The Queen will honour the victims of Bergen Belsen during a visit to the camp liberated by British soldiers.
Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh will lay a wreath and see a memorial plaque to diarist Anne Frank, one of the more than 70,000 people who lost their lives at the notorious site in Germany during the Holocaust.
It’s understood The Queen was personally keen that her upcoming state visit to Germany next month includes paying her respects at the camp – which was liberated 70 years ago last month.
Troops entering Bergen Belsen on 15 April 1945 discovered more than 10,000 bodies and many thousands more lost their lives from illness in the weeks after liberation, despite British troops establishing a hospital next to the camp that remained in operation until 1950.
The Holocaust Educational Trust led a delegation of British survivors, schoolchildren and community leaders to an international commemoration at Bergen Belsen two weeks ago.
HET’s chief executive Karen Pollock said: “Having recently marked 70 years since British armed forces liberated Bergen Belsen, it is fitting that Her Majesty will pay her respects at this site in this significant year. Her Majesty’s visit will mean a huge amount to those survivors and liberators still with us – and of course to all of us dedicated to keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.”
Gena Turgel, who was among those liberated from the camp, wrote an open letter of thanks to the Queen for arranging the visit, which can be read below.
The Royal Family has a long record of honouring the victims of the Nazis and celebrating the contribution of survivors and Kindertransport refugees in the UK.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall attended the national commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz inJanuary, while the Duke of Cambridge spoke of the importance of keeping the memory alive in an exclusive message for Jewish News.
The Queen’s visit, between 23 and 26 June, will also include a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, laying a wreath at the memorial for the victims of war and visiting the Brandenberg Gate.
It brought tears to my eyes to hear you will be visiting Bergen Belsen .
I am one of the lucky few who survived Bergen Belsen. When I close my eyes, I will always see Bergen Belsen for what it was: a camp of horror.
Those who were living were walking skeletons in every sense of the word. There were piles of dead bodies strewn across the camp. We were starving and filthy. I will never forget the smell and the disease as long as I live.
I will also never forget that day when British Armed Forces entered the camp and liberated us, on 15th April 1945 – 70 years ago. I will never forget their kindness or their warmth. I feel now as I did then: indebted to each and every one of them. During those days after liberation, after years of pain and struggle during which I lost countless loved ones and family members, I met a young British soldier called Norman Turgel. I married him months later in a dress made from a British army parachute and we were happily married for 50 years.
I am sure that I am speaking on behalf of all victims, survivors and liberators of the camp in expressing my thanks to your Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh for incorporating a visit to Belsen in your upcoming visit to Germany. It means a great deal to me that you are taking the time to visit the camp and pay your respects. I am indebted to your Majesty for making this visit, and for remembering what happened there.
Gena Turgel, MBE
Liberated from Bergen Belsen