Earlier this year, we told you about Elena, Queen Mother of Romania, who was surely an advocate and ally of the Jewish people during their darkest hour. Now, The Forward's Benjamin Ivry tells us about her son, King Michael I, who passed away last week at the age of 96, and whose work during World War II saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Nazis:
King Michael I of Romania, who died on December 5 at age 96, proved that being a mama’s boy can result in a mitzvah. Three-quarters of a century ago, he defied his country’s Hitler-allied Prime Minister, Ion Antonescu, and worked to save hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.
Through the cooperation of Antonescu, Romania’s Prime Minister during most of World War II, over 270,000 Romanian Jews were killed or died from mistreatment during the Holocaust. Yet as historian Radu Ioanid has noted, around 300,000 Romanian Jews did manage to survive the war.
They did so in part due to persistent efforts by King Michael, following the stalwart resolve of his mother, Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark, Queen Mother of Romania, who decades later was included among Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations. As his biographer Ivor Porter describes, both King Michael and his mother used their public status to act as humanitarians after his father, King Carol II of Romania, abdicated in 1925 while indulging in an affair with Magda Lupescu, the daughter of a Jewish pharmacist. In the summer of 1941, when the Jews of Besserabia, Bukovina, and Dorohoi were deported, Alexandru Șafran, chief rabbi of Romania, asked Patriarch Nicodim of Romania, head of the Orthodox Church, to intervene. General Antonescu was deaf to any pleas, so Patriarch Nicodim turned to the Queen Mother, who implored Antonescu, along with others, to stop the deportations...