My grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Spitz, may he have arichus yamim, was very emotional when he opened up the Hamodia on December 6 and read the article on the passing of King Michael of Romania.
In August 1944, my grandfather was living in German-occupied Bucharest, Romania, as a refugee from Russian-occupied territory, having escaped from the town of Bistritz, which was Hungary at that time. All Jews of Bistritz perished in the extermination camps of Auschwitz.
My grandfather was only 17 years old when, on August 23, 1944, while he was visiting a friend also living in Bucharest, they heard lots of noises coming in from the streets. Not knowing what was going on, they went outside to check what the noise was all about, and found people were dancing in the streets and yelling “Pace!” (pacha), which means peace. There was an announcement in the streets that at 8 o’clock that evening, the king, 22-year-old King Michael of Romania, would be giving a speech. King Michael gave a short, to-the-point speech that ordered all German soldiers to leave Romania within the next 48 hrs. King Michael then dismissed the government and created a new one.
On that day, due to King Michael’s speech and new government, the Romanian army switched from siding with the Axis (the Germans and their allies) up to that point, to siding with the Allies (the Americans, Russians, English, etc.) against the Germans. On that day, all Romanian residents were freed from the Germans and were celebrating their new freedom by dancing in the streets. So, my grandfather was actually liberated by King Michael on that day!
However, Bucharest was still dangerous, as the Germans tried to return to Romania and started bombing Bucharest and other cities. The quiet only returned after American planes got involved and destroyed all the German bases in Romania.
The impact on the Jews of Romania was major. While the Jews from nearby countries such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, etc. were being exterminated in the concentration camps, hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Romania were freed on that day. Very big manhigim, such as the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz and his family, the Vizhnitzer Rebbe from Monsey, the Bobover Rebbe, the Skulener Rebbe, and the Yamtzor Rav, zichronam livrachah, and others, were saved due to King Michael. He was the shaliach from the Ribbono shel Olam at that time.
Mrs. Devory Fessel