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Dimitar Peshev. Declared Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem long ago Photo: AP
Dimitar Peshev. Declared Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem long ago Photo: AP

Savior of Jews' statue sparks debate in US

Decision to name Washington intersection after Dimitar Peshev, who helped save Bulgaria's Jewish population during World War II, prompts US Holocaust Memorial Museum to accuse country of not accurately portraying its history and involvement in Holocaust

Daniel Koren
Published: 06.18.13, 07:21 / Israel Jewish Scene

A seemingly standard decision that was supposed to be put into action smoothly and undetectable has galvanized a national outcry.


A former Washington civil official and local history buff, in conjunction with the Bulgarian Embassy, recently requested to name a street intersection in Washington for Dimitar Peshev, who served as vice president of Bulgaria's parliament during World War II and helped save the country's Jewish population during the Holocaust.


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The plan would evolve to its current standing as Dimitar Peshev Plaza, with talks of developing a statue for Peshev, to be erected in front of the Bulgarian Embassy.


This decision prompted the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to send the Bulgarian Embassy a letter accusing the country of not accurately portraying their history and involvement during the Holocaust.


The proposal to develop Dimitar Peshev Plaza has since erupted into a growing, and controversial, debate on Bulgaria's role throughout the war. Peshev's legacy has not once been questioned; Yad Vashem declared him a Righteous Gentile long ago.


“This is a story of what one man did to fight evil,” said Neil Glick, a real estate agent involved with the project and former city commissioner who is pushing the measure. “Peshev’s actions show us that one person can make a difference.”


Despite Glick's claims, which are absolutely valid, Holocaust scholars are skeptical to commend the Bulgarian Embassy for its role throughout that era, not because they doubt Peshev's actions, but because of Bulgaria's known treatment of the Jew during the Holocaust, its premeditated alliance to Nazi Germany, and the draconian laws they passed which stripped Jews of their rights, and sent them straight to the hands of the Nazis.


“There are some in Bulgaria who seek to say, ‘We were just like Denmark.’ But they weren’t,” said Paul Shapiro, director of US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, referring to the Danish government's efforts to rescue Danish Jews from concentration camps.


Washington officials have yet to announce a decision regarding the issue, but the debate rages on.


Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life



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