This week Belgian Jewry mourned the passing of the beloved Albert, King of the Belgians, hero leader of the little country in its resistance against the invading German army in 1914. World Jewry mourns the death of a high-minded, simple, democratic individual who abhorred anti-Semitism and on more than one occasion showed his friendliness to the Jewish people in general and to the Zionist movement in particular. The King was lved and respected by his Jewish subjects.
In an exclusive statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Belgian Minister in Washington, S. Paul May, declared: “His majesty, King Albert has always considered the members of every religious faith on a footing of absolute equality; holding for all of them in his heart, the same sentiment of royal favor and solicatude.” Minister May is Jewish.
Last November, Queen Elizabeth, consort of the dead monarch, paid a visit of state to the Yiddish theatre in Brussels to witness the performance of “Kiddush Hasem.” a play by Sholem Asch which portrayed th sufferings of the Ukrainian Jews during the pogrom period of Bogdan Chmelnitzki. The Queen stayed through the whole performance, which was given by the Wilno troupe, and later received the director of the froupe to whom she expressed her interest in the play.
MEANING OF THE VISIT
The entire Belgian press hailed the Queen’s visit to the Yiddish theater as an event of importance and as a demonstration of the sympathy of the Belgian ruling house with the Jews. It interpreted the Queen’s visit as a protest by her against anti-Semitism in general as well as against the persecution of the Jews in Germany.
A month previous, King Albert had granted a lengthy audience to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, head of the zionist commission for the settlement of German Jewish refugees in Palestine. It was understood that Dr. Weizmann discussed current happenings with the Belgian ruler and described to him the work of upbuilding Palestine and the future possibilities of the country, in which the King was known to be interested and which he had visited
At the same time the liberal immigration policy pursued by Belgium after the World War and for which the King was known to be responsible permitted the entry of many thousands of East European Jews into the country and led to the creation of flourishing Belgian Jewish communities in such centers of population as Brus sels and Antwerp.
EINSTEINS AS FRIENDS
Among the Jewish friends of the King the names of Professor and Mrs. Albert Einstein are prominent. The Belgian rulers received the scientist and his wife several times. After being exiled from Germany, Professor einstein spent some time in Belgium and a warm friendship is said to have developed between the scientist and the monarch. In fact, Prof. Einstein and the Queen often played duets together. In his home in Princeton where Professor Finstein is now teaching, the news of the death of the King came as a great shock. To a Jewish Telegraphic Agency representative Mrs. Einstein expressed her sense of loss. She could only repeat time and again “He was a wonderful man. so fine, so noble.” Then she excused herself to break the news of the sudden death of the King to her husband.
In New York, where King Albert was remembered for his visit after the World War, the news of the King’s death saddened many of the Jewish leaders who had met him then.
One Jewish educator who had known the King in Palestine said: “I met the King in Palestine,” he declared. “He was a lover and a great friend of the Jews. The King was enthusiastic over the work of reconstruction in Palestine and and paid a splendid tribute to the enthusiasm of the Jewish people. It is a known fact that at the time of his death, the King was planning to pay another visit to the Holy land.”
The true greatness of the Belgian King became clear when the World War began in 1914. Up to that time the young king had lived quietly and unobstrusively in his little kingdom, a constitutional monarch.
When the war began Belgium was invaded by the German army. Despite the fact that the little country was unprepared militerily, the King did not hesitate. With unexpected courage he decided to fight against the vlolation of his country’s neutrality. The great Belgian dramatist Maeterlinck called him “the young and great king of my little country. Had he not been there. things would, doubless, not have happened and history might have lost one of her noblest pages.”
The idealistic stand of the King surprised the Germans. He was a German prince married to a German princess. His family SaxeCoburg was German family. His wife was a daughter of the King of Bavaria. His mother was a relative of the Kaiser. And above all the Germans thought the foly of any resistance was obvious.
For all the world the Belgian King personified the brave stand of the little nation against supperior forces and they honored him for it.