It Required Extraordinary Courage to Act as He Did
The Fellowship | January 18, 2017
Life: November 24, 1889 – December 28, 1950
Why you should know him: A Romanian diplomat, Karadja’s courageous actions during World War II saved the lives of more than 51,000 people who were to be deported and exterminated by the Nazis.
Born to Romanian royalty, Prince Constantin Karadja studied law in England, and spoke English, Swedish, Romanian, German, French, Danish, Norwegian, Latin, and Greek. His position and interests led Karadja to a career as a diplomat, which found him serving Romania in Hungary, Sweden, and Germany. He was also an avid bibliophile, founding one of Europe’s most important collections of old and rare books, and writing important works on his nation’s ancient history. His position in the Romanian Academy would later be taken away by the communists.
But Karadja’s greatest work was done during the Holocaust. Unswayed by political pressure or financial opportunities, he was solely interested in protecting and respecting human rights. During World War II, he focused his activities in the consulate “to save Romanian Jews surprised by the war in the kingdom of death.”
Karadja not only protected the assets and property of threatened Jews, but updated their passports so they could escape the Nazis. He also refused to add the word “Jew” to the passports of Jewish people, arguing that “we will worsen even more the situation of these unfortunates by adding unnecessary obstacles to their flight.”
Despite the danger to himself and his career, Karadja spent the entirety of the war insisting on protecting his country’s Jews. After having to resist the Romanian authorities throughout the war, he then found himself facing the communist rulers who came to power in 1948. Karadja died in 1950, without recognition for saving tens of thousands from certain death. It was not until 2005 that Yad Vashem recognized Prince Constantin Karadja as Righteous Among the Nations for his lifetime of protecting human rights through courageous and selfless actions.