Shoah survivors and Board defend Queen after ‘Nazi salute’ footage

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Shoah survivors and Board defend Queen after ‘Nazi salute’ footage

The queen visiting Birkenau
The queen visiting Birkenau
The queen visiting Birkenau
The Queen visiting Birkenau

Holocaust survivors and senior figures in the Jewish community have defended Queen Elizabeth II, after photos appeared this weekend of her giving a Nazi salute as a child.

The black and white images from 17 seconds of camera footage, taken on a family lawn in 1933 before Hitler came to power, shows the future monarch giving the salute together with Edward VIII, the Queen Mother and her sister Margaret.

Among those defending Her Majesty this week was Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, who said “criticism of a seven-year-old child would not be remotely appropriate… It’s important for us not to judge this event with hindsight”.

He added: “Obviously the Nazi salute now carries horrible memories and bitterness for us, but it would not be appropriate to suggest that the full horror of Nazi Germany was known at that point.”

Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott agreed, saying: “I don’t think [the Royals] knew what they were doing, I don’t think they knew what that salute would come to mean.”

He added: “It was wrong, but she was a child, and when somebody says to a child ‘do this,’ they do. The Queen has a marvellous reputation among survivors.”

Lord (Monroe) Palmer, a Jewish peer, echoed those thoughts, saying: “A child mimicking her mother and uncles in no way reflects pro-Nazi sympathies from our future Queen.”

Yet while there was a staunch defence of the Queen, there were questions as to the thoughts and feelings of other members of the Royal Household, with Palmer reflecting a latent concern about the links between the British Royal Family and the Third Reich.

On the footage, he said: “As to the queen’s mother, wife of the future George VI, making the salute, no-one knows the context of the gesture.”

There is no suggestion that the Queen, who last month visited Bergen-Belsen, at any point empathised with Nazi ideology, but reports of close ties have long dogged with family, after three of Prince Phillip’s sisters married Nazi officers.

While this weekend’s publication of the grainy footage has now led to new calls for the Royal Family to grant greater access to the royal archives, to help historians to document its wartime role, but Jewish community leaders stood firmly behind the throne.

“The overwhelming view of the Jewish community towards the Royal Family is of respect, affection and loyalty, and we are proud of them,” said Arkush.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: