Peshev was a prominent politician in Bulgaria of the period before and during WW2, and in
he served as Minister of Justice. On the international scene, he favored
Bulgaria's alliance with Nazi Germany, in the hope that it would help the country recover the territories
lost in the Balkan wars of 1912-13
When, in March 1943
, he learned that the government intended to hand over to the
Germans for deportation some 8,000 Jews from
, a town on the border of Macedonia,
he decided to oppose this vigorously. Rushing into Parliament, he gathered a few members, and burst in the
office of Gabrovski
, the Bulgarian Minister of Interior, with a demand
that the order be rescinded. After a dramatic confrontation, Gabrovski
ordered that the deportation be postponed. Peshev personally called the local prefect's office to make sure
that the counter-order was being obeyed. Not satisfied with this, Peshev decided to publicly denounce this
and further deportations from the podium of the Parliament, where he served as vice-chairman. Drafting a letter
of protest, he collected the signatures of over 40 members of parliament, addressed to the government and the
king, in which he pleaded not to disgrace the name of Bulgaria by consenting to the deportation of its own
citizen-Jews to Nazi concentration camps. The public protest occasioned by Peshev's posture caused the
government to back down its plans to deport the country's 50,000 Jews. Peshev, however, was penalized by
his dismissal as vice-chairman of the parliament.
After the communist takeover, at the end of the war, Peshev was placed on trial for his participation in the
previous pro-German government. His role in the saving of the country's Jews swayed the court in reducing
his sentence, and he was freed after one year's imprisonment.
In January 1973
, Yad Vashem awarded him the title of "Righteous Among the Nations,"
for his role in halting the deportation of Bulgaria's Jews, at considerable risk to himself. He died that same year.
Text and photo: Yad Vashem