According to Royal Central, the most popular independent source for royal news on the web, Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia has extended his congratulations for the Jewish holiday of Chanukah to the Israeli Ambassador to Serbia Jahel Villan, the Chief Rabbi of Serbia Isak Asiel, the President of the Serbian Federation of Jewish Communities Robert Sabados, and all members of the Jewish community in Serbia.
I am a regular visitor to royalcentral.co.uk because I’m a huge fan of the Netflix series The Crown which mercilessly depicts the monstrous members of the House of Windsor, one monster at a time. But while Queen Elizabeth II wields considerable political power, Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia has none. He is barely a footnote. And yet, he sent the Jews of his country Chanukah greetings.
This requires context:
Alexander, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia, is the heir to the defunct throne of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and currently claimant to the abolished throne of the precursor Kingdom of Serbia. The only child of former King Peter II and his wife, Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark, Alexander is the head of the House of Karađorđević. He held the position of the crown prince in Democratic Federal Yugoslavia for the first four-and-a-half months of his life, from his birth on July 17, 1945, until the declaration of the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia on November 29, 1945.
The House of Karađorđević had a “complicated” relationship with the Jews of Serbia. In 1856, Jews were expelled from the country’s provincial towns. Non-Jewish merchants were again favored over Jewish Serbs, who were prohibited from the mercantile industry. Because of blatant Serbian anti-Semitism, the Jewish population in the area decreased each year, until in 1912 only 5,000 Jews remained in Serbia. Still, in 1941, the post-WW1 Jewish population in Serbia was estimated at 33,000, just in time for the Nazi takeover and the establishment of the Crveni Krst concentration camp. Thousands of Serbia’s Jews were killed by gunfire between August and October of 1941, even before the start of the “final solution.”
In his Chanukah statement, His Royal Highness said: “I wish all members of the Jewish community in Serbia to spend the great holiday of light, Chanukah, in health, peace, and joy together with their loved ones. I hope that the warmth and light with which Chanukah candles illuminate every home will inspire all of us to wholeheartedly advocate for a better and more tolerant society. May this great holiday bring you and your family health, love, peace, and prosperity.”
This is so sad, but wait, there’s even more “complicated” stuff: In September 2020, Serbia said it would move its embassy to Jerusalem in 2021. But after Israel and Serbia’s next-door rival Kosovo announced plans to establish relations, Serbia reneged. The European Union complicated the issue even more by warning Serbia that opening a Jerusalem embassy would hurt its chances for EU membership.
See? Whenever there’s talk of Serbs and Jews, somehow a bunch of Germans intervene.
But there’s some good news: in September 2020, when it promised the Jerusalem embassy thing, Serbia announced it would designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. And this you can take to the bank. Maybe. Because after the EU in 2013 declared only the “military wing” of Hezbollah a terrorist organization, in 2020 several European countries decided to declare all of Hezbollah a terrorist organization – so Serbia’s designation was going to provide a nice boost to the move. By the way, the European countries condemning all of Hezbollah were the UK, Germany, Lithuania, Serbia, and… Kosovo.
A strangely uplifting ending to an essentially sorrowful story. Happy Chanukah.