Duchess of Cambridge highlights ‘strength and bravery’ of Holocaust survivors in emotional reunion

Duchess of Cambridge highlights ‘strength and bravery’ of Holocaust survivors in emotional reunion

To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, The Duchess of Cambridge was virtually reacquainted with Zigi Shipper, 91, and Manfred Goldberg, 90. Catherine met the pair in 2017, when she and Prince William visited Stutthof concentration camp in Poland.

Upon seeing virtually the Duchess again, Zigi commented: “I was so happy, you know. I didn’t need your husband. You are the one that I wanted.”

Kate laughed: “Well Zigi I will tell him you miss him very much. And he sends his regards as well, obviously. It’s lovely to see you again.”

Zigi and Manfred first met in 1944 and spent time together in ghettos and concentration camps, including Stutthof, near Danzig.

Mr Goldberg explained he was 11 years old when he was sent to the camps, along with his mother and younger brother, Herman. His father had reached England two weeks before, and was unable to reach his family. Manfred’s father had to spend the war years in the UK.

He said it was “six long years” before his family were finally reunited. However, it wasn’t a joyous occasion as Manfred revealed his younger brother Herman was killed in a camp at the age of seven.

The Duchess of Cambridge heard personal accounts about surviving the Holocaust from Zigi Shipper and Manfred Goldberg. (IMAGE: The Royal Family/Youtube).

Born in 1930, Zigi was raised in a Polish-Jewish family. Speaking about his own story, he explained how he and his grandmother were taken to a train station where he first saw the trains they were putting people on.

He described the conditions of the train: “There was nowhere you could sit down. If you sat down, they sat on top of you. I was praying that maybe – I was so bad, I was – that I said to myself, ‘I hope someone would die, so I would have somewhere to sit down’. Every morning they used to take out the dead bodies, so eventually I had somewhere to sit down.”

He finally arrived at Auschwitz and was told to leave everything. “We didn’t know what was going to happen. They took us, we washed. We didn’t get a number on our arms but I had a number, 84,303. I always remember. How can I forget that number. I can’t forget it. I want to get rid of it.

“Eventually some officers came and they told us, ‘We need 20 boys to go to a working camp’. This was the camp where Manfred was.”

After he was freed in May 1945, Mr Shipper explained how he got a letter from Britain, written by a Polish woman. The woman Zigi described turned out to be his mother, who he barely knew. Zigi moved to the UK and ‘refused’ to leave his friends including Manfred. He described his first six months there as ‘hell’ because he missed his friends.

Speaking about the life and family he has not, Zigi commented: “What a life I have had! I would never go anywhere to live.”

A smiling Duchess said, “Well I am glad you stayed here Zigi and it’s fantastic you made new friends and a life here.”

Prince William’s wife added: “The stories that you have both shared with me again today and your dedication in educating the next generation, the younger generations, about your experiences and the horrors of the Holocaust shows extreme strength and such bravery in doing so, it’s so important and so inspirational.

The Duchess of Cambridge was virtually reunited with two Holocaust survivors she had previously met. (The Royal Family/Youtube)

Catherine, Zigi and Manfred also spoke with two students, Farah Ali and Maxwell Horner, who have become Ambassadors of Holocaust Educational Trust.

Maxwell told the trio how he had been inspired to become an ambassador by both a visit to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam and his visit to Auschwitz. “I’ve always had from quite a young age a strong passion about human rights and injustice. I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.

“I feel the Holocaust is a focal point of injustice. It was the biggest injustice of modern history. If we learn about the Holocaust, we can make sure it doesn’t happen again, make sure we recognised the signs leading up to genocide.”

Asked by the Duchess how she felt hearing the survivors stories, Farah said: “There are no words to describe it.”

The Duchess of Cambridge spoke to Farah Ali and Maxwell Horner about the Holocaust Educational Trust(IMAGE: The Royal Family/Youtube).

The Duchess of Cambridge paid tribute to the ‘strength and bravery’ of Holocaust survivors, as she praised their dedication in educating younger generations about the horrors they suffered.

Zigi told Catherine how he wanted to tell his story because it’s one that should never be forgotten. “If none of us say anything, we would forget about it. I want people to know.

“We must never forget. People should talk all the time. People ask me all the time how I survived and my answer is that I don’t know, I honestly don’t.”

“There were people next to me dying. Why am I still alive? It’s unbelievable.”

Speaking about the importance of educating the younger generation about the Holocaust, Manfred said: “What I end up telling them is…that please remember all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to remain silent. And I do get feedback that indicates that this is taken aboard.

“I have been told time and again, that leaning about the Holocaust from a textbook is rather dull and doesn’t make an impact. But to listen to a survivor makes an incredible impact.”

The mother of three agreed, saying: “We all have a role to play, all generations have a role to play in making sure the stories that we have heard from Zigi and Manfred today live on, and ensure that the lessons that we have learnt are not repeated in history for future generations.

“Manfred and Zigi, I never forgot the first time we met in 2017 and your stories have stuck with me since then and it’s been a pleasure to see you again today and you are right Manfred, it’s important that these stories are passed onto the next generation.”

Last year, The Duchess of Cambridge became involved in a photographic project, showing survivors of the genocide, to mark 75th anniversary of the Holocaust. Catherine, who is a keen photographer, took two photographs of Holocaust survivors and their grandchildren for the project by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

2020 also saw the Cambridges attend a service to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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