Genocide survivors join King & Queen to light candles for Holocaust Memorial Day

Charles and Camilla remembered the victims of international genocides at Buckingham Palace

The King and Queen marked Holocaust Memorial Day yesterday, by welcoming survivors of genocide, Dr Martin Stern and Amouna Adam, to a reception at Buckingham Palace.

Dr Stern survived the Westerbork transit camp and Theresienstadt ghetto in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, while Adam survived genocide in Darfur. The group discussed what work needs to be carried out to ensure the lessons about genocides are not forgotten.

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In the Bow Room, the royal couple lit two candles in remembrance of victims of genocide to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, which is commemorated on the same day that concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated in 1945 by Soviet troops. Auschwitz, located in Nazi-occupied Poland, was responsible for the murder of more than 1.1 million people, making it the largest of the infamous camps.

The day commemorates the lives of the 6 million Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of others killed under the Nazi persecution, and all genocides since.

King Charles III and Camilla, The Queen Consort, with Amouna Adam, a survivor of the Darfur genocide and Holocaust survivor Dr Martin Stern, after lighting a candle to mark Holocaust Memorial Day at Buckingham Palace

Dr Stern lost his father in a separate camp, while his mother died during childbirth in 1942. He was just five years old when he was imprisoned due to his religion. A retired immunologist, he now lives in London, having arrived in the UK in 1950.

Adam is from the persecuted Fur tribe, a group targeted in western Sudan, and represents one of the survivors of more recent genocide, alongside those in Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda.

Last year, The King commissioned seven portraits of Holocaust survivors to commit their stories in remembrance.

Speaking about the meeting, Dr Stern said: ‘We talked about the importance of education about the Holocaust and about other genocides. The King was very insistent on inquiring about other genocides as well, and so was The Queen Consort. So, the importance of education the importance of starting that education at an early age.’

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The King also made a short speech during the reception in which he noted the ‘annual commemoration is a truly profound occasion in which the United Kingdom comes together to remember those who were murdered, to honour those who survived, and to resolve to work to ensure that the horrors of the past never happen again’.

Reflecting on all the previous times His Majesty has marked Holocaust Memorial Day, he said he was ‘deeply touched to have met so many Holocaust survivors, all of them extraordinary people who faced unimaginable horror’.

‘Their strength and determination to share their testimonies is an inspiration to us all. These are people who, despite having suffered so much, have gone on to live the most incredible, flourishing lives in the United Kingdom, and made a remarkable contribution to British society and public life.’

King Charles highlighted how as a society ‘we should all renew our commitment to work for a world free from identity-based persecution and violence’ and must make sure prejudice must not succeed, as it constantly seeks out ‘new victims to demonise, to denounce and, ultimately, to destroy’.

‘That is why I am so proud to see the rich diversity of the United Kingdom displayed in the range of groups taking part in Holocaust Memorial Day.’

Laura Marks, Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day trust, said: ‘What the King was able to offer us, to share with us, was his interest in both in the Holocaust, but also, in the other genocides and the work that he’s doing. And he’s been the patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day trust for many, many years as Prince of Wales, and we were talking to him about how important that is for us as a charity because it adds so much credibility and so much weight when a charity has as a patron like that.’

‘The King is so powerful, so important in being able to bring attention, focus attention on the dangers of hate speech, hatred today and he was just magnificent on that one.’

Last year, the then-Duchess of Cornwall attended an event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the publication of the diary of Anne Frank. She said ‘let us not be bystanders to injustice or prejudice’ and ‘let us therefore learn from those who bore witness to the horrors of the Holocaust, and all subsequent genocides, and commit ourselves to keeping their stories alive, so that each generation will be ready to tackle hatred in any of its terrible forms’.

Camilla also attended the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 2019, alongside other world leaders.

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