TEL AVIV — French Armenian singing legend Charles Aznavour was honored in Israel on Thursday for his family’s efforts to protect Jews and others persecuted by the Nazis during World War II.
The 93-year-old known as France’s Frank Sinatra still performs and is due to give a concert in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
He received the honor from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who spoke of his love of Aznavour’s music, saying “La Boheme” was his favorite song.
Rivlin presented him with The Raoul Wallenberg Award, named for the Swedish diplomat who helped thousands of Jews flee Nazi-controlled Hungary during World War II.
Aznavour’s family “hid a number of people who were persecuted by the Nazis, while Charles and his sister Aida were involved in rescue activities”, Rivlin’s office said in a statement.
The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, based in New York, presents the award and Aznavour chose to receive it in Israel, it said.
Aznavour, who was born in Paris, spoke of his Armenian origins on Thursday, referring to the Armenian Genocide in 1915 under the Ottoman Empire and the Holocaust. His parents fled to France to escape the massacres.
“We have so many things in common, the Jews and the Armenians, in misfortune, in happiness, in work, in music, in the arts and in the ease of learning different languages and becoming important people in the countries where they have been received,” he said.
Aznavour’s hits have included “She”, “Hier Encore” and “La Mamma”.
He is also credited in more than 60 movies, defying detractors who pointed to his unconventional looks to become one of France’s most iconic singers.