As one of those Bulgarian Jews who were saved from deportation to the Nazi death camps, I wish to thank Sandra Bisbey for her Dec. 11 letter correcting President Clinton's statements about Bulgaria during World War II.
She correctly states that it was not the Bulgarian government that protected the Jews but "ordinary people and a few courageous politicians, the leaders of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Bulgarian king, Boris, who incurred the displeasure of Hitler and died an agonizing and mysterious death, possibly from poison, in August 1943."
But historians are still reluctant--for lack of firm evidence--to pass judgment on the king's real role in the rescue of Bulgarian Jewry. On the other hand, abundant and incontrovertible evidence and testimony by contemporaries documents the heroic intervention of the parliament's deputy speaker, Dimitar Peshev, which cost him his job and turned him into a political pariah. At the end of the war, the Soviet-installed Bulgarian government "rewarded" Peshev for his efforts on behalf of the Jews by making him stand trial before a Communist-controlled People's Court on an equal footing with members of the former, pro-Nazi regime. Thanks only to a clever legal maneuver by my father, who served as his defense counsel, did he escape the death penalty. After the commutation of his 15-year, forced-labor sentence, he lived in poverty and isolation and died a broken man in the early 1970s.
NORBERT J. YASHAROFF