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The country’s Orthodox Church has been named as a contender for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize on the 70th anniversary of the saving of Bulgarian Jews during World War II.
Lachezar Toshev, deputy chairman of Bulgaria’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE, said he had started the nomination process to gain greater worldwide recognition for the Church’s role in helping to save Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps.
“The act of salvation of the Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust is not very well-known internationally, although there are enough documents to prove it,” said Toshev, who is also an honorary associate member of PACE and one of the people entitled to make nominations for the prize.
During the war, tens of thousands of Bulgarian Jews managed to evade deportation, and Toshev said that the nomination would “at least shed light on the issue in the course of the discussions” about the prize’s eventual winner.
Although Bulgaria came under Nazi Germany’s political control, the Church publicly opposed the deportation of Jews and laws discriminating against them.
“This decision by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is a world precedent and is also praiseworthy, because the Church risked its own future in the name of the salvation of a minority of a different religion,” Toshev said.
More than 250 nominations have already been made for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, with candidates including the US serviceman who passed classified documents to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, and a young Pakistani campaigner for girls’ education who was shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousufzai.
Last year’s prize was won by the European Union for its role in ensuring peace since World War II.
The only previous known Bulgarian nomination for the peace prize was the former Prime Minister Andrey Lyapchev in 1910, but the country was nominated seven times for the literature Nobel in the first half of the 20th century.
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