Members of Bulgaria’s Parliament paid tribute on March 10 2010 to the victims of the Holocaust and to Bulgarians who during World War 2 campaigned against the deportation of Jews to Nazi death camps.

Tsetska Tsacheva, Speaker of Parliament, said that people of all social strata in Bulgaria had joined in the campaign to prevent the deportations.

At the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel to the Holocaust, 14 Bulgarians are listed as Righteous Among the Nations, including the then-deputy speaker of Parliament, Dimitar Peshev, and Bulgarian Orthodox Church leaders Sofia Metropolitan Stefan and Plovdiv Metropolitan Kiril, who were prominent in the campaign against the deportations.

Under then-king Boris III, Bulgaria was allied to Hitler’s Germany during World War 2. Anti-Semitic laws modelled on the Nuremberg laws were approved by MPs of the time.

In December 1940, Bulgaria’s National Assembly adopted the Defence of the Nation Act.

Inter-marriage between Jews and non-Jews was outlawed. Jews were banned from certain professions. Special taxes were levied. Jews had to submit a record of their family wealth. They were limited to residence in certain zones, and a 5pm curfew was imposed. There were confiscations of property and real estate. Adult men were barred from military service and were drafted to forced labour.

In January 1943, a commission was set up which confiscated almost all Jewish personal jewellery, bank notes, household silver, and any other valuables, depositing them under official seal in Bulgarian National Bank.

But Peshev and others stood up in 1943 against intentions to send Bulgarian Jews to concentration camps.

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church sent an official letter to Boris, to the National Assembly, and to the Cabinet demanding that there be no deportations.

The figures generally given for the number of people whose deportations were prevented is 50 000.

March 10 2010 marks the 67th anniversary of the campaign against the deportations and the 65th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust.

While Jews who had Bulgarian citizenship were not deported, a February 1943 agreement between Sofia and Berlin enabled the transfer of Jews in the territories of Aegean Thrace, Macedonia and Pirot, where nominally Bulgaria was in control but where Jews were denied Bulgarian citizenship, meaning that from these places, 11 343 Jews were sent to death camps.

Some died en route, as in 1943 when some of the old river cruisers being used to transport Jews up the Danube capsized, causing the deaths of the incarcerated Jews even before they reached camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz where six million Jews were murdered.

Ironically, Peshev was put on trial in a communist kangaroo court after World War 2 on charges including “anti-Semitism”.