As many as 300 right-wing extremists marched on Saturday in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia to honor a pro-Nazi Bulgarian general who propagated anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish repression during World War II.

Speaking from Sofia with The Jerusalem Post, Robert Djerassi, the president of the Central Israelite Religious Council, said Mayor Yordanka Fandakova had outlawed the march. However, the marchers changed their route and proceeded with the rally honoring Gen. Hristo Lukov, according to the media reports.

Anti-fascists assassinated Lukov in 1943. He remains a hero for neo-Nazi and right-wing extremists in Bulgaria. One of his assassins was a female Jewish partisan resistance fighter.

Djerassi said the “Lukov [march] is a manifestation of a nationalist group of Bulgarians,” adding, “he was very close to the Nazi government and providing the Nazi policy in Bulgaria.”

Lukov (1887-1943) created the Bulgarian National Legions, which “fought against Jews, destroyed their shops.”

The pro-Lukov march has taken place every year since 2003. Djerassi said in the past as many as 2,000 marched with torches and wore the uniforms of the Bulgarian National Legions.

A counter-protest took place last Thursday. “We protest this every year, with other religious organizations,” said Djerassi. He said between 100 and 150 demonstrated against the Lukov rally. The Organization of Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom” issued a declaration against the march, stating, “The annual reminder of the political role of Gen. Hristo Lukov is a demonstration and propaganda of pro-Nazi and xenophobic ideas desecrating the memory of millions of victims of the Holocaust and representing a denial of the repression and humiliation faced by the Bulgarian Jews during the implementation of the anti-Jewish laws in the Kingdom of Bulgaria in the period 1941-1944. As a leader of the legionaries, Gen. Hristo Lukov is one of those people responsible for this suffering and humiliation.”

The declaration continued that the organization “opposes the holding of the Lukov March, since it legitimizes publicly the neo-Nazi ideology in Bulgaria, revives slogans and political programs from the fascist past, and attempts to rewrite the history of World War II in Bulgaria.”

A broad spectrum of groups signed the declaration, including the Grand Mufti’s Office of Muslim Denomination of the Republic of Bulgaria, the National Council of Religious Denominations in Bulgaria, the Roma Public Council Kupate, and the Ronald Lauder Foundation in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, an extremist right-wing party, Ataka, secured enough votes last year to win seats in Bulgaria’s parliament.

In an essay published last week by Dr. Elena Zaharieva, an expert on xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Bulgaria, she noted “In total Ataka and other far-right formations received 12.9% of the votes (equal to 456,453 votes) in the May 2013 elections.

Ataka itself got 7.3%, i.e. 258,581 votes. Ataka is a fiercely anti-Western party, whose name was taken from Goebbels’s Nazi newspaper Der Angriff (The Attack). Ataka, which appeared to be well funded ever since its creation in 2005, started in the fall of 2013 a massive campaign.”

Her essay was published on the website of The Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, which is headed by Dr. Clemens Heni, a respected Berlin-based expert on European anti-Semitism.

Dr. Zaharieva termed Volen Siderov, the head of Ataka, as an “outspoken anti-Semite.” She wrote, “Hundreds of billboards in the capital and elsewhere around the country advertise Ataka’s TV channel Alfa as ‘the channel of truth.’ Ataka’s newspaper is being distributed free of charge in metro stations.”

She continued, “Even though every Bulgarian sees Siderov’s huge face on billboards a dozen times every day, not many have seen his photo in the company of Holocaust denier and bin Laden admirer Ahmed Rami and David Duke from the Ku Klux Klan, taken at the ‘revisionist’ conference in Russia in 2002, where Siderov gave a lecture.”

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