Dimitar Peshev

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Ivan Kurtev
Vice President of the National Assembly
of the Republic of Bulgaria
Rome, October 16th 1998

Honourable Chairman, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Bulgarian Parliament has been in existence for 120 years. During hard times and fateful moments for our nation there have always been Members who, irrespective of their political loyalties, have given evidence of their worth as citizens, demonstrating their readiness to sacrifice their own serenity and wellbeing to defend the constitutional rights of fellow Bulgarians.

Prominent amongst the names that have left their illustrious mark on the history of our Parliament and the modern Bulgarian state is that of Dimitar Peshev, Vice Chairman of the XXIVth and XXVth National Assembly. By acting to stop the deportation of Bulgaria's Jews and save them from slaughter he not only showed exceptional civic and moral rectitude: his deed was also courageous and heroic.

In 1943 Bulgaria was allied with the Berlin-Rome Axis. It took a great man and a politician with strong democratic principles, like Dimitar Peshev, to make this courageous and determined stand against the annihilation of Bulgaria's Jews. But his involvement did not end there: he also convinced 43 other MPs, members of the government majority, to add their signatures to the letter he wrote to save the Jews.

The fact that Bulgaria saved its Jewish community from extermination in WW II is common knowledge. At long last and to our great satisfaction, the people who made this achievement possible have now received the recognition they deserve, internationally as well as in Bulgaria. During 45 long years of Communist dictatorship in Bulgaria it was forbidden to speak of Dimitar Peshev and his fellow MPs of the XXVth National Assembly.

Nor did the Communist leaders show any leniency towards the MPs whose courageous gesture had contributed so much to the nation's prestige and standing. In 1945 twenty of them were condemned to death. Dimitar Peshev himself, sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, eventually ended his days in poverty and oblivion.

We deputies of the XXXVIIIth National Assembly of the Bulgarian Republic are grateful to Gabriele Nissim for writing his outstanding book "L'Uomo che fermò Hitler" (The Man who stopped Hitler) with which he tells Italy and the rest of the world about Dimitar Peshev's great initiative.

Our sincere thanks also go to Dario Rivolta and the other Italian MPs who promoted this conference to commemorate Peshev and his outstanding service to Bulgaria and mankind.

We are also highly appreciative of Ernesto Caccavale's role in organizing a commemoration of Dimitar Peshev, on November 17, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, in a special ceremony dedicated to the Righteous.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dimitar Peshev, Vice-Chairman of Bulgaria's National Assembly, has left an edifying example of loyalty to democratic ideals, respect for humankind and Christian love for fellow men. Bulgaria is proud of him and pays homage to his glorious memory.

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