(JTA) — Hundreds of far-right extremists marched through the center of Sofia to honor a Bulgarian general who led a pro-Nazi organization in the 1930s and 1940s.
The Lukov March, which celebrates the Bulgarian alliance with Nazi Germany, took place on Saturday despite a municipal ban which was overturned by a court.
The rally honoring the then-Bulgarian war minister Hristo Lukov, who was head of the pro-Nazi Union of the Bulgarian National Legions, has been held each year since 2003.
Lukov was assassinated in February 1943 by a communist hit squad. Members of the Union advocated for policies against Jews, though Bulgaria did not send its Jews to the Nazi death camps.
Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry condemned the march in a statement issued Saturday night, calling it a “demonstration of xenophobia, discrimination and hatred.”
“Every act of hatred and glorification of the anti-Semitic and Nazi ideology is absolutely unacceptable,” the statement said. “The awakening of intolerance to the different, the preaching of intolerance and the hateful use of hate speech is an attempt to shake the democratic values that we stand for as a people and as a community.”
The marchers carried torches as the parade passed the home where Lukov had lived. Some left flowers at the site, the Sofia Globe reported. The marchers were accompanied by a heavy police escort.
The Bulgarian government, political parties and Jewish organizations had called for the march to be cancelled. An international petition against the march received over 178,000 signatures.
The U.S. embassy to Bulgaria said in a statement issued Saturday that it was “saddened and troubled to see the display of intolerance represented by the Lukov March. General Hristo Lukov was a Nazi supporter who promoted hate and injustice, and is not someone deserving of veneration.
A protest against the Lukov March was held in central Sofia earlier on Saturday, under the banner: “No Nazis on our Streets!”