The Prince of Wales has urged people to remember Holocaust Memorial Day today as he lead the royal family in tributes to victims and survivors.
In a video shared on the Clarence House Twitter page, Charles, 71, asked people to ensure survivors’ stories are remembered forever amid the dwindling number of people able to bear first-hand witness to the horrors of the genocide, which saw millions of Jews and other minorities executed during the Second World War at the hands of the Nazis.
The royal, who is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: ‘This is our time when we can, each in our own way, be the light that ensures the darkness can never return.’
Meanwhile Prince William, 38, and Kate Middleton, 39, also marked the day by sharing a poignant message alongside photographs as they met survivors Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg in Poland in 2017.
The tributes reflected on one of the darkest periods in human history, when 11million victims – including six million Jews – were gassed, shot and starved in Nazi death camps.
The notorious train-track entrance to Auschwitz, through which over a million were taken to their deaths, was stormed by the Red Army on January 27, 1945.
The Prince of Wales, 71, has urged people to remember Holocaust Memorial Day today as he lead the royal family in tributes to victims and survivors
In a moving speech which is set to be broadcast at an online memorial later day, Prince Charles said people should try to ‘be the light’
National landmarks across Britain, including Wembley Stadium, Cardiff Castle and the Tyne Bridge, will be bathed in purple light at 8pm to mark Wednesday’s memorial, while the traditional remembrance ceremony will be hosted online from 7pm due to lockdown rules.
People have been urged to show their support by lighting a candle in their window following the conclusion of the hour-long ceremony.
Pre-recorded messages from the likes of Premier League footballers Jordan Henderson and Bruno Fernandes, plus contributions from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, religious leaders, and celebrity adventurer Bear Grylls, will all feature in the online service.
This year’s theme – being the light in the darkness – was decided 18 months ago, but the global coronavirus pandemic which has seen deaths, ill-health, economic ruin, school closures and mental health problems means it has taken on added resonance.
Kate Middleton, 39, and Prince William, 38, also shared a touching tribute post online alongside photographs as they met with survivors in 2017
In the clip, which will play at the ceremony, Charles said: ‘As I speak, the last generation of living witnesses is tragically passing from this world, so the task of bearing witness falls to us.
‘This is not a task for one time only, nor is it a task for one generation, or one person. It is for all people, all generations, and all time.’
Meanwhile the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also shared a poignant Instagram post to mark the day.
They wrote: On #HolocaustMemorialDay we commemorate and honour the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and of recent genocides.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shared several photographas they met Holocaust survivors Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg
‘Later today we will share a special conversation between The Duchess and Holocaust survivors Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg, who The Duke and Duchess met at Stutthof in 2017, and youth ambassadors from the Holocaust Educational Trust.
‘As young boys, Zigi and Manfred both spent time in ghettos and a number of labour and concentration camps, including Stutthof in Poland where they met for the first time in 1944, and remain friends to this day.
‘Of the 110,000 men, women and children who were imprisoned in the camp during the Holocaust, as many as 65,000 lost their lives – including 28,000 Jews.’
They continued: ‘Together on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, we bear witness for those who endured genocide, and honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition. We must never forget.’
Later today, the royal couple will share a video clip from a conversation between Kate, Zigi and Manfred, as well as youth embassadors from the Holocaust Educational Trust
Alongside the post, the couple shared photographs as they met with Zigi and Manfred in 2017, as well as a black and white photo of the men in their youth.
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), said Holocaust survivors were the perfect inspiration for positivity.
Karen said: ‘There has been real distress and pain and suffering felt in this country and around the world in this pandemic.
What is Holocaust Memorial Day?
Every January on Holocaust Memorial Day, the world remembers the six million Jews and millions of other minorities who were killed during the genocide of World War II.
As directed by Hitler’s Nazi party, the Holocaust, also known as the Shoah in Hebrew, is a term to describe the genocide of Jews and other minorities during World War II.
January 27, 1945 is the day the Auschwitz concentration camp in modern-day Poland was liberated by the Soviets.
With the Soviets arriving nearly eight months before the war ended, many had been sent out on a death march and 7,000 sick and dying people remained.
In the five years that Auschwitz was open, an estimated 1.1 million people were killed at the concentration camp. 90 percent were Jewish and the rest were a mix of Romany people, Soviets and Poles.
One in six Jews killed in World War II died at Auschwitz after being brought to the camp across Europe by train.
By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jewish men, women and children died in ghettos, mass-shootings, in concentration camps and extermination camps.
Studies have also revealed that the true death toll could be as many as 20 million people.
All over the world, commemorative events will take place to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, but also subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur are remembered to try and end racial violence once and for all.
‘But the survivors I spoke to – many who are shielding – are the epitome of strength and are getting on with it.
‘Bearing in mind what they have experienced and suffered, they give words of wisdom to just keep going, we are going to get out of this.
‘I find that pretty inspiring from 90-year-old survivors who have been through the very worst and could easily let this get on top of them. But this says a lot about them because they really are remarkable.’
As young boys, Zigi and Manfred both spent time in ghettos and a number of labour and concentration camps, including Stutthof in Poland where they met for the first time in 1944
Karen said the Holocaust was important to remember because it was ‘part of British history’.
She said: ‘A lot of people might think it happened somewhere else to someone else, but what we understand really is that the Holocaust happened to people in this country – survivors living here now, or people who fled and became British citizens – but also those members of the armed forces who liberated (concentration camp) Bergen-Belsen in April 1945.
‘So my message to people this year is this: Hear the stories, listen to the eyewitnesses, find out about what happened to these people, and understand that when we are learning about the past, it is for the sake of learning history but it is also because we can learn from it.’