about the Holocaust.

Pavel Tenev, appointed as a deputy minister from the United Patriots party in the Bulgarian coalition government, was photographed decades ago giving the Nazi salute. The Bulgarian-language newspaper Sega reported on Thursday that Simeonov, commenting on the controversial photo, said that in the 1970s he was taken on a visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp and, “come to think of it, who knows what kind of joke photos we took there…can anyone say now, submit your resignation and go back to the village.”

Simeonov denied making the offensive comments and said he would sue Sega in court.

The newspaper responded by saying it stood by the story.

“We are witnessing an ugly manifestation of disrespect toward the millions murdered in the concentration camps during World War II,” said Alek Oscar, president of Bulgaria’s Jewish umbrella organization “Shalom.”

“Such behavior demonstrates a lack of political culture and sensitivity vis-à-vis the greatest tragedy in human history. When we talk about the Holocaust, joking is inappropriate,” Oscar added.

He called on politicians and civil society not to let such incidents go unchecked and “to pay special attention to the language of hatred.”

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Several Holocaust survivors attended Oscar’s press conference in Sofia on Wednesday and expressed revulsion and dismay at the incident.

In the National Assembly, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms both called for Simeonov’s resignation.

Simeonov said that the controversy over Tenev’s Nazi salute was an attack against the coalition government and against him personally. He said that he would step down only if his coalition partners asked him to do so.

By: World Israel News Staff