William laments ‘darkness and despair’ of the Holocaust
The Duke of Cambridge visited the Yad Vashem remembrance centre where he laid a wreath.
The Duke of Cambridge has said the Holocaust should never be forgotten after touring a centre dedicated to telling the stories of millions of Jews murdered by the Nazi regime.
William was left moved by the experience of visiting Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, and heard the heart-wrenching stories of two survivors.
William was thanked by the elderly men for Britain’s role in taking them and thousands of other Jewish children from Europe, as part of the Kindertransport effort ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War.
In a written message that he signed in the visitors’ book, he set out his thoughts and told of his pride that his great grandmother, the Duke of Edinburgh’s late mother Princess Alice of Battenberg, is honoured by the Jewish people for hiding and saving the lives of Jews in Nazi-occupied Athens during the Second World War.
The future king, who was anxious to send a message to his generation about the horrors of the past, wrote: “It has been a profoundly moving experience to visit Yad Vashem today.
“It is almost impossible to comprehend this appalling event in history.
“Every name, photograph, and memory recorded here is a tragic reminder of the unimaginable human cost of the Holocaust and the immense loss suffered by the Jewish people.
“The story of the Holocaust is one of darkness and despair, questioning humanity itself.
“But the actions of those few, who took great risks to help others, are a reminder of the human capacity for love and hope.
“I am honoured that my own great grandmother is one of these Righteous Among the Nations.
May the millions of Jewish people remembered by Yad Vashem never be forgotten. William Message from the Duke of Cambridge
“We must never forget the Holocaust, the murder of six million men, women and children, simply because they were Jewish.
“We all have a responsibility to remember and to teach future generations about the horrors of the past so that they can never reoccur.
“May the millions of Jewish people remembered by Yad Vashem never be forgotten. William.”
Clearly deeply moved by the experience of seeing the remnants of concentration camp victims, belongings and exhibits showing the Nazi factories of death, he told Henry Foner and Paul Minikes-Alexander who fled to Britain as children: “There is a lot to take in. It’s not easy.”
The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis joined William for his visit and took part in a simple but moving ceremony in the museum’s Hall of Remembrance where the duke laid a wreath in commemoration of the Holocaust victims and rekindled the eternal flame.
Mr Foner, 86, was aged just six and living in German when his father sent him on the Kindertransport scheme to escape the growing threat from the Nazis and was fostered by a Jewish family in Swansea.
After speaking to William he said: “I did thank him and I thanked the British people and I thanked the British Government, he was so modest about it and said ‘well I didn’t do anything’ so I said ‘yes, but you are the symbol of people who did do something and saved our lives’.”
The 86-year-old presented the duke with a copy of a book based on the postcards he received from his father, who was deported to Auschwitz where he was murdered in 1942.
During his tour of the Holocaust centre, William was taken to the Hall of Names and looked at pictures and testimonies documenting some of those who lost their lives covering the inside of a domed ceiling.
It is described as a virtual cemetery, commemorating many whose bodies were left in mass unmarked graves and never identified, or incinerated in gas chambers.
When the duke met the former Kindertransport children, Henry Foner and Paul Minikes-Alexander, thinking of his own children, he told the pair of survivors: “As a father, you’d want to keep your child with you but would you keep him there or send him away to safety?
“I can’t imagine how difficult a decision that must have been.”
Chief Rabbi Mirvis had presented William with a kippah as a gift which he wore during the ceremony where he laid a wreath in commemoration of the Holocaust victims.
The Chief Rabbi said: “This is a historic day. The excitement is felt throughout Israel and Britain, around the Jewish world and just to see Prince William here is something very very special.”
He added: “He said before he left that he wishes he could have had the whole day here to pay tribute to the victims and to identity Jewish suffering.”