GENEVA -- Alexander Safran, the former chief rabbi of Romania who tried to prevent the deportation of Jews by his country's pro-Nazi regime during World War II, died Thursday at home in Geneva. He was 95.
After leaving his homeland for Switzerland, Rabbi Safran became the chief rabbi of Geneva in 1948. He was also professor of philosophy at the Swiss city's university, and he published a number of literary works.
Rabbi Safran was elected chief rabbi of Romania in 1940, when he was only 30. From April to August 1940, he was a member of the Romanian Senate and tried to persuade the pro-Nazi military government of Ion Antonescu to moderate its anti-Jewish legislation.
After authorities ordered the dissolution of all Jewish organizations in December 1941, Rabbi Safran helped set up the Jewish Council, an underground organization comprising all sectors of the Jewish population.
His home became the group's meeting place.
The council used its links with Romanian church officials, the Vatican, and the royal family in a bid to prevent the mass deportation of Romania's Jews to the Nazi extermination camps.
About half of the 800,000 Jews who lived in Romania before World War II were killed during the war. But the fact that many were saved was widely attributed to Rabbi Safran's efforts.
When Soviet forces entered Romania in 1944, Rabbi Safran refused to cooperate with the new Jewish Democratic Committee, saying it was a Communist body intent on breaking up traditional Jewish organizations and hindering Jewish traditions.
As a result, he was dismissed from his post in 1947 and forced to leave the country.
He leaves two children.