William & Kate Mark Holocaust Anniversary

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On Monday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a memorial service in Central Hall commemorating the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. This was a pre-announced appearance, but prior to the event, Kensington Palace shared that Kate participated in a Holocaust Memorial Day Trust project that had her take two photographs of Holocaust survivors with their families. The pictures will feature in a broader exhibit the Trust is putting on in coordination with Jewish News and the Royal Photographic Society, the latter of which Kate is patron.

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Per the Trust:

“The project aims to honour the victims of the Holocaust and to celebrate the full lives that survivors have built in the UK, and was originally conceived by Justin Cohen of the Jewish News. Each of the portraits depicts the special connection between a survivor and younger generations of their family, who over the coming years will carry the legacy of their grandparents. However, the project also aims to inspire people across the UK to consider their own responsibility to remember and share the stories of those who endured persecution at the hands of the Nazis.”

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Kate’s participation is slightly genius – it’s well known that she’s a keen photographer in her personal life, and we’ve been privy to a few snaps she’s taken of her husband and children over the years. Monday’s unveiling of the portraits was the perfect accompaniment to the Cambridge’s attendance at the Westminster service.

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Kate’s subjects were Steven Frank BEM, originally from Amsterdam, with two of his granddaughters, and Yvonne Bernstein, originally from France, with her granddaughter. Kate said in a statement:

“I wanted to make the portraits deeply personal to Yvonne and Steven—a celebration of family and the life that they have built since they both arrived in Britain in the 1940s. The families brought items of personal significance with them which are included in the photographs. The harrowing atrocities of the Holocaust, which were caused by the most unthinkable evil, will forever lay heavy in our hearts. Yet it is so often through the most unimaginable adversity that the most remarkable people flourish. Despite unbelievable trauma at the start of their lives, Yvonne Bernstein and Steven Frank are two of the most life-affirming people that I have had the privilege to meet.”

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The Duchess met with both subjects at her home in Kensington Palace, and was influenced by Vermeer in her aesthetic, which I think translates rather pointedly to the final images.

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Later in the day, Kate was joined by William for the memorial service alongside Prime Minister Boris Johnson and British faith leaders. I actually thought this event was meant to take place in Westminster Abbey, but in fact it was held in nearby Central Hall, essentially a multi-purpose event space. Per the BBC:

At Central Hall in Westminster, survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides, and their relatives, spoke of their experiences during an hour-long event hosted by BBC newsreader Huw Edwards. Holocaust survivors Arek Hersh, Mala Tribich, Yvonne Bernstein, Eva Clarke, Rachel Levy and Manfred Goldberg all lit ceremonial candles. And there were dramatic readings of first-hand accounts of the horrors experienced during the genocide by actors Nina Wadia, Rebecca Front, Martin Shaw and Sir Simon Russell Beale.

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William also delivered a speech that paid tribute to his paternal great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, who is currently enjoying a rather higher profile after The Crown’s third season. Alice married into the Greek Royal Family, was exiled from Greece between the two World Wars, and then returned to Athens before the outbreak of World War II. She dedicated her time during the war to public service and nursing, and in fact helped hide a Jewish family from the Nazis in 1943. You can read more about her life here.

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Needless to say, fashion was very beside the point, but Kate did in fact, you know, wear clothes. In deference to the solemnity of the occasion, she recycled an outfit instead of debuting something new, this time opting for the grey Catherine Walker dress she first wore last March when she carried out her joint engagement with the Queen.

2 thoughts on “William & Kate Mark Holocaust Anniversary

  1. LEW

    It is only a thought, but I wonder if the influence of Vermeer on these photos may have been a sort of tribute to Anne Frank, as Kate said when interviewed about the project that she had read her book when young and it had a lasting effect on her. I think that this was a really worthwhile involvement that she has done very well.

    I also feel that life has to a degree imitated art when it comes to Princess Alice; The Crown episode fictionalised her having a role in adding to the popularity of the RF and she certainly seems to be a focus at the moment. Hasten to add, I don’t blame them. I’m glad she is being recognised because she was great.

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    1. Oh, that’s very interesting re: Anne Frank. I missed that tidbit, so thank you for flagging! I think Kate is also a fan of Vermeer personally – when she visited the Netherlands in 2016, it was a big moment when she saw Girl With a Pearl Earring 🙂

      And I agree re: Princess Alice – it was touching to hear William pay tribute to her this week. Reminded me of his visit to Israel in 2018 when he visited her tomb.

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