The Prince of Wales has spoken movingly about the role his grandmother played in saving the lives of a Jewish family as he met Holocaust survivors in Austria.
The last day of Charles and Camilla’s European tour has been overshadowed by claims the Prince’s use of the official Government plane for his trip forced the Prime Minister to take a costly charter flight for a Middle East visit this week.
Clarence House has defended the use of the plane, stressing that the heir to the throne’s nine-day tour was booked in advance of Theresa May’s trip.
Charles and Camilla spent the final day of the tour in Vienna and met British and Austrian survivors of Nazi persecution when they toured the city’s Jewish Museum.
The royal couple sat down with a group of very elderly men and women who shared their harrowing stories with them.
During the Second World War, Princess Alice, the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother and Charles’s grandmother, sheltered a number of Jewish people when Greece was occupied.
Alice – who is buried in Israel – was recognised by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial as a Righteous Among the Nations, and was posthumously awarded the British Government’s Hero of the Holocaust medal.
The Prince told the group: “My father’s mother took in a Jewish family during the war and hid them – she was amazing, my grandmother.
“She took them in during the Nazi occupation. She never told anybody, she didn’t tell her family for many years.
“She’s buried in Jerusalem.
“In September last year I went to the funeral of President (Shimon) Peres and finally got to see her grave.”
Holocaust survivor Gerda Frei, 80, said: “It is wonderful that the Prince and Duchess came here.”
“The Prince was very well informed about the holocaust and it is very important that they came here,” she said after chatting to Charles at the Jewish Museum in Vienna.
Mrs Frei escaped Vienna with her mother and father to Hungary in 1938 and the group were hidden from the Nazis by a family in Budapest.
She said: “The Prince told us how proud he was of his grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who hid a Jewish family from the Nazis.
“He said he visited her grave in Jerusalem when he went there for the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres’ last year.”
Mrs Frei said Charles told her he laid flowers from his garden at Birkhall at her grave.
Princess Alice’s remains are buried at the picturesque Church of St Mary Magdalene, above the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.
Alice was re-interred in Jerusalem in 1988, but it was not until 1994 that the Duke of Edinburgh visited his mother’s grave when he travelled to Israel for a ceremony honouring her for saving Greek Jews during the Second World War.
In September 1943, the Cohen family, old acquaintances from the Greek town of Trikala, appealed to Princess Alice for refuge.
She hid them in her palace until the Nazis withdrew in October 1944. During that time, the Nazis sent the vast majority of Greece’s Jewish community to concentration camps.
Camilla met Harry Bibring, 91, a Briton who was born in Vienna and lived through the infamous night of anti-Semitic violence known as Kristallnacht – night of the broken glass – when his father’s menswear shop was destroyed alongside many Jewish businesses.
He later escaped with his sister on the Kindertransport, which brought thousands of Jewish refugee children to Britain from Nazi Germany and surrounding countries between 1938 and 1940, but his mother died in a death camp in Poland, while his father was killed by a heart attack.
Mr Bibring, who was brought to the event by the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “I spend my life visiting schools, about 50 to 60 times in a school year, I travel from Inverness to Ramsgate and I tell my story.
“I escaped on Kindertransport with my sister, we were the only survivors from my family. My parents were supposed to follow me but that never happened.
“I do this in the hope we will learn something eventually, because so far the world has had genocide after genocide since then.
“Nobody’s learnt anything – Cambodia, Syria, Bosnia – you name it, it’s been going on throughout the 20th century.”