BUCHAREST, Romania — Moses Rosen, who as Romania's chief rabbi helped 400,000 Jews flee the country during the purges of the communist era, has died. He was 81.
Rosen died of a heart attack Friday after suffering a stroke three weeks ago that left him partially paralyzed.
Elected Romania's Jewish leader in 1948, when there were 600 rabbis in the country, he fought to keep Jewish traditions alive in communist Romania while at the same time helping Jews emigrate, mainly to Israel.
Before World War II, Romania had 800,000 Jews, one of the largest populations in Europe. Half were killed in the Nazi Holocaust, and most of the rest have since emigrated.
Today there are fewer than 18,000 Jews among Romania's 23 million people, and most of them are over 60.
Even so, Rosen found himself fighting a rising tide of anti-Semitism after the violent fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 as Romanian nationalists sought scapegoats for their economic woes and the country's past mistakes.
In January, he lashed out at a state television program in which historians contended that Jews had incited anti-Semitic feelings in Marshal Ion Antonescu, who led Romania into World War II as an ally of Nazi Germany.
"There is a weekly escalation in these (anti-Semitic) sentiments," he warned.
Rosen was born to an Orthodox Jewish family in the town of Bacau, in what is now Moldova, in 1912. He studied law in Bucharest and, after surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, worked to help Romanian Jews emigrate.