Official commemoration of the contribution of Dimitar Peshev and other deputies
to the saving of the Bulgarian Jews, held in the Bulgarian National Assembly
SPEECH GIVEN BY MR. IVAN KURTEV,
VICE PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
My dear Mr. Vice-President of the Republic of Bulgaria, my dear Mr. President of the National Assembly, distinguished cabinet ministers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen Members of Parliament, my dear Mr. Speaker of the Knesset of the State of Israel, my dear Mr. Vice-President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, distinguished guests from Italy and Israel, distinguished relatives of Dimitar Peshev and of the other 42 deputies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
In 1943, in the heat of World War II, when Jews across Europe were subjected to total extermination, the Vice President of the Twenty-fifth National Assembly Dimitar Peshev and another 42 deputies from the majority took decisive action to prevent the deportation of Bulgaria's Jews to the fascist concentration death-camps. There has been a lot of talk about that letter which they sent to the then Prime Minister, but very few people indeed are familiar with its contents and I will therefore allow myself to quote just a short excerpt therefrom:
"Such a measure is inadmissible not only because these people, while not deprived of their Bulgarian citizenship, cannot be banished from Bulgaria, but also because it would constitute a detrimental act which would have grave political consequences for this country. It would put on Bulgaria's face an undeserved stigma which would not only encumber the nation morally, but would also politically refute all of its arguments of such nature, which it would most certainly need to resort to hereafter, in its future international relations. Small nations cannot take the liberty of disregarding such arguments which, regardless of what happens in the future, will always remain a potent, probably even the most potent weapon, left at their disposal. Which Bulgarian government would take on such a responsibility before the future?"
Unfortunately, the name of Dimitar Peshev and his moral and valiant deed were buried under ban over a long period of time. The reason behind this was that the communist dictatorship did not show mercy even to those members of parliament whose daring civil determination actually rescued 48,000 compatriots of theirs from death. In 1945 the 'people's court' sentenced Dimitar Peshev to a term of 15 years imprisonment while 20 of his countrymen, who had signed in defence of Bulgaria's Jews, were condemned to death.
This is why we are so very grateful to Mr. Gabriele Nissim for his remarkable book 'The Man Who Stopped Hitler' whereby he brought the feat of Dimitar Peshev and his fellows to the knowledge of both Italy and the world, as well as actually to ourselves.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the Bulgarian Parliament and his fellow members of parliament provided an example of uprightness, loyalty to democracy, humanism, concern for man and Christian love for one's fellowmen. Bulgaria is justly proud of them.