Moroccan Jews Pay Homage to Protector'

RABAT - Moroccan Jews held special prayers in synagogues in this Muslim kingdom Thursday in memory of those killed at Auschwitz, and expressed gratitude to King Mohammed V, grandfather of the current monarch, for protecting them from the Nazis during World War II.

As the world marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, the approximately 3,000 Moroccan Jews quietly prayed.

Morocco was a French protectorate at the time of the war, and Mohammed V rejected orders set out by France's collaborationist Vichy government as early as 1940. He refused to make the 200,000 Jews then living in Morocco wear yellow stars, as they did in France.

"There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only subjects," the king is reported to have said.

Serge Berdugo, the head of the Council of Israelite Communities of Morocco, said that in a special show of defiance, King Mohammed V in 1941 invited all the rabbis of Morocco to the traditional throne ceremony, a major event held each year by the royal palace.

"The Moroccan Jewish community was not disturbed thanks to the role of Mohammed V," Berdugo said.

With special prayers yesterday in the more than a dozen synagogues in Morocco, Jews paid homage to those deported and killed in Auschwitz and expressed "eternal gratitude" to Mohammed V, Berdugo said.