Dimitar Peshev (1894 - 1973)

he rescued 48,000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation

Dimitar Peshev was born in Kjustendil. He took a degree in law and became magistrate first and then lawyer. In 1935 he accepted the appointment as Minister for Justice and tried to introduce reforms inspired by modernity, far from the influence of the Church and the Army. But he had to face an insurmountable resistance. 

A year later he opposed the illegal execution of the chief of the rebels of the previous government, compromising his permanence in the present one. Nonetheless he was elected deputy in 1938 and afterwards he was nominated vice-president of the Parliament, with strong disappointment of the king. Driven by the desire of returning to Bulgaria the lands it had lost, Peshev backed the alliance with Hitler and accepted its price with the introduction of the racial laws. Yet he opposed the war declaration of Bulgaria on the side of Germany against Great Britain and the United States. 
In the spring of 1943 the first information about the deportation of 12.000 Jews of Thrace and Macedonia arrived in Sofia. 

The king belied the notice, but Peshev's friends asked him to intervene to prevent the trains from leaving from several regions of the country the day after. Peshev was sceptical on the beginning, but then he convinced himself of the reality of the danger and ran to the Minister of the Interior, forcing him to stop the secret plan of the government for giving in all the 48.000 Bulgarian Jews to the Nazis. A letter of protest to the Parliament followed: Peshev collected 48 signatures of the government majority. 

The scandal forced the king to withstand the pressures of the Nazis that wanted him to respect the previous secret agreements. Nobody dared to organize a new plan against the Jews. Yet Peshev was dismissed, expelled from the government majority and emarginated once and for all. When the Red Army, which occupied Bulgaria until the end of 1944, arrived, the political situation reversed and many deputies were imprisoned. Some were shot and Peshev was condemned to 15-years forced labour and to the requisition of all his goods. He was released because of an amnesty after a year and a half, but he was forced to live in exclusion, without a job and means for survival. He lived with his sister until he died, on the 20 February 1973, when he was nominated “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem.

Since 6 March 2013, first European Day of the Righteous, a tree and a stone have been dedicated to Ayse Nur Zarakoglu at the Garden of the Righteous Worldwide in Milan.

Gardens that honour Dimitar Peshev

You can find a tree also in the Virtual Garden European Stories.

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