The Duchess of Cambridge reunited with two Holocaust Survivors Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg on a video call and talked about their experiences and memories of the Holocaust, and of its prevailing impact. They were joined by the youth ambassadors from the Holocaust Educational Trust and discussed the importance of remembering the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, and of championing younger generations to ensure that the stories of survivors continue to be shared into the future.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met Zigi and Manfred at Stutthof in 2017 during their Poland tour. The couple described the visit to Stutthof “Shattering”. Earlier in the morning, Kensington Palace shared a message on its social media pages, marking the day, “We all have a role to play to ensure the experiences of Holocaust survivors like Zigi and Manfred are never forgotten “.
The call began with a joke from Zigi who told Catherine, “I didn’t need your husband. You were the one I wanted.” The Duchess laughed at the joke and said, “Well Zigi I will tell him you miss him very much. And he sends his regards as well, obviously….it’s lovely to see you again.”
Zigi and Manfred both met at one of the Nazi camps as young boys at Stutthof near Danzig – now known as Gdansk in 1944. The friends met with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2017 showed them the camp area that now is serving as a museum. They both were among 110,000 men, women and children who were imprisoned in the camp. Remembring the horrible time when he was loaded onto a train by Nazi guards from his Polish ghetto before being transported to a death camp in 1944, Zigi said,
They opened the doors and they started putting people in. There was nowhere you could sit down. If you sat down, they sat on top of you. I was praying that maybe – I was so bad, I was – that I said to myself ‘I hope someone would die, so I would have somewhere to sit down’.
Every morning they used to take out the dead bodies, so eventually I had somewhere to sit down. I can’t get rid of it, you know.
Even today, how could I think a thing like that? To want someone to die so I could sit down. That’s what they made me do.
If none of us says anything, we would forget about it. I want people to know. We must never forget. People should talk all the time.
People ask me all the time how I survived and my answer is that I don’t know, I honestly don’t. There were people next to me dying. Why am I still alive? It’s unbelievable.
Manfred who will be 91 in April this year told The Duchess how it took him years before he was able to talk about his life during the camp. Remembring a moment during the camp, Manfred said,
We were facing a selection which meant shuffling along with single file until we faced an SS man who would say ‘left or right’. And by that time we knew that left meant today, today, right meant survive until the next selection at least.
As I shuffled forwards the man behind me whispered to me ‘if they ask you your age say you are 17’. In fact, I had just passed my 14th birthday. But as he primed me and he did ask me that question and I said 17.
I have pondered on it, but I will never know [whether] that man saved my life. I never saw him again. He was behind me, I don’t know which way he was sent. He’s in my thoughts, as my angel who primed me.
I don’t think I would have had the resource myself to say 17. But possibly that helped save my life.
As long as you had the strength to perform a solid day’s work, which was expected on a starvation diet, of course, you had a reasonable chance of surviving at least to the next day.
It was a daily lottery to survive.
Praising Zigi and Manfred for their dedication to teaching younger generations about the horrors they suffered, The Duchess of Cambridge, who was visibly moved after hearing the stories during the horrible time and their lives after the camp, said,
“The stories you have shared with me and your dedication in educating the younger generation about your experiences and the horrors of the Holocaust shows extreme strength and such bravery.”
About the conversation, Maxwell the youth ambassador with the Trust, later on, shared on Twitter, “The Duchess of Cambridge was so passionate about the work I have done as an Ambassador, and I cannot thank her and her team enough. Manfred and Zigi are an excellent pair that reminds me of just how important Holocaust remembrance and commemoration is to refuting Holocaust denial.“
It is estimated that a minimum of 1.4 million people was deported to Auschwitz between 1940 and 1945, of these, at least 1.1 million were murdered. Some 900,000 Jews were killed in the gas chambers immediately after arriving at the camp and their bodies burned in the crematorium. Approx 30,000 shoes belonging to prisoners who were executed at the camp known as Auschwitz I are part of the Museum exhibition.
At the end of World War II, the Zigi and Manfred were one of the 45000 prisons who survived the camp nightmare while 65000 prisoners lost their lives. Zigi showed a picture of his family and life after the camp in the UK and told Catherine how grateful he is that he got to live a wonderful life. While Manfred showed a picture of them meeting William and Catherin in 2017. He said, “My life truly began when I reached here aged 16”.
Thank you so much once again for sharing your stories with me and for all the work you do in sharing your experiences. – The Duchess of Cambridge
January 27 marked the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi Camp. The Holocaust Educational Trust was established in 1988 with an aim to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. The Trust works in schools, universities and in the community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, providing teacher training, an outreach programme for schools, teaching aids and resource material. One of the earliest achievements of the Trust was ensuring that the Holocaust formed part of the National Curriculum for History.
Prince Charles of Wales is the Patron of the Trust. Releasing a video message to mark the day, Prince Charles said, ” As I speak, the last generation of living witnesses is tragically passing from this world. So the task of bearing witness falls to us. That is why The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, of which I am so proud to be patron, has this year chosen the theme ‘be the light in the darkness’. This is not a task of one time only, nor is it a task for one generation or one person. It is for all people, all generation and all time. This is our time when we can, each, in our own way, be the light that ensures the darkness can never return.”
As Manfred said during the call, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to remain silent” – it is our responsibility that our coming generations must learn about the atrocities happening in the past so that they would never be repeated. Our coming generations must learn that the lives full of freedom they are enjoying came at a huge cost.
In 2020, The Duchess of Cambridge photographed two of the Holocaust survivors ahead of 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. The Duchess of Cambridge clicked portraits of Steven Frank BEM and Yvonne Bernstein. Read more about the collaboration and check out the portraits here. Imperial War Museum is establishing a permanent exhibition ‘Shoah’ that will be opened this year. The portraits will be on display permanently at the exhibition. I believe we will be hearing about it more in the upcoming months.
For the video call, The Duchess of Cambridge was looking elegant in the grey ribbed top. Kate’s Closet suggested that The Duchess of Cambridge could be wearing Alexander McQueen Fine Ribbed Knit Top.
Catherine paired the outfit with her Simone Rocha Faux-Peral Curb Chain Pearl Earrings.
The Duchess was also wearing a very sleek diamond pendant with a blue stone that still remains unidentified. It could be Catherine’s 39th birthday gift as we started seeing it very recently.
I am also loving her long hair during the lockdown. As always The Duchess of Cambridge is polished, impeccably dressed and elegant in her zoom calls.
In other news, The Daily Mirror reported amazing news. The Duchess of Cambridge is planning to launch new initiatives to help Britain’s “silent victims” of the coronavirus crisis. This month she held two private engagements, renewing her focus on bringing a range of experts and organisations together from across the arena which experts say has been “historically woefully underfunded”.
The Duchess has begun shifting her focus to help charities operate in a post-pandemic environment while continuing to raise the issues homelessness, addiction and poor mental health of children and their families. From Daily Mirror’s report,
A palace source said: “These themes are so often grounded in a difficult childhood and have undoubtedly been exacerbated for thousands of vulnerable children during the pandemic.
“The Duchess’s primary work will be to build on the results of the survey and bring together more partners to focus on those who are most at risk of falling through the cracks of society. In her own words, she believes the early years should be on par with the other great social challenges and opportunities of our time.
“The early years can play such a crucial role in shaping our future which is why this is so important, not just in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, but also to have a chance of achieving real change for generations.”
I am looking forward to hearing more about this project.
The British Prime Minister today announced that the Schools in the UK will remain close until March 8 as the lockdown have been extended. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are currently in Norfolk where they are homeschooling Prince George and Princess Charlotte. I believe Prince Louis’ must also be doing some studies these days as he was supposed to join pre-nursery this January.
With the lockdown being extended, it seems the Cambridge family will be staying in Norfolk for the foreseeable future and the chain of Zoom calls will be continued.