Duke of Cambridge’s pledge to remember at national Holocaust ceremony
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Duke of Cambridge’s pledge to remember at national Holocaust ceremony

Royals join Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Holocaust survivors to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz .

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meeting Sir Ben Helfgott during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meeting Sir Ben Helfgott during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London.  (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. PA Photo. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. PA Photo. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • The Duke of Cambridge speaking during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    The Duke of Cambridge speaking during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • Ani Maamin is performed by the Fourth Choir and the Wallace Ensemble during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    Ani Maamin is performed by the Fourth Choir and the Wallace Ensemble during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • Mala Tribich MBE, Bergen-Belsen survivor and Ian Forsyth MBE speaking during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. PA Photo. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    Mala Tribich MBE, Bergen-Belsen survivor and Ian Forsyth MBE speaking during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. PA Photo. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • The Duchess of Cambridge speaks with Holocaust survivor Yvonne Bernstein after the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London.  . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    The Duchess of Cambridge speaks with Holocaust survivor Yvonne Bernstein after the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • Sleep by Eric Whitacre, performed by the Fourth Choir and the Wallace Ensemble  during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. PA Photo.  (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    Sleep by Eric Whitacre, performed by the Fourth Choir and the Wallace Ensemble during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. PA Photo. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirivis (left) lights a candle during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London.  (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirivis (left) lights a candle during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London.  (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)

The Duke of Cambridge has promised to “do our best” to keep the memory of the Shoah alive for future generations as he and the Duchess attended the national commemoration marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis were among more than 1800 political, religious and civic leaders also at Methodist Central Hall for the service, organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

On arrival, the royal couple made their pledge to survivor and former Olympian Sir Ben Helfgott before taking their seats alongside him. Addressing the audience, the Duke read a letter from a friend of his great-grandmother Princess Alice detailing her efforts to save a Jewish family, the Cohens, in 1943.

He said: “The princess put a small two-room apartment at the disposal of Mrs Cohen and her daughter. 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.”

He was joined by his wife to light two of six candles in memory of the victims of the Shoah and subsequent genocides, as survivors of Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia took to the stage with Archbishop Justin Welby and Imam Qari Isim.

The Duke of Cambridge speaking during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)

Johnson said he was “lost in admiration” at the courage of survivor Mala Tribich, who had had met when signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment.

He expressed “shame” at the resurgence of antisemitism in Britain and reiterated his commitment to the creation of a national memorial and learning centre by Parliament.

He said: “I promise to preserve this memory forever. That is the only way we can be sure it will never happen again. We will ensure Britain never forgets the truth of the Holocaust.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. PA Photo. . (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)

Tribich, who travels around the country relaying her experiences in the “hell” of Belsen, was joined on stage by one of the British soldiers who liberated the site.

Voice breaking, Ian Forsyth, he recalled the sight of “bodies everywhere and skeletons with skin on them. I don’t think anyone who didn’t see what it was like can know”. He implored people to “stand together against oppression. This is the most important message I can give”.

The ceremony was opened by HMDT chair Laura Marks and the BBC’s Huw Edwards, who said: “We pay tribute to you and to those who liberated you and those who are not with us today.”

Stressing the responsibility to speak out against all forms of hate, he added: “History has taught thus that indifference is a conduit for more suffering.”

The Chief Rabbi, in his address, called for people to stands in solidarity with the victims of the Shoah and of subsequent genocides in Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur and Rwanda. “Let us choose to stand together with those who don’t look like us, don’t pray with us,” he said an an impassioned address.

The service – interspersed with music including by celebrated young musician Sheku Kannah-Mason – was also attended by actors including EastEnders’ Nina Wadia, Judge John Deed’s Martin Shaw and stage star Sir Simon Russell Beale, who gave readings covering the persecution of gay people and the disabled.  There was also testimony on the atrocities in Bosnia, 25 years after that genocide, before cantor Jonny Turgel recited El Male Rachamim to conclude the service.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, CEO of HMDT, said the annual day makes a significant difference to what people “know and do” and called on those present in positions of power to challenge prejudice at every turn.

Many of you hold position of leadership and we all hold the power to be kind and challenge prejudice at every turn.

She said: “At a time when we know identity-based hostility is increasing, it is heartening to see so many people stand together, both at the UK ceremony and at more than 10,000 local activities around the country.

The Duchess said it had been “our privilege” to meet survivors when the couple met around 20 survivors of the Shoah and subsequent genocides after the service, which she described as “very poignant”.
She asked Tribich whether the youngsters she spoke to in schools felt they could do something to make a difference to their generation, and about the impact of survivor trauma on the next generations.
She said Kate had spoken about educating her own children on such a sensitive topic in an age-appropriate way. “She said ‘Well I have told my children, I’ve made them aware.’ I suppose she tells it in the measure that is applicable because young children, it’s very tricky (to tell them about it),” Ms Tribich said.
The Duke asked Auschwitz survivor Arek Hersh, whose testimony was part of the ceremony, if he’d witnessed many acts of kindness by the German guards. He also enquired about the ongoing search for justice after the atrocities in Bosnia.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony at Central Hall in Westminster, London. (Photo credit: Chris Jackson/PA Wire)
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