I Decided to Do Whatever I Could’

The Fellowship  |  January 10, 2018

Black and white image of a man giving a speech in the street as people are crowded around him.
I Decided to Do Whatever I Could'

Dimitar Peshev

Life: June 25, 1894 – February 20, 1973

Why you should know him: As the Vice President of Bulgaria’s Parliament, Dimitar Peshev’s actions helped save 48,000 Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust.

Despite being a friend of the Bulgarian Jewish community, Vice President Dimitar Peshev had not immediately objected to his country’s alliance with Nazi Germany, nor to Bulgarian laws that were modeled on Germany’s “Nuremberg Laws.”

However, in 1943, Bulgaria agreed to start sending its Jews to Nazi death camps. Peshev could no longer ignore his government’s evil behavior and decided to act.

The Jews of Peshev’s hometown were to be deported. Word leaked out of the actions, and a delegation came to Peshev to ask for his help.

“I had no doubt what was going to happen, and my conscience and the understanding of the real meaning of the plans no longer allowed me to remain a bystander,” Peshev said. “I decided to do whatever I could to prevent the plans from being implemented.”

As Bulgaria’s Jews were being gathered in order to be deported and murdered, Peshev went to his country’s leaders in an attempt to overturn the actions. He spoke with the Minister of the Interior, who lied and said the Jews would not be deported, but then informed the Prime Minister that the deportations had been discovered.

The Prime Minister refused to see Peshev. So Peshev drafted a letter of protest and had members of the Parliament sign it. Because of these protests, the deportations were called off. However, because of Peshev’s actions, he was impeached, losing his job and becoming a political outcast.

Dimitar Peshev, whose selfless actions saved the lives of 48,000 Bulgarian Jews, was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1973.

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