(JTA) — A leader of Bulgarian Jews condemned his country’s deputy prime minister, who said jokingly that he may have behaved inappropriately when visiting a former Nazi concentration camp.
Valeri Simeonov, vice-president of the United Patriots and Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister, told the Sega newspaper on Tuesday he and some his friends may have taken spoof pictures of themselves in Buchenwald during the 1970s.
Simeonov, 62, said this in downplaying the significance of a political scandal that earlier this week forced a member of Simeonov’s party, Pavel Tenev, to resign from the position of deputy minister. Tenev had been photographed performing a Nazi salute at a Paris museum while standing next to mannequins dressed in Nazi uniform.
Dismissing Tenev’s actions as harmless buffoonery, Simeonov recalled traveling with his friends in the 1970s to Buchenwald, the former Nazi camp in Germany, where the Nazis killed more than 43,000 people, including dissidents, Soviet prisoners of war and many Jews — before almost all Jewish inmates were transferred to Auschwitz in Poland.
The newspaper quoted Simeonov recalling how he himself had “horsed around” in the 1970s when he was taken as a student to the Nazi concentration camp in Buchenwald. “Who knows what gag photos we made there,” Simeonov told the Sega journalist.
In a statement Friday, Alexander Oscar, president of the Shalom Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria, said: “We are witnessing an ugly manifestation of disrespect toward the millions murdered in the concentration camps during World War II. 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.”