Exiled Italian King's Remains Repatriated From Egypt, Sparking Jewish Community Criticism

Jewish community leaders criticized the decision to return the remains of Victor Emmanuel III to Italy, citing the king's role as an accomplice of the Fascist regime

FILE PHOTO: King Victor Emanuel III, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in 1941 television file footage
Reuters File Photo

The remains of Victor Emmanuel III, who reigned as Italy’s king through two world wars and died in exile in 1947, were flown back from Egypt on Sunday for reburial at a family mausoleum near Turin. Italian Jewish community leaders criticized the decision, due to the king's role as an accomplice of the Fascist regime.

The remains of his wife, Queen Elena, also returned to Italy on Friday for reburial with those of the king at the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, near the Piedmont town of Cuneo, a spokesman for the sanctuary said.

Elena died in 1959 and her remains had lain in Montpelier in France.

Victor Emmanuel III’s 46-year reign, which started in 1900 after the assassination of his father Umberto I, encompassed the period of fascist rule in Italy under dictator Benito Mussolini.

The repatriation was criticized by the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Noemi Di Segni, who said that the move "cannot fail to generate deep concern."

"We need to say it clearly, in all fora: Victor Emmanuel III was an accomplice of the Fascist regime, whose rise he never opposed, and of [its] violence," Di Segni said in a statement.

The king failed to prevent Mussolini's seizure of power in 1922, approved of the 1938 racial laws that permitted discrimination and persecution of Jewish people, and then fled Rome for Egypt in 1944 to avoid the German army's invasion.

The monarch - known as “sciaboletta”, or small sabre, due to his stature - abdicated the throne in 1946 in favor of his son Umberto II in a vain effort to avert a plebiscite to decide whether Italy should remain a monarchy or become a republic.

After Italians voted for a republic, Victor Emmanuel went into exile in Alexandria, Egypt, where he died the following year.

Italy’s post-war constitution barred male descendants of the royal House of Savoy from setting foot in Italy because of the family’s support for Mussolini. The ban was lifted in 2002.

The grandson of Umberto II, Emanuele Filiberto, told the Italian press recently that he believed the right place for the remains of former Italian kings was the Pantheon in Rome.