Monaco’s Prince Albert II apologised for his country’s role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps during the Second World War.
Despite being neutral during the conflict, police rounded up scores of people who managed to escape from France into the principality believing they would be safe from the Holocaust.
At a special unveiling ceremony today, Prince Albert dedicated a memorial to those who died as a result of the actions of the Monegasque police.
He said: ‘To say this today is to recognise a fact. To say it today, on this day, before you, is to ask forgiveness.’
At his side were Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, renowned Nazi hunters and Holocaust researchers who encouraged Albert’s father to begin examining Monaco’s role during the war.
Albert unveiled a monument at the Monaco cemetery Thursday carved with the names of Monaco’s deported Jews. The date was chosen to mark 73 years since Monegasque authorities, under pressure from Nazi collaborationist leaders in France, rounded up at least 66 Jews on the night of Aug. 27-28, 1942.
They were among about 90 people deported from Monaco, or Monegasque residents deported from neighboring France, during the war, according to a government report completed this year.
Only nine survived.
Monaco was officially neutral at the start of the war, and was later occupied by Italian, then German forces.
Albert said: ‘We committed the irreparable in handing over to the neighboring authorities women, men and a child who had taken refuge with us to escape the persecutions they had suffered in France. In distress, they came specifically to take shelter with us thinking they would find neutrality.”
Albert said the Monaco government has approved nine requests for compensation for property of deported Jews sized by Monegasque authorities.
It was the first clear public acknowledgement of Monaco’s responsibility for Jewish suffering during the war, according to a palace official who compared it to French President Jacques Chirac’s speech in 1997 admitting for the first time the role of the French state in the Holocaust.
Albert’s gesture comes amid his broader efforts as Monaco’s reigning monarch to shed the principality’s long-held reputation as a tax haven and elitist playground for the rich.
He created a commission to aid victims of spoliation, amid criticism that Monaco hadn’t done enough to investigate alleged plundering of property of Jews sent to death camps.
European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor said ‘we welcome today’s event and the desire of the principality to properly examine its role during these dark days of the Nazi occupation.’
He said: ‘There is no time limit on true introspection and regret.’