MONACO — Monaco's Prince Albert II apologized Thursday for his country's role in deporting Jews to Nazi camps during World War II — more than seven decades after police rounded up scores of people from the seaside principality, including those who had sought refuge from the Holocaust in what they thought was a safe and neutral land.
"To say this today is to recognize a fact. To say it today, on this day, before you, is to ask forgiveness," Albert said in a poignant speech recounting actions by Monegasque police during the war.
At his side were Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, renowned Nazi hunters and Holocaust researchers who encouraged Albert's father to begin examining Monaco's role during the war.
Albert unveiled a monument at the Monaco cemetery Thursday carved with the names of Monaco's deported Jews. The date was chosen to mark 73 years since Monegasque authorities, under pressure from Nazi collaborationist leaders in France, rounded up at least 66 Jews on the night of Aug. 27-28, 1942.
They were among about 90 people deported from Monaco, or Monegasque residents deported from neighboring France, during the war, according to a government report completed this year. Only nine survived.
Monaco was officially neutral at the start of the war, and was later occupied by Italian, then German forces.
"We committed the irreparable in handing over to the neighboring authorities women, men and a child who had taken refuge with us to escape the persecutions they had suffered in France," Albert said. "In distress, they came specifically to take shelter with us thinking they would find neutrality."
Albert said the Monaco government has approved nine requests for compensation for property of deported Jews sized by Monegasque authorities.
European Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor said "we welcome today's event and the desire of the principality to properly examine its role during these dark days of the Nazi occupation."
In a statement to The Associated Press, he said: "There is no time limit on true introspection and regret."
Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.