(JTA) — Condemning an anti-Semitic attack on a Soviet Army monument in Bulgaria, a Russian government official erroneously said her country’s soldiers saved the Jews of Bulgaria from deportation to Nazi camps.
The graffiti spray-painted on the Soviet Army monument in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia on Oct. 31 read “100 years Zionist occupation.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said two days later in Moscow that the defacing of the monument provoked anger in Moscow.
“This escapade is especially cynical in view of the fact that during the Second World War, it was thanks to our soldiers that the deportation of Jews from Bulgaria was prevented and thus about 50,000 people were saved from certain death,” she said.
Most historians attribute the prevention of the deportation of the Bulgarian Jews in March 1943 to a campaign by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, as well as politicians, intellectuals and average citizens who protested the orders.
“When representatives of the Bulgarian political, economic and intellectual elite wrote protest letters in defense of the Bulgarian Jews…the Red Army was thousands of kilometers away from the borders of Bulgaria,” Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria also responded to Zakharova’s comments by stating that the salvation of the Bulgarian Jews from deportation to Nazi death camps was the result of the actions of the majority of the Bulgarian people, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian non-fascist community.
“For this act of the Bulgarians, Jews will always be grateful,” the official position statement says.