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Bulgaria admits failing to save thousands of Jews

A Bulgarian Jewish woman attends a memorial service to mark Yom Hashoah in Sofia's synagogue on April 11, 2010
A Bulgarian Jewish woman attends a memorial service to mark Yom Hashoah in Sofia's synagogue on April 11, 2010. Bulgaria's parliament for the first time admitted Friday failing to save over 11,000 Jews from territories under its control as it commemorated

Bulgaria's parliament for the first time admitted Friday failing to save over 11,000 Jews from territories under its control as it commemorated the start of deportations 70 years ago.

Bulgaria, an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II "refused the deportation of over 48,000 Jews -- Bulgarian citizens -- to the death camps," parliament said in a declaration.

"An objective assessment of the historical events cannot however reject the fact that 11,343 Jews were deported from northern Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia that were under German jurisdiction at the time," it added.

"While condemning this criminal act, undertaken by the Hitlerist command, we express regret that it was not in the capabilities of the local Bulgarian administration to prevent it," parliament said.

Bulgaria has always prided itself for being the only ally of Nazi Germany to save its Jewish population.

But despite pressure from historians, officials had so far carefully avoided any mention that Bulgaria deported Jews from the territories it administered in what are now Greece and Macedonia.

The issue had fuelled tensions in the Macedonian and Bulgarian media.

Bulgaria will honour for the first time the memory of all those who were deported, at a ceremony on Wednesday in the northern town of Lom, where the first deportations -- of non-Bulgarian Jews -- took place on March 13, 1943, the foreign ministry said.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov is due to attend together with Macedonian and Greek officials.

Israel has always honoured Bulgaria as a Jewish saviour and the two countries have launched a series of joint events to mark the anniversary.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres opened Wednesday an exhibition of archive documents and pictures, called "Tough choices that make a difference: The fate of the Bulgarian Jews," at the European Parliament in Brussels.

A plaque commemorating the 11,343 victims will be inaugurated on Sunday in Sofia, followed by an official ceremony at the central synagogue and a classical music concert of Bulgarian and Israeli performers.

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