NOTE: This post is limited to coverage only of the Stutthof Camp engagement; no fashion information is included.
This morning the Duke and Duchess flew from Warsaw to Gdansk. Their first stop was Stutthof Concentration Camp in northern Poland; the first camp set up by the Nazis outside Germany’s borders.
From Hannah Furness’s Daily Telegraph story:
Designed for labour, it became a brutal concentration camp with mass hangings and a gas chamber to murder those too ill to work.
They were given a tour by Piotr Tarnowski, Director of the Stutthof Museum.
From The Jewish News:
Prince William and Kate were shown discarded shoes and clothing taken from prisoners on arrival at the Nazi camp, which was originally created as a prison camp for Poles but became a concentration camp in 1942.
A total of 65,000 people including 28,000 Jews, many of whom had been evacuated there from Auschwitz as the Germans retreated, died mainly from disease, malnutrition and abuse from the guards. But the royal couple were also shown the gas chamber used to murder those who were too sick to work.
In addition to seeing the gas chamber, the Duke and Duchess saw residential barracks and the crematorium.
The couple also met with survivors Marek, Maria and Czesław, and heard their stories.
The day featured an extraordinary reunion of two men who survived the camp. Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg were in their teens when they were imprisoned. They became friends.
Neither had ever been back to the camp. Until today.
More about Mr. Shipper from The Telegraph:
Mr Goldberg, born in 1930 to an orthodox Jewish family in Kassel, Germany, was deported to Riga Ghetto with his mother and younger brother in 1941, assigned to a nearby labour camp in 1943 to lay railway tracks. In 1944, he transported to Stutthof and spent nine months in slave labour before being forced onto a death march and eventually liberated by British troops.His younger brother was murdered.
The Telegraph story also gives us Mr. Goldberg’s background.
Mr Shipper was born in Lodz, Poland… In 1944, he was put onto a cattle truck and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, being stripped, shaved and showered before being assigned fit to work and volunteering to join a group of 20 boys sent to work at the Stutthof railway yard.
The two boys met aged 14 at Stolp, the labour camp, and both were forced on the 1945 death march while suffering typhus…
The boys were liberated by British troops and taken to the same hospital to recover.
Why did they return? From Richard Palmer’s story in The Express:
Mr Shipper said he “most probably” would not have returned to Stutthof if it had not been for the royal visit but said he realised how “important” it was to come back now he has returned.
He said about the royal visit: “When a royal goes and it’s put on the television or in the paper, people say ‘Why don’t we go? And that’s what we want. People should know that it wasn’t just Auschwitch-Birkenau, it wasn’t just Bergen-Belsen, look at all the other camps.”
He said he thought William and Kate were “very moved”. He said: “You could see their faces. They were in pain.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “When Zigi was saying ‘thank you so much’, William said ‘It’s my honour to meet you’.”
She said: “They were just really taken by the place.
From The Telegraph:
Mr Shipper, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau before being sent to Stutthof, said the visit “means so much” as he paid tribute to the friends, including Mr Goldberg, who saved his life by supporting him on the final death march when they were both just 15.
Another portion of Richard Palmer’s story in The Express:
Mr Goldberg…and Mr Shipper have dedicated their lives to sharing their stories with the next generation through the Holocaust Educational Trust.
The men accompanied Kate and William as they paid their respects by placing stones at the camp’s Jewish memorial. Above, I believe the men are saying the prayer of remembrance, or prayer for the departed, El Malei Rachamim, and the Duke and Duchess are reading along.
The couple leaves through what is called the ‘death gate’ with the gentlemen.
This is the first time Kate and William have visited a former concentration camp, but the Duke has been vocal about keeping memories of the atrocities alive. We return to The Jewish News article, referencing comments William made on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
… we remember all those who suffered so terribly in the monstrous evil of the Holocaust. We must never forget the indescribable suffering, the millions of lives shattered and the human impact behind the statistics.
“The commemorations allow us to honour the victims of one of the darkest chapters in human history and pay tribute to the survivors and their stories of hope. Memories are the legacy for future generations and we must keep these memories alive to learn from the past and create a safer future.”
The Duke and Duchess both signed the guest book.
Back to The Express piece:
In a message in the visitors book, the Duke and Duchess described their emotions after visiting the camp.
They wrote: “We were intensely moved by our visit to Stutthof, which has been the scene of so much terrible pain, suffering and death. This shattering visit has reminded us of the horrendous murder of six million Jews, drawn from across the whole of Europe, who died in the abominable Holocaust.
It is, too, a terrible reminder of the cost of war. And the fact that Poland alone lost millions of its people, who were the victims of a most brutal occupation.All of us have an overwhelming responsibility to make sure that we learn the lessons and that the horror of what happened is never forgotten and never repeated.”
I apologize to those hoping to have the fashion info as part of this post; it just didn’t feel right. I will have another post up very quickly, it will have all the usual fashion tidbits, photos, and info on the day’s activities.
- Learn more about Stutthof at the Museum website here; see background on today’s events at the camp by clicking here
- See the SkyNews story about the reunion of Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg by clicking here
- The full Jewish News story about today’s engagement is here; Richard Palmer’s full Express story is here; The Daily Telegraph story is here
- Visit the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance by clicking here; the Association of Holocaust Organizations site is here; the US Holocaust Memorial Museum site is here
- Learn more about the Holocaust Educational Trust by clicking here