The Duchess of Cornwall yesterday attended an event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day (27th January), which this year coincides with the 75th anniversary of the publication of the diary of Anne Frank.
Camilla was greeted at the event by London’s Lord-Lieutenant, Sir Kenneth Olisa, and Tim Robertson, who is Chief Executive of the Anne Frank Trust, as she arrived at the InterContinental London Park Lane hotel.
The Duchess of Cornwall was also joined at the memorial by Eva Schloss MBE, the step-sister of Anne Frank. As a child, Eva and her family lived in the same apartment block as the Franks in Amsterdam; after losing her brother and father in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Eva and her mother returned to the city, where they renewed their contact with Otto Frank.
Eva’s mother, Elfriede, married Otto (the last surviving member of the Frank family) in 1953.
Following Otto’s death in 1980, Eva felt compelled to carry on her step-father’s work in promoting the legacy of Anne’s diary; she is also a founder member of the Anne Frank Trust, which aims to ‘empower young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination’.
The Duchess of Cornwall was also joined at the event by guest speaker and actress Joanna Lumley, who was recently made a Dame in the New Year’s Honours. As well as being a noted voice of support for the Gurkhas, Joanna is a supporter of the Anne Frank Trust.
Other guests at the Memorial Day engagement included Katie Amess, daughter of murdered British MP Sir David Amess, who was killed in October 2021 while holding a surgery in his constituency; cricketer Azeem Rafiq, who has spoken out on alleged racism and bullying within the Yorkshire Cricket Club; Annabel Schild, the daughter of Kindertransportee Rolf Schild, and Michelle Parker, a survivor of the August 2021 mass shooting in Plymouth.
Camilla’s husband, The Prince of Wales, is Patron of the Holocaust Memorial Trust, a position previously held by his mother, The Queen.
During the event, Camilla watched a presentation given by students from three local schools. The Duchess then gave a powerful speech, quoting Anne Frank’s diary, as well as referring to the words of a Holocaust survivor, Marian Turski. Camilla also highlighted the important work of the Anne Frank trust, and called on the public to not be ‘bystanders to injustice or predjudice’.
“Like so many others, I first read Anne’s diary at about the same age as she was when she started her harrowing memoire. Anne had an exceptional gift with words,” the Duchess said. “She had seen their power to promote great evil, but also recognised their ability to offer comfort, meaning and hope. And, as a writer, she, posthumously, achieved everything she aspired to.
“On 5th April 1944, she wrote, ‘I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!’. Her life, and her death, continue to inspire a worldwide movement of anti-prejudice education, including the Anne Frank Trust here in the UK.
“But Anne’s story is, of course, one of six million. Six million stories that need also to be told, heard and remembered to honour those lives that were lost; and to force us to understand the consequences of extreme hatred.
“In January 2020, I had the solemn privilege of visiting Auschwitz on the 75th anniversary of its liberation. I will never forget the speech given on that occasion by a survivor of the camp, Marian Turski. He spoke of the encroaching laws that discriminated against the Jewish people throughout the 1930s in Nazi Germany: not to sit on park benches; not to swim in swimming pools; not to join choral societies; not to go shopping until after 5 o’clock.
“He described how people (victims, perpetrators and witnesses) can gradually become de-sensitised to the exclusion, the stigmatisation and the alienation of those who have previously been friends. Marian warned us that this can happen again. But he gave us, too, the answer to preventing it. “You should never, never be a bystander”.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let us not be bystanders to injustice or prejudice. After all, surely our personal values are measured by the things we are prepared to ignore. 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.
“And let us carry with us the words and wisdom Anne Frank (a child of only 14 years old) wrote on 7th May 1944: ‘What is done cannot be undone, but at least one can prevent it from happening again’.
The Duchess of Cornwall also participated in a candle-lighting ceremony alongside the other guests to remember the some six million victims of the Holocaust. Before leaving, Camilla was presented with an inscribed copy of Anne Frank’s diary.