Today, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the ceremony to mark Holocaust Memorial Day at Central Hall in Westminster, London. January 27, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi Camp known as Holocaust Memorial Day.
The Holocaust (The Shoah in Hebrew) was the attempt by the Nazis and their collaborators to murder all the Jews in Europe. Holocaust Memorial Day takes place each year on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and honours survivors of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution, and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. From Holocaust Memorial Day Trust,
With the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 Germany invaded Poland, subjecting around two million Polish Jews to violence and forced labour. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the first months of the occupation. Shortly after the occupation Polish Jews were confined to particular neighbourhoods that came to be known as ‘ghettos’. Living conditions in these ghettos were appalling – a deliberate attempt by the Nazis to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews. This approach was repeated across Eastern Europe in other countries occupied by the Nazis.
In 1941, the systematic murder of Europe’s Jews began – a plan known by the Nazis as ‘The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’. Death squads called Einsatzgruppen swept Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, killing Jews by firing squad. By the end of 1941 the first extermination camp, Chelmno in Poland, had been established, giving the Nazis their method to continue murdering on a giant scale between 1941 and 1945.
By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jewish men, women and children had been murdered in ghettos, mass-shootings, in concentration camps and extermination camps.
The Auschwitz concentration camp was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust.
Drone footage captures the sheer size of Auschwitz death camp
— ITV News (@itvnews) January 26, 2020
It consisted of Auschwitz I, the main camp in Oświęcim; Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a concentration and extermination camp built with several gas chambers, Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labour camp created to staff a factory for the chemical conglomerate IG Farben and dozens of subcamps.
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.
William and Catherine were received by the chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Olivia Marks-Woldman. They also met the survivor and trust honorary president, Sir Ben Helfgott, ahead of the service. Prince William told Olivia and Sir Ben, “We were talking this morning about how you carry on this message for future generations. We will do our best.“
Today’s ceremony was organized by the Holocaust Memorail Day Trust that is a Prince of Wales Charles’ patronage. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) promotes and supports Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). HMD has taken place in the UK since 2001, with a UK event and over 10,000 local activities taking place on or around the 27th January each year. Each year across the UK, thousands of people come together to learn more about the past, honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition, and take action to create a safer future. The HMDT works in partnership with many organisations to ensure the life stories of survivors are shared with hundreds of thousands of people.
The royal couple was joined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and leading dignitaries. At the ceremony, Prince William gave a reading that honoured his great-grandmother Princess Alice’s efforts in helping a Jewish family during the Holocaust. The reading was from a letter sent by a friend of his great-grandmother Princess Alice.
From People’s report,
“When the persecution of the Jews by the Germans began, Princess Alice asked to be informed about the fate of the Cohen family. Having been informed by friends and by her lady in waiting about the plight of Mrs. Cohen and her young daughter, the Princess decided to offer her hospitality to the two ladies; in fact to hide them in her home despite the danger this entailed,” the letter began.
“The Princess 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.
“The great-granddaughter of Rachel Cohen, Evy Cohen, said this 2 years ago: ‘My family would not exist without the courageous act of Princess Alice. Her story of incredible courage must keep being told in her memory. My generation, the past generation and the future generation are, and will eternally be, grateful to Princess Alice for the great act of bravery, risking her own life to take in a family in need.”
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with attendees at the ceremony were the first to see the national exhibition of Memorial Flames made by community groups and organisations across the UK for 75 Memorial Flames project. About Memorial Flames, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said,
From art groups to faith groups and charities to schools, groups of all kinds have come together to make their own Memorial Flames. Each one commemorates 75 years since the end of the Holocaust, the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews in Europe.
In November a panel of experts met to review the artworks submitted, and 75 Memorial Flame artworks have now been selected to form a national exhibition that will be launched at the UK Commemorative Ceremony for HMD 2020. You can see the list of selected groups and some example artworks here.
Today’s event is one of the series of events taking place across Europe to mark the solemn anniversary, including at the death camp itself in Poland where Duchess of Cornwall is representing the UK. The survivors shared their experiences and horrors they faced in the camps. People Reported,
Ian Forsyth, who was a wireless operator, told movingly how there were “bodies lying everywhere.” With his voice breaking, he said, “I don’t think anybody who didn’t see the place would understand what it as like. I get emotional when I think of that 11-year-old boy taken away from his mother and sleeping on the top bunk and who died during the night.”
“I hope people can realize how far mankind can sink if they are not careful. We are not all the same but that should be celebrated.”
A short film Nazi Boots created by director Debs Paterson in response to meeting the Holocaust.
After the ceremony, William and Catherine also took part in a candle-lighting ceremony on the stage, along with survivors. After 6 candles were lit to honour the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazi, each candle representing 1 million Jews, 75 candles were lit to mark the 75th liberation anniversary. Continuing from People,
Prince Philip‘s late mother, Princess Alice, who set up a nursing home under a monastic Christian sisterhood in Athens, Greece, has been celebrated for her role in helping save a Jewish family during the Holocaust. She is buried Jerusalem and is considered a hero of the Holocaust. Her grandson Prince Charles, 71, spoke of her and his father Philip at a recent palace reception.
“I am immensely proud that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, is buried in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives,” Charles said. “She is counted one of the Righteous among the Nations for her actions in 1943 when, in Nazi-occupied Athens, she saved a Jewish family by taking them into her home and hiding them. My grandmother was a formidable lady.”
After the event, William and Catherine met with the attendees, Holocaust survivors and their families. From Hello’s report,
William and Kate met 12 survivors of genocide, including those persecuted by the Nazis and others from Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur after joining them to light the first of 75 candles on stage to represent 75 years since Auschwitz was liberated. “It was so emotional, so many moving stories,” the Duchess told a group, including Mala, who had spoken on stage of her experience of surviving Bergen-Belsen.
“You were fantastic,” she added, putting a hand on Mala’s arm, before asking about how she tells her story to schoolchildren. “Do your experiences resonate with them?” she asked. “Do they feel they can do something for their generation?” “So many families are totally torn apart by the trauma and how that plays out over the generations,” said the Duchess.
Mala, 89, said afterwards: “I said I speak about it in schools and she was asking what impact it has. It brings them closer to the history. “I told her I follow her and her lovely children in the news and she said ‘I have told the children’. They have made them aware of it (the Holocaust). I suppose she tells it in the measure that it’s applicable to that age.” Mala said of the ceremony: “I found it very emotional. The reason I am able to speak about it all is that I’m able to control my emotions, but lately it has become more difficult. It [the music] went right into my bones.”
Duchess of Cambridge shares a joke with Holocaust survivor Yvonne Bernstein after the UK Holocaust Memorial Day. Yvonne Bernstein is one of the survivors Catherine photographed yesterday. Continuing from Hello!
Meanwhile William spoke to a group including Daniela Abraham, a Roma activist who had been overcome by emotion after speaking on stage about how her relatives were murdered by the Nazis. “You spoke very well,” he told her. “Thank you so much.” Kate told the same group: “It’s so humbling to hear the gratitude from people, despite what you have gone through. It’s heartbreaking to hear.” Manfred Goldberg, 89, a survivor of the Stutthof camp, told the Duchess people found it hard to comprehend how six million Jewish people were killed. “When you hear the stories of an individual it becomes easier to understand this better. And it has taken a while for everybody to be able to speak,” said Kate. “It’s hard to stand up there and do that. “I’m really interested in intergenerational trauma and how it affects a family. It’s so important.”
Yesterday, Kensington Palace released two portraits of Holocaust Survivors taken by the Duchess as part of the project of pictures of the survivors marking the 75th Anniversary.
A video of today’s event.
The today’s event reminded us the horrors of the past and tells us how a human mind can be source of brutal killing of humanity. It is our responsibilities to make sure that the coming generation must be aware of the past horrors so that they must not be repeated ever. You can read all about the Holocaust here.