Dimitar Peshev

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Yordan Sokolov
President of the National Assembly
concluding the solemn celebration of Dimitar Peshev
Sofia, November 6th 1998

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen Members of Parliament, cabinet rninisters, dear guests, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

I would like to, if I may, first of all thank heartily our dear guests from abroad, who honoured with their presence this solemn session of the National Assembly in commemoration of Dimitar Peshev and took the floor to pay tribute to his memory. My thanks go to The Honourable Dan Tikhon, the Speaker of the Knesset of the State of lsrael, to The Honourable Pierluigi Petrini, the Vice President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, to the deputies Dario Rivolta and Nando Dalla Chiesa, as well as to Mr. Yossif Kioso, the Chairman of the Union of Immigrants from Bulgaria to lsrael.

I would certainly like to express also my special thankfulness to the man who initiated this celebration, the author of the book 'The Man Who Stopped Hitler, Mr. Gabriele Nissim.

Words fail me to express our profound gratitude to Mr. Gabriele Nissim who, with his marvellous work, has made illustrious not only the memory of a great Bulgarian, but also a memorable feat performed by the Bulgarian people which has left a shining trace in our nation's past. A feat that elevated the Bulgarian people above many other nations of the then Europe.

These are actually the two subject matters making up the contents of today's celebration and of the speeches delivered in this hall today.

We commemorate today the deed of the Vice President of the Twenty-fifth Ordinary National Assembly Dimitar Peshev, his remarkable contribution to the rescue of Bulgaria's Jewry from the Nazi extermination camps. Many a person from various circles of Bulgarian society contributed to this virtuous deed, but a most remarkable event was the letter of protest sent by Dimitar Peshev and his 42 fellow members of the National Assembly to the prime minister Bogdan Filov. The price Dimitar Peshev had to pay for his chivalrous deed was his office as Vice President and his further political career. We will remain indebted to Dimitar Peshev' memory and to his accomplishment.

Forthcoming is the publication of Mr. Gabriele Nissim's book in the Bulgarian language as well. It will be a reminder of this indebtedness of ours. The interest that the book has generated abroad has highlighted the utmost public significance of Dimitar Peshev's deed. In recognition of his cause he was posthumously awarded by the President Petar Stoyanov the Order of Stara Planina. Another such recognition is the presentation of Mr. Gabriele Nissim's book under the auspices of the President of the Italian Parliament, Mr. Luciano Violante, as well as the upcoming commemoration of Dimitar Peshev in the European Parliament at Strasbourg.

Same recognition should be granted to Dimitar Peshev's fellows who partook in the rescue action.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen! There is another side to the commemoration of Dimitar Peshev, particularly on an international scale. This is a tribute paid to a glorious page in the history of the Bulgarian nation - the rescuing of Bulgaria's Jewry from the Holocaust. Together with Denmark, Bulgaria was the only country in all of occupied Europe that saved its Jewry. The popular protest against the persecution of the Jews started as early as in 1940 right after the enactment of the Protection of the Nation Act and climaxed in 1943 when preparations for their deportation were on the way. Such protest involved the participation of all various strata of society - politicians from all shades of the political spectrum, writers and manifold outstanding personalities from the community of arts and culture, the Bulgarian Orthodox church and representatives of all public circles. Bulgarian Jews were saved by the determined resistance put up by the Bulgarian people, who, abiding by their tolerance, prevented the deportation to death of those with whom they had been coexisting in peace and harmony for centuries on end.

The then Bulgarian authorities were forced to consider with this noble deed. It was accepted by the then Bulgarian king as well.

The rescuing of Bulgaria's Jewry is something the Bulgarian people do take pride in. This is a glorlous moment of the past which unites Bulgaria and lsrael regardless of the distance separating them geographically.

However, the book of Gabriele Nissim, the commemoration ceremonies held in Italy, today's commemoration and the forthcoming celebration at the European Parliament in Strasbourg have an additional significance. They have put an end to the myth that Bulgaria's Jews were saved by Todor Zhivkov and by the Bulgarian communists. The historical truth is exactly the opposite. None of the communist deputies to the Twenty-fifth National Assembly signed Dimitar Peshev's letter.

What is more, the destiny of Dimitar Peshev and of his fellow deputies to the Twenty-fifth National Assembly is a moral condemnation of the inhuman so called 'people's court', established after September 1944, which sentenced personalities such as Dimitar Peshev and his associates, who signed the letter, to long-term imprisonment and death.

This is why, while commemorating Dimitar Peshev we should not forget our past, we ought not to forget the people who made history and elevated the reputation of Bulgaria and of the Bulgarian people to those heights that all of us take now pride in.

Once again let me thank all participants in this solemn commemorative session.

Declaring the session closed, I do invite everyone present to pay tribute to the exposition in commemoration of Dimitar Peshev in the MPs' club.

Other speeches at the celebration:
• Yordan Sokolov (introduction)
• Ivan Kurtev
• Alexander Bozhkov (reading a message from Ivan Kostov)
• Ivan Kurtev (reading letters from Colombo and Yasharov)
• Gabriele Nissim
• Yossif Kioso
• Dario Rivolta
• Nando Dalla Chiesa
• Pierluigi Petrini
• Dan Tikhon

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