The population in Eourope was over nine

 The Holocaust was the “systematic,
bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the
Nazi regime and its collaborators”. In 1933, the Jewish population in Eourope was over nine million, most living in countries that
Nazi Germany would occupy or influence during World War II. By 1945, the
Germans and their collaborators killed nearly two out of every three
European Jews as part of the “Final Solution,” the Nazi policy to
murder the Jews of Europe. The opinion on Jews to non-Jewish civilians ranged
from indifference to complete hostility, and as the danger and tension grew for
European Jews, so did the need for help. People began to harbor Jews, hiding
them from German officials to avoid being taken away. They risked their own lives
to save what little of the population remained, and for that reason, we acknowledge
and appreciate their efforts today. There are countless people this essay could
be on, but one of the most interesting people, was by far, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.

Elisabeth Wittelsback
was born in Munich, Bavaria. Named after father’s
sister, the Empress of Austria, she was the fourth child of the ten, born to Prince
Maximilian of Bavaria and his wife, Princess Ludovika, in Possenhofen Castle. To
her friends and family, Elisabeth was known as “Sissi”.  In August 1853, she went to Bad Ischl with her
mother and older sister Helene, to celebrate Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph’s
23rd birthday. The event was also supposed to be the occasion to announce his
engagement to Helene. However, Franz Joseph was so taken by the young and
beautiful Elisabeth that he proposed to her instead. Elisabeth was was Queen
consort of the Belgians as the spouse of King Albert I, the
mother of King Leopold III of Belgium and of Queen Marie-José
of Italy, and grandmother of kings Baudouin and Albert
II of Belgium, and Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte of Luxembourg.
On May 18, 1965, Yad Vashem recognized Queen-Mother
Elisabeth of Belgium as Righteous Among the Nations. 

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In December 1909, Albert and Elisabeth became King
and Queen of the Belgians, following the death of Albert’s uncle, King Leopold II. She took on a much public role that
Queens in the past, making it a point to get involved with as many charities
and organizations as she could, particularly those that valued the arts and
social welfare. Elisabeth often surrounded herself with famous authors and
artists, as well as leading scientists of the day. Her friendly nature, and
true care and concern for others, quickly endeared her to the people of
Belgium.

When war broke out in 1914, Queen Elisabeth remained
as charitable as she had been at first. The Queen worked diligently with the
nurses on the front and helped establish the Symphony Orchestra of the field
army. She also traveled to the UK often, under the pretext of visiting her
children who were studying there. In fact, she was often bringing important
messages and information to the British government from her husband and his
forces. Following the war, the family made a triumphant return to Brussels and
set about to rebuild the nation.

 

 

On August 1, 1942,
Queen-Mother Elisabeth of Belgium welcomed representatives of the Association
des Juifs en Belgique Eugène Hellendael, Lazare Liebmannand Salomon Van den
Berg, into her royal palace in Brussels. Her palace, was stationed next to the
German headquarters. The representatives told her about the atrocities that
were being committed in Europe, the imprisonment conditions in the
Mechelen/Malines transit camp, and about the elderly people, the children and
babies who were being cut off from their families and
sent to Germany. The Queen –Mother dutifully promised the men that she would try
everything in her power to stop the arrests and to protect Belgian Jews from
deportation to Poland. Queen-Mother Elisabeth went directly to the source, Hitler,
in order to request that Jews not be deported.

In
a telegram from Berlin, that was sent July 4, 1942, Elisabeth was promised that
the Jews with valid Belgian citizenship would not be deported or separated from
their families, and that those who were under arrest in Mechelen/Malines,
awaiting deportation could receive visitors. On October 30, 1942, the Germans
had arrested the children in the Wezembeek orphanage, but after constant prodding
from Queen-Mother Elisabeth, the Germans released the children.

In
May 1943, Queen-Mother Elisabeth visited a hospital in Antwerp, which
apparently caused the Germans to keep over 80 Jewish elderly and sick people there.
In June 1943, the Queen-Mother began to protest again, regarding the Belgian
Jews imprisoned in Mechelen/Malines, and about three hundred of them were
released at that moment. Even with all her interventions, the Germans didn’t
keep majority of their promises, and most of the Jewish with Belgian
nationality were still eventually rounded up and arrested on September 3, 1943,
and sent to camps. This event was originally coded as “Operation Iltis”.