Bulgarian who Stopped Hitler Honored in Garden of the Righteous, Milan

Society | December 24, 2012, Monday // 15:07|  views

Photos by peshev.org

Dimitar Peshev, the man whose initiative rescued a total of 50 000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps, will be commemorated in the Graden of the Righteous in Milan.

This became possible thanks to a sign-up, initiated by 24 Hours daily and backed by dozens of Bulgarians living in Italy.

The Gardens of the Righteous Committee has unanimously approved the proposal by the Bulgarian community in Italy for honoring Bulgaria's former deputy speaker of the National Assembly with a tree on the hill Monte Stella in Milan.

The ceremony will take place in Milan on March 6, 2013, the first time Europe will mark the European Day of the Righteous.

The European Day of the Righteous was approved by the European Parliament on 10 May 2012 and will take place yearly on 6 March to remember all men and women who have stood up against totalitarianism and genocides.

Three high-profile representatives of those fighters will be commemorated together with Peshev – Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic's first president after the Velvet Revolution against communist rule, who died a year ago, Lebanese journalist and academic Samir Kassir, who was killed in 2005, Norwegian explorer and diplomat Fridtjof Nansen, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for the assistance that he provided to millions of Armenian and Russian refugees after the war.

Even though Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany in World War II, 50 000 Bulgarian Jews were not deported to the Nazi death camps in 1943 thanks to mass civil protests, active stance by 43 Bulgarian MPs, and Tsar Boris III's resistance to Hitler's demands for deportation.

Dimitar Peshev had a key role in stopping the deportation.

When word leaked out that 8,500 Jews had been rounded up early on the morning of March 10, 1943, and placed on trains destined for the concentration camp Treblinka, their non-Jewish fellow countrymen made their voices heard. Dimitar Peshev, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, risked his career and his life by organizing a letter signed by 43 deputies denouncing the deportations and insisted to the country's interior minister that they be stopped.

Similarly, Patriarch Cyril, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, said he would be deported along with the Jews if the order stood. By the end of the day, amazingly, all the Jews who'd been rounded up were released.

On February 20, 1973 Dimitar Peshev was dying in a house in Neofit Rilski Street, Sofia. Despite his more than significant part in saving the Jews of an entire nation, he was soon forgotten by practically everyone.

Peshev's story was allowed to fall into oblivion even by survivors themselves.

Since 1998, thanks to the book "The Man who Stopped Hitler", by Gabriele Nissim, and to dozens of related events in Milan, Rome, Sofia, Strasbourg, Washington, Berlin, Jerusalem, four Parliaments have recognized and officially commemorated Peshev and his courageous deed.

Gabriele Nissim, historian, journalist and writer, has realized numerous documentaries about the Righteous and the events relating to the Jews in the Eastern European Countries for the tv networks of the Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canale 5.

In 2001 Gabriele Nissim founded the Gardens of the Righteous Committee, of which he is the Chairman. The Committee is an international organization that promotes the memory of the Righteous and following the example set by Yad Vashem has created several gardens of the Righteous such as in Bosnia and Armenia. It is currently creating one in Rwanda, as well.

In Milan Gabriele Nissim created the Garden of the Righteous Worldwide together with the City Hall and the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities. He also accomplished the WeFor project approved by the European Union, which presents visitors and school communities with virtual and real Gardens of the Righteous of the various EU Countries.

He was a key figure in promoting the idea of establishing the European Day of the Righteous.

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Tags: Gabriele Nissim, Milan, Dimitar Peshev, Bulgaria, Jews, The Man who Stopped Hitler


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