Connect to share and comment

Macedonian Jews erect world-class Holocaust museum

The country's tiny remaining Jewish community is building a $23 million center.

About 220 Jews remain in Macedonia, too few to merit a grand center, said Sadikario. He thought the millions invested in the project might be better spent on Macedonia’s crumbling universities. He also noted that construction was supposed to finish two years ago, but has been repeatedly delayed by the Jewish leaders struggling to manage the project.

“There is no capacity,” Sadikario said. “Judaism is actually dying out in Macedonia. It’s not too much to say its dead.”

Despite their small numbers, Macedonian Jews keep alive a simmering dispute between them and Bulgaria, whose fascist government rounded up their relatives and neighbors on Adolf Hitler’s command.

The irony of that tragedy is that Bulgaria’s elite during World War II convinced the country’s then-king, Boris, to save Bulgaria’s 50,000 Jews from extermination, while Bulgarian troops sent about 11,300 Jews from Macedonia, northern Greece and south Serbia to concentration camps in Poland.

Today, Mizrahi is careful to make clear he has nothing personal against Bulgarians. “The Bulgarian Orthodox Church and intelligentsia rose and said ‘You are not going to deport our people,’” he said. “I want to make a difference between present-day Bulgarians and fascist Bulgaria under Tsar Boris.”

Bulgaria has yet to formally apologize for its actions. But Mizrahi hopes the buzz generated once the Holocaust Center is completed will persuade Bulgaria’s leaders to change their minds. That would bring an end to the last indignity Macedonian Jews continue to endure from the Holocaust, he said.

In an email, Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Vessela Tcherneva said Macedonia has not filed an official request for an apology. But that wasn’t the point, she added.

“It is … a question that is often discussed here in the light of Bulgaria's moral responsibility for the tragic fate of the Macedonian Jews,” she wrote. “The Bulgarian state could not achieve what it did with its own Jewish population.”