ADL Leader Receives Bulgaria’s Highest Honor

New York, NY, November 26, 2014 … The President of Bulgaria, Rosen Plevneliev, awarded Abraham H. Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, with his nation’s highest award, The Honorary Sign of the Bulgarian Head of State.

The award, and a formal dinner hosted at the Presidency in Sofia, highlighted a three-day visit by ADL leaders to Bulgaria, at the invitation of President Plevneliev.

“We deeply appreciate ADL’s role as the leading American organization to promote tolerance and understanding around the globe,” President Plevneliev said at the official dinner honoring ADL on November 20. “We also confer this award to a longtime friend of Bulgaria and its people.”

The Bulgarian president called for strong action against anti-Semitism. “Anti-Semitism, hatred and intolerance must be fought daily,” he said. “These inhuman phenomena must be clearly identified and labeled, because that is the only way that we can confront them successfully.”

In accepting the award, Mr. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, spoke about the unique and courageous role of Bulgaria in rescuing its entire Jewish population, some 50,000 people, from Hitler and the Nazi gas chambers.

“We have a debt of history to this nation,” said Mr. Foxman. “In the face of the worst crime against humanity -- the Holocaust -- the Bulgarian people, the church, and many others said: ‘No. We will not deport our citizens to the Nazi death camps.’”

While in Bulgaria, the ADL delegation, led by Mr. Foxman and Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, met with leaders of government, the Jewish community, parliament, the Orthodox Church and the Grand Mufti of Bulgaria, as well as the ambassadors of the United States and Israel. 

Mr. Foxman also addressed some 500 students and faculty of the University of National and World Economy, where he was also honored by the provost. He also gave an address at the American University of Bulgaria.

Mr. Foxman and ADL were also honored with a photography exhibition, “Tolerance and Respect,” which is currently on display along the promenade of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city.

The invitation to visit Bulgaria was extended following President Plevneliev’s remarks to the ADL’s 2013 Centennial Gala in Washington, D.C., where he spoke of the courageousness of the Bulgarian people in defying Hitler’s orders to deport Jews.

In 1998 ADL awarded the Courage to Care Award to then President Petar Stoyanov, in recognition of Bulgaria’s rescue of its Jewish community from the Holocaust. President Stoyanov also participated in the ADL dinner honoring Mr. Foxman and ADL.