NEW YORK – The World Jewish Congress mourns the passing of King Michael of Romania, who died Tuesday at the age of 96. “King Michael was a great friend of the Jewish people, who pushed back against Hitler’s cronies, and in turn helped preemptively save thousands of lives during World War II,” said WJC President Ronald S. Lauder.
“He was also a true defender of democracy, in the face of the worst totalitarian regimes, and even after forced by the Communists to abdicate and flee to exile, he continued throughout his life to look out for his country and implore Romanians to confront the darkest chapters in their history.
“Hundreds of thousands of Jews died in Romania at the hands of the pro-German Antonescu regime, more than by the forces of any country other than the Third Reich, and without King Michael’s firm intervention and renunciation of ties with the Axis powers, countless more would have also lost their lives,” Lauder said.
“In the years following the Holocaust, King Michael famously called on Romanians to memorialize the Jews who suffered at the hands of their brethren, declaring ‘They will be forever our countrymen, our brothers and sisters - I urge you: Remember them’,” Lauder added.
“King Michael’s mother, Queen Elena, has been recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Gentile in her own right. Let us cherish her memory along with King Michael’s, as righteous, courageous, and honorable individuals who selflessly fought against evil and whose good deeds should serve as example still today.”