Mohammed V (10 August 1909 – 26 February 1961) was Sultan of Morocco from 1927 to 1953, exiled from 1953 to 1955, where he was again recognized as Sultan upon his return, and King from 1957 to 1961. His full name was Sidi Mohammed ben Yusef, or Son of (Sultan) Yusef, upon whose death he succeeded to the throne. He was a member of the Alaouite Dynasty.
On 20 August 1953, the French who were occupying Morocco at the time forced Mohammed V and his family into exile on Corsica. His uncle, Mohammed Ben Aarafa, was placed on the throne. Mohammed V and his family were then transferred to Madagascar in January 1954. Mohammed V returned from exile on 16 November 1955, and was again recognized as Sultan after active opposition to the French protectorate. In February 1956 he successfully negotiated with France and Spain for the independence of Morocco, and in 1957 took the title of King.
There are competing accounts of exactly what Mohammed V did or did not do for the Moroccan Jewish community” during the Holocaust. However, “though a subject of debate, most scholars stress the benevolence of Mohammed V toward the Jews” during the Vichy era. Mohammed blocked efforts by Vichy officials to impose anti-Jewish legislation upon Morocco and deport the country’s 250,000 Jews to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps in Europe. The sultan’s stand was “based as much on the insult the Vichy diktats posed to his claim of sovereignty over all his subjects, including the Jews, as on his humanitarian instincts.” Partial Nazi race measures were enacted in Morocco over Mohammed’s objection, and Mohammed did sign, under the instructions of Vichy officials, two dahirs (decrees) that barred Jews from certain schools and positions.
Nevertheless, Mohammed is highly esteemed by Moroccan Jews who credit him for protecting their community from the Nazi and Vichy French government, and Mohammed V has been honored by Jewish organizations for his role in protecting his Jewish subjects during the Holocaust. Some historians maintain that Mohammed’s anti-Nazi role has been exaggerated; historian Michel Abitol writes that while Mohammed V was compelled by Vichy officials to sign the anti-Jewish dahirs, “he was more passive than Moncef Bay (ruler of Tunisia during the Second World War) in that he did not take any side and did not engage in any public act that could be interpreted as a rejection of Vichy’s policy.”
Mohammed V was one of the sons of Sultan Yusef, who was enthroned by the French in September 1912 and his wife Lalla Yaqut, who was of Turkish origin.
His first wife was Lalla Hanila bint Mamoun. She was the mother of his first daughter Lalla Fatima Zohra.
His second wife was his first cousin Lalla Abla bint Tahar (born 5 September 1909 – died 1 March 1992). She was the daughter of Moulay Mohammed Tahar bin Hassan, son of Hassan I of Morocco. She married Mohammed V in 1929 and died in Rabat on 1 March 1992. She gave birth to five children: the future King Hassan II, Lalla Aicha, Lalla Malika, Moulay Abdallah and Lalla Nuzha.
His third wife was Lalla Bahia bint Antar, mother of his last daughter Lalla Amina.
He died on 26 February 1961 following complications of a surgery he had undergone.