This week Prince William wrote of the “essential understanding” Holocaust survivors and educators provide to society.
In a message to the Holocaust Educational Trust’s appeal dinner in London’s Guildhall on Monday, the Duke of Cambridge expressed gratitude to survivors who shared their testimony “for the rest of us to learn and to grow.”
“I know, through my own experience of meeting Holocaust survivors, that being confronted by the reality of what took place cements an essential understanding,” Prince William wrote.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met survivors in 2017 during their visit to the former Nazi concentration camp at Stutthof.
“As we approach the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen by the British Army, I want to applaud your unyielding commitment and passion,” Prince William continued.
“I especially want to command all your youth ambassadors, and wish them lucky as they pick up the vital mantle to ensure these stories continue,” he added.
Prince William’s past visits to Holocaust memorials
In the past, the Duke has visited a number of memorials to the Holocaust. Last year, the honoured the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum.
Rabbi Mirvis, the UK’s chief rabbi who accompanied the prince, said: “Today’s visit to Yad Vashem was profoundly moving and deeply inspiring. The Duke of Cambridge is a figurehead for a younger generation and he has previously mentioned to me that he feels a particular responsibility to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are learned. As the generation of survivors sadly dwindles, there can be no more powerful indication of our commitment to protecting their legacy than the presence of the future Monarch at Yad Vashem.”
Prince William increased the "Eternal Flame" and laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, in honour of the 6 million Jews murdered in the #HolocaustDuring his visit, the Prince was visibly moved when he was shown the display for the children who died in the Holocaust.#PrinceWilliam #RoyalVisitIsrael #UKIsrael #NeverAgain #NeverForget #CUFI
Posted by Christians United for Israel – UK on Tuesday, 26 June 2018
In 2017, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paid their respects to victims of the Holocaust during an emotional tour of the Stutthof concentration camp accompanied by two British survivors.
Their Royal Highnesses observed the Jewish tradition of placing stones rather than flowers in memory of those who perished at a memorial at the camp in Poland before standing heads bowed alongside Manfred Goldberg and Zigi Shipper who recited the El Maleh Rachamim memorial prayer.
Their Royal Highnesses are led in a short prayer by Zigi and Manfred, who are Jewish survivors of Stutthof. pic.twitter.com/J6Z8vQe4l6
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) July 18, 2017
Prince William and Kate were shown discarded shoes and clothing taken from prisoners on arrival at the Nazi camp, which was originally created as a prison camp for Poles but became a concentration camp in 1942.
A total of 65,000 people including 28,000 Jews, many of whom had been evacuated there from Auschwitz as the Germans retreated, died mainly from disease, malnutrition and abuse from the guards. But the royal couple were also shown the gas chamber used to murder those who were too sick to work.
The Royal Connection to the Holocaust – Princess Alice
Princess Alice was an extraordinary woman. She was the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, the mother of Prince Philip (the Queen’s husband) and was born at Windsor Castle in 1885.
Congenitally deaf, she nevertheless learned to speak English and German. She led a difficult life, in and out of exile from Greece, after marrying Prince Andrew of Greece in 1903 and becoming Princess of Greece.
During World War II she lived in Athens and had sons-in-law who were fighting on the German side while her own son was in the British Royal Navy fighting the Nazis. During the Nazi occupation of Athens, the German’s assumed that she was pro-German, and on visiting her a general asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” She replied, “You can take your troops out of my country”.
At the @IsraeliPM’s residence, The Duke of Cambridge, PM @Netanyahu and Mrs Netanyahu met Edith and Phillipe Cohen, two descendants of people sheltered by Princess Alice, The Duke’s great-grandmother, during the Holocaust. pic.twitter.com/BhevDJFvE6
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) June 26, 2018
In 1943, Athens was home to around 75,000 Jews. Of these, around 60,000 were deported to Nazi concentration camps, where all but 2,000 died. During this period Princess Alice hid Jewish widow Rachel Cohen and two of her five children in her home. Rachel’s husband, Haimaki Cohen had aided King George I of Greece in 1913. In return, King George offered him any service he could perform, should Cohen ever need it. Cohen’s son remembered this during the Nazi threat and appealed to Princess Alice. She honoured the promise and saved the Cohen family.
When Athens was liberated in October 1944, Princess Alice insisted on walking the streets to distribute rations to policemen and children in contravention of the curfew order. When told she could be shot and killed, she replied, “They tell me that you don’t hear the shot that kills you. And in any case, I am deaf. So why worry about that?”
Princess Alice died at Windsor Castle in 1969, and her remains lay at first in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. But her final wish was to be buried at the Russian Orthodox Convent on the Mount of Olives, near her aunt Elizabeth, the Grand Duchess of Russia, who was murdered by the Bolsheviks and declared a Russian Orthodox saint. Her remains were transferred there in 1988.
Princess Alice was recognised by Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations”.
Prince William’s Royal Visit to Israel
Last year Prince William visited Israel, becoming the first British Monarch to visit the Jewish state on an official visit. Below is a video of the highlights.
For a more in-depth look at his visit, click here.