The Duke of Cambridge has met with two descendants of a family sheltered by his late great-grandmother during the Holocaust.
Princess Alice, the mother of Prince Philip, hid Jewish widow Rachel Cohen and two of her five children in her home. On Tuesday, on the second day of the first ever official Royal visit, Prince William joined Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara in meeting Edith and Phillipe Cohen in Jerusalem.
Prince William was presented with a replica of Princess Alice’s Righteous Among the Nations certificate.
Earlier in the day, Prince William paid tribute to his great-grandmother in his personal message during a visit at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial. In the message, the Duke wrote,
“Every name, photograph and memory recorded here is a tragic reminder of the loss suffered by the Jewish people. The story of the Holocaust is one of darkness and despair, questioning humanity itself. The actions of those few, who took great risks to help others, are a reminder of the human capacity for love and hope. I am honoured that my own great grandmother is one of these Righteous Among the Nations.”
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
His Royal Highness met with descendants of a Jewish family saved by his great grandmother Princess Alice during the Holocaust at @IsraeliPM’s Residence in #Jerusalem.#RoyalVisitIsrael @HolocaustUK @HMD_UK @ukinisrael @IsraelinUK @KensingtonRoyal pic.twitter.com/EWkBpV1PYI
— Mark Regev (@MarkRegev) June 26, 2018
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”.
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 per-form, 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”.