British Royalty Honors Holocaust Survivors

Some years ago a friend of mine and her husband had occasion to dine at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Prince Charles. The couple, practicing Orthodox Jews, were observers of the strict dietary laws of their faith. Charles, aware of this, phoned them prior to the meal to ensure that their needs were taken care of—the separate sterilized dishes and utensils, the ritualistically slaughtered meat, the absence of any dairy accompanying the meal. The Crown Prince, in short, did everything in his power to make his guests comfortable.

Prince Charles
Charles, Prince of Wales (Photo by Frederic Legrand-COMEO/

Prince Charles’ magnanimity and kindness toward those of the Jewish faith is a model in miniature of the Royal Family’s history of generosity and inclusion. Charles’ grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, shunning the trappings of nobility, spent much of her life living simply and aiding those in need. At the risk of her life, she sheltered a Jewish family in Nazi-occupied Greece, a deed for which she was posthumously honored as “Righteous Among the Nations” at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Speaking at the ceremony, her son, Prince Philip said, “I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with a deep religious faith, and she would have considered it to be a perfectly natural human reaction to fellow beings in distress.”

Prince Charles’ magnanimity and kindness towards those of the Jewish faith is a model in miniature of the Royal Family’s history of generosity and inclusion.

So it comes as no surprise that this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day saw seven of the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors honored at Buckingham Palace each with a portrait commissioned for the occasion by Prince Charles as a living memorial. The portraits will become a permanent part of the Royal Collection to honor “the six million innocent men, women, and children whose stories will never be told, whose portraits will never be painted.”

Prince Charles met one of the survivors, 98-year-old Lily Ebert, who, showing him the numbered wrist tattoo forced upon her at Auschwitz said, “Meeting you, it is for everyone who lost their lives.”

The Prince replied, “But it is a greater privilege for me.”

Numbers on a man’s arm
Auschwitz prisoners were tattooed with numbers to facilitate their identification after death. (Photo by Frankie Fouganthin/Creative Commons)

Historian Rabbi Jonathan Romain observed that the Crown has been a “symbol of stability” for British Jews for centuries. “Whether it was in the 1850s from central Europe, or the 1880s from Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe, the 1930s from Nazi Germany and Austria,” Romain pointed out that the monarchy has always been steadfast in its efforts to welcome Jews to Britain adding, “I think most Jews would say this is one of the best countries, maybe in the top two or three in the world, for Jews to be in, feel at home, live at ease, and be part of society and very integrated into the wider community. That is all represented by the monarchy.”

The Crown Prince, who inherited the patronage of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust from the Queen, described his “special and precious” relationship with the Jewish community as coming “directly into the heart of my own family.” In November 2020 he spoke eloquently and movingly on the passing of his dear friend, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, using, as he spoke, traditional Hebrew phrases of consolation and respect.

From his extra care to ensure the comfort of my Orthodox friends to his larger acts of magnanimity and solidarity, Prince Charles has done his part in continuing the British monarchy’s close ties with the Jewish community, reminding us, as he said, “not only of history’s darkest days but of humanity’s interconnectedness as we strive to create a better world for our children, grandchildren, and generations as yet unborn; one where hope is victorious over despair and love triumphs over hate.”

Michael Leb
Michael was raised and educated in a loving Orthodox Jewish family, later discovering Scientology as a perfect complement to the poetry and majesty of Judaism.