Prince Charles has sparked debate by comparing Russian leader Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler while talking to a Holocaust survivor.
The comments came as the Prince of Wales toured Canada and spoke privately to Jewish museum volunteer Marienne Ferguson, who fled there from the Nazis when she was just 13 years old.
Mrs Ferguson, 78, who lost family members in the Baltic coastal city of Gdansk during the Holocaust, said she spoke to the heir to the throne about how Hitler had annexed land.
Gdansk had been a Free City under the terms of the Versailles Treaty after the end of the First World War, but it was seized by the Nazis on the first day of fighting in 1939.
“The Prince said that now Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler,” recalled Ferguson, after meeting Charles at the Canadian Museum of Immigration in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
She added: “I must say that I agree with him and am sure a lot of people do, but I was very surprised that he made the comment as I know they aren’t meant to say these things.”
The Prince’s comments refer to President Putin’s annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea last month, where the majority of people living on the peninsula are ethnic Russians.
Several commentators have also drawn parallels to Putin’s actions, noting Hitler’s 1938 annexation of Sudetanland, an area of Czechoslovakia chiefly populated by Germans.
“If Prince Charles wants to make controversial statements on national or international issues he should abdicate and stand for election,” said Labour MP Mike Gapes, who represents Ilford South.
“In constitutional monarchy policy and diplomacy should be conducted by parliament and government. Monarchy should be seen and not heard.”
Despite the criticism, other public figures have also made Hitler-Putin comparisons, with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently blasting Moscow’s plan to issue passports to ethnic Russians in Crimea.
“Now, if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 1930s,” she said.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg defended the Prince, saying he was “free to express himself”.
He added: “I have never been of this view that if you are a member of the royal family somehow you have to enter into some Trappist vow of silence.”