News from Italy, Macedonia and Bulgaria

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on March 12, 2013

ITALY – Mount Etna volcano erupts, lighting up night sky

image756Roads close to the volcano were covered with volcanic stones and ash after Mount Etna erupted on Tuesday night (March 5).

Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano sent plumes of ash and lava into the night sky on the island of Sicily.

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology has recently registered increased explosive activity by the volcano, Italy’s Civil Protection agency said.

There are several inhabited villages on the slopes of Mount Etna.

Eruptions are not infrequent, and Italian airliners sometimes have to alter their routes to avoid flying through ash clouds.

Tuesday’s eruption did not cause any interruption to air traffic at the airport serving the nearby town of Catania, according to reports.

MACEDONIA – Macedonia remembers Jewish community

image754

A woman stands in front of a memorial for 7,144 Macedonian Jews, in the tobacco warehouses in Skopje, Macedonia, on Monday, March 11, 2013.

SKOPJE | Macedonia on Monday (March 11) marked the 70th anniversary of the deportation of nearly its entire Jewish community to a Nazi death camp during World War II, while a U.S.-based diaspora group called on neighbor Bulgaria to apologize for its role in the Holocaust.

Culture Minister Elizabeta Milevska led the memorial to honor the 7,144 people who were deported. Only about 50 of them survived.

Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia until its independence in 1991, and most of its territory was occupied during the war by Bulgaria.

The Washington D.C.-based group Macedonian United Diaspora on Monday called on Bulgaria to make a public apology for the country’s role in the murder of Macedonian Jews, who were sent by train to the Treblinka concentration camp in occupied Poland.

There was no immediate reaction from officials in Bulgaria. But the country’s parliament acknowledged Friday that 11,343 Jews had been deported to Nazi concentration camps from areas under Bulgarian wartime control – in Greece and Yugoslavia.

BULGARIA – Bulgarians commemorate rescue of its Jews

image755

The Nazis rounded up Jews in the Balkans and sent them to death camps.

SOFIA | Bulgarians on Sunday commemorated public protests that led to the rescue of more than 48,000 Jewish countrymen from deportation to Nazi death camps.

Ceremonies across the country marked the 70th anniversary of protests by Bulgarian clergymen, intellectuals, politicians and others that ultimately stopped the Nazis from deporting any Jews from Bulgaria.

Though an ally of Germany during the war, Bulgaria was the only Eastern European country that saved its Jews from the Holocaust. This act of salvation is a unique chapter in the history of the Holocaust, but its full story remained largely unknown until the fall of communism in Bulgaria in 1989.

Parliament, however, admitted for the first time on Friday that Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps from areas under Bulgarian control during World War II [including from neighboring Macedonia].

‘‘The objective evaluation of the historic events cannot ignore the fact that 11,343 Jews were deported from northern Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, then under German jurisdiction,’’ legislators said in a declaration and expressed regrets that ‘‘the local Bulgarian administration had not been in a position to stop this act.’’

The Shalom Organization of Jews in Bulgaria had repeatedly demanded the state to take responsibility for the deportations.

‘‘The Bulgarian government must assume the moral responsibility for the Nazi death camp deportation of ethnic Jews from the regions of Thrace and Macedonia regardless of the fact that Bulgaria saved its almost 50,000 Jews,’’ the group’s chairman, Maxim Benvenisti, told The Associated Press before the declaration. …

At a ceremony in Brussels earlier this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres called the rescue ‘‘unique in Europe’’ adding that ‘‘no other country, no other people have shown this sort of courage that the Bulgarian people did.’’

He expressed, however, deep regret that what happened in Bulgaria had not been emulated in Greece and Macedonia ‘‘whose Jewish communities all but disappeared at the hands of the Nazis.’’

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at London’s Daily Telegraph on March 6 and Boston.com on March 11 and March 10.)      

Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:

a) capital
b) location/the countries that share its borders:
c) the religious breakdown of the population:
d) the type of government:
e) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]:
f) the population:

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

2. For ITALY:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. Why do people live so close to this active volcano?

3. For MACEDONIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) How many Macedonian Jewish people were sent to a Nazi death camp during WWII?
c) The original headline of this Associated Press news report was “Macedonia remembers tiny Jewish community.” The population of Macedonia today is just over 2,000,000. The Jewish community in 1941 was approximately 5% of the Macedonian population. Why do you think the AP chose to refer to the number of Jewish people deported to their deaths as a “tiny” community in a country whose population was less than 2 million people?

4. For BULGARIA:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Read the “Background” below on Bulgaria. How would you describe Bulgaria’s parliamentary VP Dimitar Peshev, and Christian church leaders who successfully blocked the deportation of any of Bulgaria’s citizens?


Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a weekly email with answers.

Background

ITALY –  MOUNT ETNA:

  • Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, close to Messina and Catania.
  • Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity.
  • It has been created by the Earth’s active tectonic plate system – the African plate is moving below the Eurasian plate. As the Eurasian plate moves down into the Earth, it melts. Rising magma erupts at the surface as lava and ash and builds Etna in the process. 
  • It is the tallest active volcano in Europe, currently standing 10,922 ft high, though this varies with summit eruptions.
  • It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps.
  • Etna covers an area of 459 sq mi with a basal circumference of 87 miles. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being about two and a half times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. Only Mount Teide in Tenerife surpasses it in the whole of the European-North-African region. 
  • There are towns and villages surrounding the mountain, including Catania. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south. 

In the past, the Italian authorities have used explosives, concrete dams, and ditches to divert lava flows away from these settlements. (from wikipedia and the bbc)

  • MACEDONIA:

    Macedonia, officially the Republic of Macedonia, is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991. It became a member of the United Nations in 1993 but, as a result of a dispute with Greece over its name, it was admitted under the provisional reference of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, sometimes abbreviated as FYROM. (from wikipedia)

  • BULGARIA:

    • In 1943, Bulgaria signed a secret agreement to deport 20,000 Jews to Nazi death camps in Poland.
    • This plan was partially put into effect: 11,343 Jews from Macedonia and Thrace, then administrated by Bulgaria, were placed on trains and sent to their deaths.
    • But thanks to the efforts of the then vice president of parliament, Dimitar Peshev, the deportation of Bulgarian citizens of Jewish origin was prevented.
    • On March 9, 1943, the boxcars already were lined up to receive a first wave of 8,500 Jews as the news about their imminent deportation leaked, triggering protests throughout Bulgarian society.
    • Peshev moved fast to publicize the secret deportation deal, forcing temporary cancellation of the order. He galvanized 42 fellow legislators to sign a protest petition to the king.
    • Orthodox Church leaders in Sofia and Plovdiv also spoke out, and professors, doctors, lawyers, students, labor leaders and peasants staged protests, including marches and street demonstrations.
    • Afterward, King Boris III told the Nazi leadership that he needed the Jews as construction workers. He moved them into labor camps but refused to deport them or hand them over to the Nazis.
    • Peshev and the archbishops of Sofia and Plovdiv have been honored as Righteous Gentiles by the Israeli Yad Vashem Institute for rescuing Jews.
    • ‘‘Seventy years ago, Bulgaria succeeded to save more than 80 percent of the entire Jewish population under Bulgarian administration, which is 100 percent of the Jewish population living within the limits of Bulgaria,’’ former Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi said in an AP interview.
    • ‘‘This is indeed a unique act and proof that civil society could exist even under fascism, even in a country allied with of Hitler,’’ he said.
    • Pasi called on the European Union, as a holder of the Nobel Peace Prize, to nominate its member country Bulgaria for the award for saving its Jewish population from the Holocaust.
    • About 45,000 of Bulgaria’s Jews emigrated to Israel after its establishment in 1948. Today’s Bulgarian Jewish community numbers about 5,000, most of whom live in Sofia.

    The Bulgars, a Central Asian Turkic tribe, merged with the local Slavic inhabitants in the late 7th century to form the first Bulgarian state. In succeeding centuries, Bulgaria struggled with the Byzantine Empire to assert its place in the Balkans, but by the end of the 14th century the country was overrun by the Ottoman Turks. Northern Bulgaria attained autonomy in 1878 and all of Bulgaria became independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1908. Having fought on the losing side in both World Wars, Bulgaria fell within the Soviet sphere of influence and became a People’s Republic in 1946. Communist domination ended in 1990, when Bulgaria held its first multiparty election since World War II and began the contentious process of moving toward political democracy and a market economy while combating inflation, unemployment, corruption, and crime. The country joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007. (from the CIA World FactBook)

    Resources

    ITALY: Watch a video of Mt. Etna’s latest eruption below:

  • MACEDONIA:

    Read about Macedonia during WWII at wikipedia.