Speaking at Monday’s Holocaust memorial event in Westminster, Prince William paid tribute to his grandmother, Princess Alice, who saved a Jewish family from the Nazis in 1943.
The duke read a letter by a friend of William’s grandmother explaining how the princess helped the Cohen family, saying: “(She) put a small two-room apartment on the third floor at the disposal of Mrs Cohen and her daughter.
“It was thanks to the courageous rescue of Princess Alice that the members of the Cohen family were saved.
“The members of the Cohen family left the residence three weeks after liberation, aware that by virtue of the princess’s generosity and bravery had spared them from the Nazis.”
He and wife Kate were joined by survivors of the Holocaust and other more recent genocides in a candle-lighting ceremony.
Together, they lit 75 flames in the hall, signifying the number of years since Auschwitz-Birkenau was finally liberated.
— Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (@HMD_UK) January 27, 2020
Photographs of survivors taken by the duchess for an exhibition marking 75 years since the end of the Holocaust, were released on Sunday.
Kate, who took the pictures at Kensington Palace earlier this month, has described the survivors in her portraits as “two of the most life-affirming people that I have had the privilege to meet”.
Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cornwall joined more than 200 Holocaust survivors who returned to Auschwitz-Birkenau to commemorate the anniversary of its liberation.
“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for us all to learn from genocide, for a better future.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are due to meet with Holocaust survivors and those of more recent genocides while Prince William will give a reading at the @wabbey service. Live updates here ➡️ https://t.co/KEWwtOwSd1 #HolocaustMemorialDay pic.twitter.com/QAIltQMmjp
— Russell Myers (@rjmyers) January 27, 2020
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”.