HOUSTON, TX (Jan. 23, 2013) – Holocaust Museum Houston and the American Jewish Committee will commemorate the United Nations’ International Holocaust Remembrance Day in special ceremonies with Houston’s Consular Corps this January.
This year’s observance, set for 10:00 a.m. Monday, Jan. 28, at Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District, will honor Bulgarian King Boris III, who was one of the few world leaders who defied Adolf Hitler face to face during World War II, refusing multiple times to deliver his Bulgarian Jewish citizens beyond the borders of his kingdom.
Scheduled speakers include Her Excellency Elena Poptodorova, the ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United States; The Honorable Fatou Sall, consul general of Senegal and dean of the Houston Consular Corps; The Honorable Peter Berkowitz, chairman, Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission; Tali Blumrosen, chair, Holocaust Museum Houston; and Dena Palermo and Charlotte Berkowitz, event co-chairs.
In the early days of World War II, Bulgaria was neutral, but powerful groups in the country swayed its politics toward Germany. In 1941, King Boris III reluctantly allied himself with the Axis Powers in an attempt to recover Macedonia from Greece and Yugoslavia, which had been gained by Bulgaria in the First Balkan War and lost again in the Second. However, in spite of this loose alliance, King Boris was not willing to render full and unconditional cooperation with Germany, and the only German presence in Bulgaria was along the railway line which passed through it to Greece.
In early 1943, Nazi officials requested that Bulgaria deport its Jewish population to German-occupied Poland. The request caused a public outcry, and he refused to permit the extradition of Bulgaria's 50,000 Jews.
Under his leadership, Bulgaria was the only nation in Europe to save its entire Bulgarian Jewish population during the Holocaust.
The saving of Bulgaria's Jewish community was made possible by his courageous leadership, whose defiance of Hitler and refusal to supply troops to the Russian front or to cooperate with deportation requests set an example for his country. He died of apparent heart failure in August 1943, although mystery surrounds the exact cause of his death.
The United States Congress honored King Boris in May 1994, and he was posthumously awarded the Jewish National Fund's Medal of the Legion of Honor, the first non-Jew to receive one of the Jewish community's highest honors. The Jewish National Fund dedicated to Bulgaria a forest in Israel, a garden named for King Boris and a Bulgarian square in Jerusalem. The Anti-Defamation League and Chabad have also honored King Boris III for refusing to sacrifice his Jewish subjects to the Nazi juggernaut.
Previously, Poptodorova served as director of the Security Policy Directorate at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ambassador-at-large for the Black Sea region. She also served as the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the director of the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Organizations Directorate. She has received many awards and honors and is an honorary member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
The observance will include with area high schools and members of the Houston Consular Corps laying stones of remembrance in the Eric Alexander Garden of Hope. Music will be provided by the St. John’s School Kantorei.
Previous honorees have included The Honorable José Arturo Castellanos Contreras of El Salvador, The Honorable Feng Shan Ho of China, The Honorable Gilberto Bosques of Mexico and Hon. Giorgio Perlasca, an Italian who posed as a Spanish diplomat and intervened on behalf of Hungarian Jews.
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.
The American Jewish Committee, the country’s oldest human relations organization, works to promote pluralistic and democratic societies where all minorities are protected. With 26 offices across the U.S. and 13 institutes and offices worldwide, AJC is engaged in foreign affairs, immigration and energy issues. Locally, the AJC creates diplomacy on the domestic and international scene by building relationships with faith, ethnic, diplomats and companies.