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Holocaust Memorial Day Service & The Duchess’s Survivor Portraits

This afternoon the Duke and Duchess attended the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony. 

The Mirror’s Russell Myers posted a video of the couple arriving at Westminster’s Central Hall.  

  If wondering why this date is chosen for the commemoration, January 27 is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. It was an enormous complex, the largest of the Nazi camps; more than 1.1 million people were murdered at the location. From The Mirror’s coverage

The Auschwitz camp in Poland was liberated by the Soviet army on January 27, 1945 – three quarters of a century ago today – and laid bare to the world the full horror of Nazi atrocities against the Jews of Europe and other minority groups.

The 75th anniversary was marked by ceremonies at the camp today. 


200 survivors were at the ceremony in Poland. Below, some of those survivors accompanied by family members.  


The Duchess of Cornwall attended this service. You can see her in the image below, as well as King Willem of the Netherlands (far left); Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda (2nd from right); Belgium’s King Philippe.   

Today’s memorial in London was put on by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Prince Charles is the organization’s Royal Patron and there are now nearly 10,000 events throughout the UK marking the day. In addition to the victims and survivors of Nazi persecution, the commemoration also honors those impacted by subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. Emily Nash of Hello! tweeted a video of Kate meeting the Trust’s chief executive, Olivia Marks-Woldman, and Sir Ben Helfgott, a Holocaust survivor and honorary president of the Trust. 

 The Telegraph reports that ahead of today’s service Ms. Marks-Woldman said, “she was pleased the royal couple had been able to attend the ceremony alongside members of the UK’s political, civic and faith leadership.”

Representatives of many different faiths took part in today’s commemoration. Below you see some of those in attendance, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (far right), and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis (center).

Actor Martin Shaw read the account of a Holocaust survivor. 

The service included musical performances. Here you see celebrated cellist Sheku Kannah-Mason MBE and his brother Braimah Kanneh-Mason on the violin. Many will remember Sheku Kannah-Mason’s performance at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding. 

The couple watching the service. 

Prince William spoke at the service, reading part of a letter written by a friend of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice. The Princess saved a Jewish family during the war, hiding them in her Athens home after the Nazis invaded Greece.

More from The Telegraph’s story

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.”

Welsh journalist and news presenter Huw Edwards spoke at the service.

Attendees also heard from Mala Tribich, MBE, a survivor of both Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen. On the right, Ian Forsyth, MBE.  In 1945 Mr. Forsyth was one of the first troops to liberate Bergen-Belsen. 

Mr. Forsyth spoke to Legion Scotland about his experience, saying it was a “huge shock”: 

“This was not only a shock to the system, but a nightmare.  It was totally unexpected, for we had not been informed as to the location of the camp or what to expect.   Until that moment we had been fighting to survive, now for the first time we understood just why we were there at all. I cannot fully describe it, but it completely changed my outlook on life – Man’s inhumanity to man.”

I was shot and injured. I said to myself, if I survive I am going to spend the rest of my life helping others. Seeing the concentration camp really changed my life.”

Ian Forsyth was 21-years-old when he saw Bergen-Belsen. We return to The Telegraph’s coverage, reporting that he wept “as he recalled one 11-year-old boy he had tried to look after and who had died at the camp.” 

“There were bodies lying everywhere. When you see people, they looked like skeletons with skin on them. What do you do? I don’t think anyone that didn’t see this would understand what it was like.”

“I hope people can realise how far mankind can sink if they are not careful,” he said. “We must learn that freedom is for everyone. We’re not all the same but that should be celebrated. We need to stand together against oppression This is the most important lesson I can give everybody.”

Candles were lit during the commemorative event. 

Getty Images

There were six candles, each representing one million of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. 

The Royal Family Twitter account shared a video of the candle lighting. 

 The candles lit on stage were then used to light more, until there was a total of 75 flickering in the hall.

After the service, the couple met with Holocaust survivors. Below, the Duke and Manfred Goldberg. 

If I’m not mistaken, this is the same Manfred Goldberg Kate and William first met in July 2017 when they visited Stutthof Concentration Camp in northern Poland. They also met Zigi Shipper who is seen in this picture.

Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg became close friends while in the camp. The two were reunited at the Stutthof camp the day the royals visited. (Our original post on that incredible reunion is here.) 

Here you see the Duchess speaking with survivor Mala Tribich. 

More about Kate’s conversation with Ms. Tribich from Emily Nash’s Hello! story.  

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have told their children about the Holocaust, they told survivors at a national ceremony to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. “We were talking to the children about it earlier today,” Kate told Mala Tribich, who had asked about her family. “But we have to be, you know, for a six year old… the interpretation,” she added, suggesting that she had explained the genocide in an appropriate way for a child of Prince George’s age.

“You were fantastic,” she added, putting a hand on Mala’s arm, before asking about how she tells her story to schoolchildren. “Do your experiences resonate with them?” she asked. “Do they feel they can do something for their generation?” 

The Duke and Duchess also spent time with those impacted by genocide in several countries. From The Guardian’s story

The event also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, where about 8,000 Muslim men and boys over the age of 12 were murdered. Survivors of genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur were present.

I don’t know which countries these people are from, but several are identified as genocide survivors. 

Below, one more photo from the 75th Anniversary events in Poland. A survivor arriving wearing a scarf with his prisoner number on it. 

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

And one more image from today’s London commemoration before we turn to the second part of the post. 

The other part of today’s post is Holocaust-related: it covers photographs shot by the Duchess of two Holocaust survivors. In advance of today’s service, Kensington Palace released two photo portraits taken by the Duchess. Below, Steven Frank, now 84-years-old, and his granddaughters, Maggie and Trixie (ages 15 and 13). 

Kate asked the survivors to hold something personal in the photos, an item of personal significance to the families. In the photo above Mr. Frank holds a pan that his mother kept with them throughout their time in the camps and his granddaughter holds a teddy bear. Here you see Steven and his brothers; Steven is in the center. They were sent to Westerbork transit camp and then on to Theresienstadt with their mother. Their father was gassed for speaking out against the Nazi regime. 
More than 15,000 children were sent to Theresienstadt. Steven and his brothers were 3 of only 93 children who survived. Here is a video of Mr. Frank speaking about the photo Kate took.
The photos were taken at Kensington Palace and today behind the scenes images from the photoshoot were released. Here you see the Duchess with the Franks. 
His granddaughter Trixie said: ‘It was amazing, The Duchess of Cambridge was really interested in our family and in Opa’s story, and the items we brought with us. Her sister Maggie said ‘I think it helped put into perspective that he’s just our Opa – he’s our grandpa as well as a Holocaust survivor. It’s important to tell the story so it doesn’t happen again.’
The Duchess also photographed Yvonne Bernstein and her granddaughter Chloe Wright, age 11. In this image, Ms. Bernstein holds her ID card from Germany, dated 3 March 1939 and marked with a “J” for “Jude,” or Jewish. 
Kate’s thoughts about the survivors were shared in an Instagram post
Despite unbelievable trauma at the start of their lives, Yvonne Bernstein and Steven Frank are two of the most life-affirming people that I have had the privilege to meet. They look back on their experiences with sadness but also with gratitude that they were some of the lucky few to make it through.  Their stories will stay with me forever.
This Daily Mail story reports the photographic style was influenced by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, in part because of ties to the Netherlands both Ms. Berstein and Mr. Frank had.  Below, the Duchess and Ms. Bernstein. 
Despite the solemnity of the day’s goal, the pair looked like they very much enjoyed each other’s company.  Ms. Bernstein was at today’s service in Westminster and reconnected with the Duchess after the service. 
The two women embraced and seemed delighted to see each other again, with the Duchess telling Yvonne, 82, “You were brilliant, you were very patient.” “I came out pretty well!” laughed Yvonne. She said afterwards: “I got a kiss on both cheeks from the Duchess. She and all her staff were so kind to us. We were made to feel very comfortable. She really did take it all [her story] on board.” 
The pictures are part of an exhibition that will showcase 75 survivors and their family members. It is a collaborative effort of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust along with The Jewish News and the Royal Photographic Society (Kate is Royal Patron of the RPS). The endeavor is designed to honor Holocaust victims and celebrate the full lives that survivors have built in the UK. 
More about Kate’s involvement in the project comes via a blog post in The Jewish News written by Justin Cohen, the paper’s editor. It was Mr. Cohen who came up with the idea and initially approached the Palace about doing some sort of 75th Anniversary project involving Kate. 

I didn’t dare believe this project would happen until I learnt how much time and thought the Duchess was personally putting into it. The fine art graduate spent several days researching what she could bring to the table in order to best capture these individuals for the future. She was at pains to ensure the survivors were comfortable with the vision and that the spotlight was on the heroes to be pictured and not the Duchess herself. The idea of an exhibition bringing together all 75 images – most of which will be taken over the coming months by fellows of the RPS – followed.

Another view of the Duchess and Yvonne Bernstein today. 

Before meeting Steven Frank and Yvonne Bernstein, The Duchess spent significant time preparing for the photography session, and once they had arrived she spent nearly two and a half hours with them, getting to know them and their stories, and taking their photographs. Why give you all this background? It’s crucial because it shows that our Royal Family are determined to follow up oft-repeated words of remembrance with practical steps as, day by day, we bid farewell to more survivors. It shows they are personally ready to take on the message of the survivor generation to challenge all forms of hatred wherever it rears its ugly head.

Here are two other images that are part of the project. On the left, John Hajdu MBE (82), who survived the Budapest Ghetto, with his 4-year-old grandson Zac. On the right, Joan Salter MBE (79), who fled the Nazis as a young child. She is seen with her husband Martin and her daughter Shelley. 
Kate’s photo of Mr. Frank and his granddaughters was used on the cover of a special edition of The Jewish News. 

The Jewish News (click photo to visit site)

Prince Charles wrote the Foreword for the program at today’s service in Westminster.

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.

Now for the very difficult turn to what Kate wore, starting with today’s outfit, comprised entirely of repeated pieces.
The dress is by Catherine Walker, featuring a snug fit in the bodice that flares into a full, pleated skirt, one of Kate’s favorite silhouettes. Kate’s design has elements from the Catherine Walker Josie dress seen lower left and the Zeline dress below right. Details include a velvet collar, velvet-covered buttons and belt clasp, and pleats at the flared cuffs.  

We first noted the dress being worn when Kate joined HM for an engagement at King’s College last March

The Duchess carried her Celeste clutch in black velvet by Jimmy Choo, shown below at a previous occasion.

She brought back her Gianvito Rossi black suede pumps seen below as worn to another function. 
And her earrings are the Cassandra Goad Cavolfiore Studs (£4490, about $5900 at today’s exchange rates), also shown as worn at another occasion. 
As far as what Kate wore in the images released of the photoshoot, Georgie’s Mom suggested on Twitter the skirt is by Gucci, the Pleated Checked Wool Twill Midi Skirt ($1980).  Made of 100% wool twill, the black, burgundy, and beige piece is from the Gucci Resort ’19 runway collection.

Here you see the skirt as shown on the runway

UPDATE: There have been questions asking if the skirt could be the Emilia Wickstead worn to a Palace Christmas party in December 2018

I don’t believe that is the case. The easiest way to see the difference is to look at the pattern on the waistbands; the two are quite different. 

Kate’s shoes look like they could be the ‘Avery’ tweed pumps by J.  Crew we have seen previously.  We show them below as worn in Canada during the tour. 


Apologies for the post length; I couldn’t figure out a way to break things up properly!

The 2020 video from the Holocaust Memorial Trust. 


Today’s full service marking the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz at the Memorial Site. 


The Royal Family Channel offers almost 4:15 of raw video. 


The Telegraph has a 2-minute story with Jona Laks, a survivor returning to Auschwitz where she was imprisoned when she was 14 years old.


A story from Australia’s 9News. 



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Monday 3rd of February 2020

Because of the enormity of such an event it makes the conversation of clothes so banal but this IS a site to gossip about the duchess style choices.So i will say that she looked very chic conservative,and cute during the memorial but i'm not so taken with her outfit in the behind the scenes portrait shoot just too boring and old looking!


Tuesday 28th of January 2020

Susan your post is so incredible and the time and effort you put into these pieces are truly commendable. That said, her dress is perfect for the event. And her photography skills are inspiring me to want to get a camera! Great post.


Tuesday 28th of January 2020

Thank you, Ashly. I do love it and feel very fortunate to be able to do it. :)

Merritt Cain

Tuesday 28th of January 2020

Thank you for the great post. Surprisingly none of my kids discussed the anniversary at all in school yesterday. My after school history lesson began with your post and then expanded. As a fun little aside, when I was in London last March I stalked the Queen and Kate to an event....and Kate was wearing this outfit! <3 She had a hat on that day, and was more beautiful than she even looks in person. And taller. She's very tall :)


Tuesday 28th of January 2020

I think I remember you being there, Merritt, and it was very cool! :)


Tuesday 28th of January 2020

Thanks for such a well-researched and informative post on a difficult subject. Thanks too for giving the basic details of Kate’s outfit as I consider it respectful to honour the choices she makes for these challenging engagements.


Tuesday 28th of January 2020

Great post as always! Kate looks lovely and the photos were really nice, she has a good eye and was passionate about the subject. I heard a statistic on tv this morning and forgive me i dont remember the exact numbers but they said 40 something percent of Americans didnt know the holocaust story. And about 60 something percent of millenials have never heard of it either. I was shocked to hear this, we always learned about it in school history. Its still hard to comprehend what those people went through. Horrific.


Tuesday 28th of January 2020

66% of millennials couldn’t distinguish whether Auschwitz was a concentration camp or extermination camp*. Not that they didn’t know what the holocaust was.

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