During WWII the Kingdom of Bulgaria managed to save its entire Jewish population of nearly 50,000 from deportation to the Nazi concentration camps, despite the fact the country had sided with Germany.
He forced the Minister of the Interior to cancel the deportation orders already in place hours before the trains took off, and then personally called all the prefects’ offices to make sure the counterorder was actually obeyed (the full text of the letter of protest to the parliament, written after the orders were canceled, could be read in English here).
Role played also the majority of Bulgarians, including many members of parliament, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, writers, artists, lawyers and other members of the intelligentsia.
The Bulgarian Jews were saved in the 12th hour prior to their deportation to Treblinka and Auschwitz and actually got to get off the trains, on which they were already mounted and were awaiting deportation.
When asked about his rationale for preventing the Jewish deportation years after the events, Peshev once stated, “My human conscience and my understanding of the fateful consequences both for the people involved and the policy of our country now and in the future did not allow me to remain idle. And I decided to do all in my power to prevent what was being planned from happening; I knew that this action was going to shame Bulgaria in the eyes of the world and brand her with a stain she did not deserve.”
After the war, most of the Bulgarian Jewish population left voluntarily for Israel, leaving only several thousand today (1,363 according to the 2001 census). According to Israeli government statistics, 43,961 people from Bulgaria have emigrated to Israel between 1948 and 2006, which is the 4th largest number of all European countries, behind the Soviet Union, Romania and Poland.
Today, some 75,000 Bulgarian Jews call Israel their home.