Monday, 27 January 2020

The Cambridges Attend Poignant Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony in Westminster this afternoon.

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place every year on 27 January, it is a day to remember the millions of people murdered in the Holocaust under Nazi persecution and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. 2020 is a significant year - marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

HMD 2020 also marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia. It's also an opportunity to honour survivors and highlight their stories to ensure future generations never forget. The ceremony is organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, one of Prince Charles' patronages.

Kensington Palace said: "The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) promotes and supports Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). HMD has taken place in the UK since 2001, with a UK event and over 10,000 local activities taking place on or around the 27th January each year. Each year across the UK, thousands of people come together to learn more about the past, honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition, and take action to create a safer future. The HMDT works in partnership with many organisations to ensure the life stories of survivors are shared with hundreds of thousands of people."

People reports:

'As they arrived, the royal couple were greeted by Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Sir Ben Helfgott, honorary president and a prominent Holocaust survivor. William told them, “We were talking this morning about how you carry on this message for future generations. We will do our best.”

Last night, it was revealed the Duchess had photographed two Holocaust survivors, Steven Frank and Yvonne Bernstein, with their grandchildren. The portraits will form part of a new exhibition due to open later this year. The project aims "to inspire people across the UK to consider their own responsibility to remember and share the stories of those who endured persecution at the hands of the Nazis."

The Duchess described the experience as a "privilege", adding the stories she heard "will stay with me forever". Kate continued: "While I have been lucky enough to meet two of the now very few survivors, I recognise not everyone in the future will be able to hear these stories first hand. It is vital that their memories are preserved and passed on to future generations, so that what they went through will never be forgotten". Click here to read the post on Kate's portraits in its entirety.

Inside, the Duchess reunited with Yvonne Bernstein.

At the end of the video below, you can hear Kate (towards the end) telling Yvonne: "You were brilliant, you were very patient with me."

Hello!'s Emily Nash was reporting from the event: "After a deeply moving ceremony, William and Kate told survivors they had spoken to their children about the Holocaust. 'We were talking to the children about it earlier today,' Kate told Mala Tribich, who survived Bergen-Belsen and now tells her story in schools."

William and Kate spent time with survivors and their families.

Presented by Huw Edwards, it included performances from cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, accompanied by his brother Braimah, as well as Sir Simon Russell Beale, Rebecca Front, Nina Wadia, Georgina Campbell and the Fourth Choir.

William and Kate participated in a candle-lighting ceremony on the stage with survivors.

Six candles were lit - each marking one million Jews who perished during the Holocaust. Below, footage of Yvonne lighting her candle.

Prince William gave a reading with a very special family connection - a letter from a friend of his late great-grandmother Princess Alice (Prince Philip's mother) revealing the extent of her efforts to help a Jewish family during the Holocaust.

The Telegraph reports:

'The Duchess appeared emotional as her husband read the extract from a letter about Princess Alice's bravery.
It said: "It was thanks to the courageous rescue of Princess Alice that the members of the Cohen family were saved.
"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."
It went on to reveal that Mrs Cohen's  great-granddaughter, Evy Cohen, said two years ago: "My family would not exist without the courageous act of Princess Alice. Her story of incredible courage must keep being told in her memory.
"My generation, the past generation and the future generation are, and will eternally be, grateful to his great-grandmother Princess Alice for the great act of bravery, risking her own life to take in a family in need."'

Indeed, just last week Prince Charles visited his grandmother's tomb on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Speaking to world leaders at Yad Vashem he said: "I have long drawn inspiration from the selfless actions of my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who in 1943, in Nazi-occupied Athens, saved a Jewish family by taking them into her home and hiding them. My grandmother, who is buried on the Mount of Olives, has a tree planted in her name here at Yad Vashem, and is counted as one of the Righteous Among the Nations – hasidei ummot ha`olam – a fact which gives me, and my family, immense pride." Below, a young Prince Philip with his mother.

Embed from Getty Images

As patron, Prince Charles wrote the foreword for the ceremony's programme:

'As Patron, I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all to the National Commemorative Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day 2020.
The commemoration of seventy-five years since the camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated is truly an occasion of national significance and I am heartened to hear of thousands of events taking place in all parts of the United Kingdom to mark this sombre, but significant anniversary.
With the invaluable support of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, people of all ages and backgrounds are enabled to learn from the Holocaust and more recent genocides.
Today is also the beginning of a whole year of reflection, as it also marks the seventy-fifth anniversaries of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen and Dachau camps, as well as the commemorations, later in the year, of the end of the Second World War itself. In July we will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the genocidal massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia. While all these occasions call us to remember, they must also call us to resolve that such unutterable evil shall never again be allowed to grow.
As we stand at the milestone of seventy-five years since the end of the Holocaust, it is natural to reflect on how far we have come and what society might have learned since those dreadful events.
We can reflect that if we have found how devastating hatred can be, we have found that hope is stronger still. If we have seen the worst of human nature, we are the better prepared to guard against it.
With such sobering knowledge comes great responsibility. Wherever we see malice that seeks to marginalise; wherever identity is subjected to hostility, we must, as this year’s theme reminds us, Stand Together to oppose it.
This seventy-fifth anniversary is therefore a time for us all to resolve to act with greater compassion, greater humanity and greater courage, so that, guided by lessons from this darkest time in our shared history, we can create a shared future where no such shadows can fall.'

The HMDT shared the following on this year's theme Stand Together: "The theme for HMD 2020 is Stand Together. It explores how genocidal regimes throughout history have deliberately fractured societies by marginalising certain groups, and how these tactics can be challenged by individuals standing together with their neighbours, and speaking out against oppression. In the years leading up to the Holocaust, Nazi policies and propaganda deliberately encouraged divisions within German society – urging ‘Aryan’ Germans to keep themselves separate from their Jewish neighbours. The Holocaust, Nazi Persecution of other groups and each subsequent genocide, was enabled by ordinary citizens not standing with their targeted neighbours."

Guests at today's ceremony were among the first to see a new national exhibition of memorial flames made by community groups across the UK.

This moving creation is part of the memorial flames exhibition we mentioned earlier in the post. It includes a portion of Pavel Friedmann's haunting poem 'The Butterfly'.

When he was 21 years old, Pavel Friedmann was sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp where he penned the piece on a thin scrap of paper. Pavel was moved to Auschwitz in 1944 where he sadly died. The poem was discovered after the camps were liberated and donated to the Jewish Museum in Prague.

The poem inspired an exhibition at the Holocaust Museum Houston where 1.5 million paper butterflies were created to symbolize the number of children who perished in the Holocaust. The remembrance project has travelled all over the world.

The Butterfly

The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone. . . .
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly 'way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.
For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
in the ghetto.

One of the survivors Kate photographed, Steven Frank, was sent to Theresienstadt with his family, like Pavel Friedmann. Writing this post I wondered if their paths ever crossed. Yesterday I learned Steven and his brothers were three of only 93 children who survived the concentration camp. The heartbreaking figure has leaned on me since. Over 14,000 never walked out, never had the opportunity to grow up and live their lives. Their childhoods destroyed and futures stolen. Some atrocities are so horrific, it's unfathomable to contemplate the reality they lived. Yet in the face of such tragedy, survivors like Steven are determined to share their stories and educate young people. He visits schools and speaks frankly with students; he has also worked with the Forever Project who asked him 920 questions to record his survivor testimony. Long after he's gone, future generations will hear first hand in a 3D interactive format. He hopes his great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren will hear his words in the future. Click here to hear a two-hour talk with Steven filmed in Luxembourg.

When Steven addresses young people he tells them: "The 9th May 1945. That was a day we longed for, hoped for, prayed for and then suddenly there it was when the Second World War came to an end. And I give this talk in the memory of all those children who never came home."

I know we're all thinking of courageous survivors like Steven and Yvonne today, and the 7,000 prisoners of Auschwitz who were liberated 75 years ago, following 1,689 days of suffering, torture and murder.

Our thoughts are also with all those like Pavel Friedmann whose lives were taken from them at the hands of such evil.

Given the gravity of today, we'll keep the fashion details as brief as possible. The Duchess wore a selection of repeats for the ceremony, including her bespoke grey belted Catherine Walker dress.

Kate debuted the piece last March for an engagement with the Queen.

Kate accessorised with her Cassandra Goad Cavolfiore earrings.

Carried her black velvet Jimmy Choo Celeste clutch.

And her Gianvito Rossi 105 black suede pumps.

Tomorrow, the Duchess of Cambridge, Patron of Evelina London Children’s Hospital and Patron of the National Portrait Gallery, will join a creative workshop run by the National Portrait Gallery’s Hospital Programme at Evelina London.


  1. A very worthy project followed by an important day in world history to be acknowledged by all.

  2. I love her outfit!! I thoroughly enjoy seeing engagements when both of them attend an event together. ❤️ This must have been a gut wrenching event to sit through.

  3. Very appropriate outfit, in my view, and a repeat! Always appreciate repeats, considering that Kate has not gained weight and can wear all of her years of gorgeous outfits! I know some people don't care for her earrings. I liked them the first time but would prefer something simple this time.

    1. Perhaps she wore them because of the old adage: "Pearls are for tears..."

  4. Thanks Charlotte, can't wait to see the complete coverage. I love Kate's hair like this as it makes her look younger. The dress is perfect for this occasion, and she looks great in it. This is a very special and touching tribute to the Holocaust.

  5. Becca in Colorado27 January 2020 at 20:16

    My fiance's grandmother was Jewish and survived the Holocaust while almost everyone else in her family perished, so these events always impact me even more than they used to. I'm so glad William and Kate attended and hope they continue to do so throughout the years. Kate's repeat was a great choice for today, I think.

  6. What a beautiful and moving post Charlotte. I can imagine the event was incredibly moving. Kate looks appropriate and just lovely. I love her involvement with the pictures.

  7. She is always meticulous in dressing to the occasion. Perfect choice but I'd prefer different earrings with it.

  8. I am very moved by this event and can only imagine what it must feel like to see the exhibition. Absolutely love the memorial flames by the communities and The Butterfly poem is hauntingly beautiful. Willima and Kate were the epitome of elegance. Loved Williams reading about his great grandmother, and equally touched to read that Kate was moved by his words. I often wonder how they hold their composure at these memorial events. Kate looks beautiful and really do like her hair like this, very appropriate. These events are very important in memorializing history for future generations...'lest they forget'. Feeling humbled today. cc

    1. Zora from Prague28 January 2020 at 07:19

      I agree 100%, CeCe.
      Thank you, Charlotte, for an excellent post, it is very much appreciated!

  9. Those two photographs are lovely. She should be justly proud.

  10. It is so important to listen to the last survivors of the death camps bravely speaking about their experiences, witnesses of a horror that seems to many of us as incomprehensible so that there are still people who deny or minimize that the Holocaust took place. My husband and I watched a program today on how the Nazis ravaged Eastern Europe's Jews, Romany and, originally people they decided were "defective." We heard about the brave last stand in Warsaw in 1944 as the Nazis slaughtered the Polish people and the Russian army waited to take over. Such slaughter, such betrayal of basic human rights should never happen again but it does, it does. Still, as one survivor's granddaughters put it on a Today show this morning when commenting about how her family travels around to schools talking about the Holocaust and about kindness: "We must teach our children that they have a choice to let the voices of goodness and hope be louder than the voices of violence and hope." And that our children understand that they have that choice because so many stood and died.

  11. Tammy from California27 January 2020 at 20:50

    So important to keep the story alive so it isn't repeated. When I hear a certain country deny this ever happened, it makes my blood boil. The duchess looked wonderful (this is always my favorite hairdo on her) and the pictures were even better.

    Never forget.

  12. Thank you Charlotte... I am balling.....

    Back when I was 17yrs & in the last year of my Gifted Arts Program School... I was awarded The Young Director's Award, which enabled me to mount a stage production in Chicago, of a play of my own choosing. I chose "The Diary of Anne Frank". I produced it In The Round with darkness all around the audience & only a circular wooden stage in the center of the Theater (with light only for the stage or a spot on a given area when there was a scene between 2 actors or just the character of Anne) & with 2 suspended doorways (to indicate the 2 bedrooms) & a short set of 2-sided steps (that enabled the actors to "walk up & down the stairs, to indicate walking up & down to & from the attic"). I felt the weight & power of the story I was honored to produce & direct. I remember there was an ever present sense of reverence & respect amongst us all, as we rehearsed & prepared for opening night & the run of the play. Then it all became unreal as the play opened, ......because at the exact same time there were Neo-Nazi Marches happening up on the north side of Chicago. It was a very turbulent time for the Chicagoland area & our production got caught up in the conflict. We had security risks & there were people actually gathering to picket & cause trouble outside the Theater, because we had to audacity to show the play! This was in 1979!!! I will never forget the shock that even that many years later, when we were all really just starting to comprehend the Extent of The Holocaust.... that there were so many gathered to show their Anti-Jewish Hate!!! I remember thinking, how is this happening in The United States of America!? How is this happening, especially when we now know what awful things happened so many years ago???? Who would ever defend those things? Who would ever have hate for someone because of their religion??? The shock I felt at being faced with that evil is the most powerful memory of that experience for me to this day!......

    Becca USA

    1. Becca USA, and it never stops. People have fought to exterminate others as long as records can show. They still do -- think of all the horrible events that continue around the world. And in the US, such hatred. Hatred for new groups who come, and then the feeling of power when you can lead a group of people against others. Hating others because of our own problems. My father was a college instructor but he kept losing his positions because he drank and was psychotic. His last position was in Brooklyn, and he came to class drunk and was fired. So then he blamed "the Jews," because we happened to live in an area with a lot of Jewish people. They (my friends' parents) were SO nice to me -- I was invited to seders. And when you get so many people like that, it becomes really dangerous.

      I can't believe, though, that there were so many to picket the play! And there are still those who find power in pretending the Holocaust didn't happen.

    2. Thank you for sharing Becca. True it is impossible for most of us to comprehend.

    3. Zora from Prague28 January 2020 at 07:18

      Thank you for sharing this memory with us, Becca. The shock must have been awful. It really is incomprehensible how such hatred can exist, then and even today, once again...
      I believe a lot of responsibility for educating the kids about the past lies with parents and school teachers, and that kids should be told from a very young age. My friend, an elementary school teacher, starts with children 7- 8years old. She tells them about children in Thereseinstadt (for anyone interested in the ghetto in then-Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, see and later takes them to the Museum there. In the Jewish Museum in Prague, there is a collection of children's drawings from the ghetto. It is extremely poignant. By not being ignorant, we can try to make sure that such atrocities don't happen again. It starts with small steps: when seeing someone (usually a kid who doesn't know what he/she is imitating) drawing the sign of the "hakenkreuz", or when seeing a kid who is unkind towards another because they are "different", explain, talk to them, prevent the bullying. Indifference is almost as bad as active wrong-doing.
      The Memorial ceremony must have been very moving for everybody.

    4. Well said Zora, and thank you for the link. Cannot even imagine the emotions of seeing the children's drawings in the Jewish Museum in Prague. One day hope to make it there to see myself. The idea of small steps certainly resonates doesn't it? cc

    5. Zora from Prague29 January 2020 at 11:33

      It does, CeCe!😊
      I do hope you can come to visit one day.

    6. Zora from Prague29 January 2020 at 18:06

      PS. Perhaps you might find this interesting too; it's about a children's opera by a Czech Jewish composer which was performed in Theresienstadt concentration camp. It has been staged in various countries around the world, including the UK and the USA.ár

    7. Thank you so much for the link about Brundibar Zora! Its another example of a story that needs to told, haunting. I definitely need to watch the documentaries 'Voices of the Children' and 'As Seen Through These Eyes'. Interestingly, the other day my grandson told me of a movie he watched that really had an impact on him him called "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas"; it is from a book with the same name by John Boyne. I have not read it nor seen the movie but I was touched and proud that my grandson had; our young need to know these stories. Thanks again Zora.

    8. Zora from Prague30 January 2020 at 22:03

      I'm so glad you found the article interesting, CeCe! Thank you for the info about "The Boy in the Striped pyjamas". You're justly proud of your grandson, he must be a sensitive young man. Hopefully, such young people will not forget these stories... which is encouraging.

  13. And my thoughts are as well with my good friend, Piotr Cywiński, a director of Auschwitz Birkenau Concentration Camp Muzeum. You can hardly imagine what a hectic time it is for him! Zofia from Poland

  14. Susan in Florida27 January 2020 at 21:46

    Beautifully written, Charlotte. My father-in-law was a a 23 year old US Army corporal in WWII. The one and only comment he ever made about Survivors was this “ you couldn’t believe they were people” We all have a duty to carry this piece of history forward.

  15. What a beautiful ceremony. Lovely to see them participating and to see their interactions with some of the survivors. Kate looked lovely.

  16. I can always count on Kate to look perfect on any occasion. I too like seeing repeats and that hair style is one of my favorites for.

    Thank you Charlotte for this board.

  17. Kate as William indicated they had already talked to their children about the Holocaust, I'm sure in a sensitive way they can understand at their young ages. We should all do the same so that the world will never forget!

  18. hmm i love the duchess always getting back repeat the outfit she wore with the queen they solemn occasion

  19. A beautiful recount of the day's events, thank you Charlotte. For anyone who is ever near Prague, a visit to Theresienstadt is an experience that will affect the soul in ways you cannot imagine. A humbling reminder of the responsibility we carry to safeguard each other's humanity.

  20. Judith of Michigan28 January 2020 at 06:11

    As I looked at the stunning photographs Kate took, my eyes teared up looking at the pan held by Mr. Frank. To many it may look very plain and simple but to him it so much more, as his mother brought it with her and used it in the camp. To him it is everything. I know this from a dear friend’s father’s survival story - her Polish Catholic father who as a young teenager, with his entire family, his entire village were herded on to trains by the Nazis and taken to a camp in Siberia. Many didn’t survive even the train ride as in the morning the solders went through the box cars (not passenger cars) and through the dead and dying off onto the frozen ground beside the cars. His own grandmother while still alive was thus thrown off. The Russians liberated this Siberian camp before the war was over but the men and boys were forced to join a Polish regiment that fought with other Allie troops to free Italy from Mussolini. Only my friend’s father and his younger sister of their entire family survived. Eventually they both arrived in Michigan following the war. They learned of another family from their village who survived and lived in Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Windsor is just across from Detroit, Michigan separated by the Detroit River). My friend explained that as she was growing up, they visited this family regularly. When there was a new baby in either family, when they gathered in Windsor, the baby was bathed in an old white porcelain basin. Her father shared little of his life from before or during the war until she was an adult and then she learned why the babies had been bathed in that basin - it belonged to the Windsor family before the Nazis came, it went with them to the camp and eventually made it with them to freedom! Bathing those babies linked them to all the family they would never know and to their roots in that Polish village. Like Mr. Franks pan, it means more than words can explain. And so I cried when I saw the pan and I cry whenever I share my friend’s father’s story. These stories of suffering, of surviving, and then living meaningful life’s must be shared, lest we forget!

    1. Thank you for sharing your friend's story Judith. How touching that the simple act of washing their babies in that basin held such meaning for them and was probably a way to try to heal. We need to be told these stories, again, and again if for no other reason than to stay grounded, and be reminded of what is truly important in life. Thank you. cc

    2. Oh Judith.... I have tears running down my face.... thank you for sharing that powerful part of the family's personal family history.... Lest We Forget!

      Becca USA

  21. Never so important to remember the past as now when anti-Semitism and other forms of racism are slowly making their way back to the mainstream. Something to do with the war generation going I think, because nobody who lived through these times could possibly want them back.

    Maggie – short for magpie

  22. What a lot of work to put this informative post together, Charlotte - thank you. I think it may require a reread - or three!

    I hope I will be forgiven for a less serious comment but I can't resist noting that the photograph, second from the top, of Kate looking at William - both of them under umbrellas could have been lifted right out of the delightful French film - "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" starring Catherine Deneuve (1964). It's pretty much poster worthy! I love it.

  23. Most of what I think has been already written, and I want to add that it is NOW that we have to act as antisemitism is rising again all over the world. I'm happy that William and Catherine are in the front line of action.

  24. Such an important & poignant event. We must all be vigilante against an sort of discrimination. Kate looks lovely & appropriate in this outfit. Wishing for different earrings though. Be happy if I never saw those again.

  25. Caroline in Montana28 January 2020 at 15:22

    this must have been quite a day. the kind where you go home and are so thankful for even the smallest blessing. I love when they do events together and I believe today being together probably bolstered them during what was im sure an intense day. I like that she repeats her outfits and I know im a fuddy duddy but I just kept thinking this skirt was too short, thankfully it did not appear so when she sat down. never a fan of these earing's but I do love her hair like this the best! love seeing them together and how mature they are.


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