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Each encounter with a survivor of the worst chapter in human history has left its mark upon the Prince of Wales. So too, his own grandmother's personal bravery in shielding a Jewish family from the clutches of the Nazis.
Yesterday, on his first official visit to Israel, the Prince of Wales joined world leaders on Jerusalem’s Mount of Remembrance in a collective vow to stand in defiance against a rising tide of anti-semitism and promise the Holocaust will never be forgotten.
Prince Charles was among nearly 50 world leaders to attend the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the six million victims of what is known in Hebrew as the Shoah.
The Prince delivered a speech in which he declared “the Holocaust must never be allowed to become simply a fact of history” and warned its lessons remain “searingly relevant to this day."
The Prince also paid tribute to the “selfless actions” of his grandmother, Princess Alice, who in 1943 while living in Nazi-occupied Greece sheltered a Jewish family in her own home.
In 1993 Yad Vashem bestowed the title of Righteous Among the Nations on Princess Alice, who is buried at the nearby Mount of Olives and whose tomb the Prince will visit on Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier were among other world leaders to deliver speeches to the forum, the largest international event ever held in Israel, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops.
The rise in anti-semitism was a common theme. Speaking prior to the event Dr Moshe Kantor, the London-based president of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, warned anti-semites across Europe were increasingly seeking political power and singled out the recent failed election bid of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party has been engulfed in an anti-semitism crisis.
President Steinmeier acknowledged during his speech that “75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz I stand before you all as president of Germany and laden with the heavy historical burden of guilt.”
Steinmeier stressed he wished he could say Germans have learned from history. "But I cannot say that when hatred is spreading."
His comments come as the head of the memorials at two former Nazi concentration camps in Germany revealed a disturbing rise in visits by the far-Right and Holocaust deniers.
Prof Volkhard Knigge, head of the memorial foundation for Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora concentration camps, warned yesterday of entries discovered in visitor books that describe National Socialism and the concentration camps as ‘useful and good for Germany’ as well as Holocaust-deniers disrupting guided tours.
The organisers of the fifth World Holocaust Forum, which was first held in 2005, were insistent that politics should not overshadow the event. Still, with so many world leaders in attendance some diplomatic furore was inevitable.
The US Vice President Mike Pence used his speech to urge world leaders to “stand strong” against Iran, a country he described as the “leading state purveyor of anti-semitism” in a statement echoed by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Meanwhile President Putin, who arrived more than one hour late due to a previous engagement, called for an urgent meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, US, UK, Russia and France) to demonstrate a common desire for peace.
“Russia is willing to engage in a serious conversation and without further ado,” he said.
One notable absentee was the Polish President Andrzej Duda, after Vladimir Putin recently accused his country of being partially responsible for the start of the Second World War and the Polish government at the time of being anti-semitic.
During his speech, the Prince of Wales spoke of the “singular privilege” to have met so many survivors of the Holocaust throughout his life.
Earlier in the day, following a meeting with the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, he spent nearly half an hour engrossed in conversation with two Holocaust survivors at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, including Marta Wise, who as a 10-year-old girl was sent to Auschwitz where she was the victim of experiments by the notorious Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
During his speech at the forum, the Prince cited Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who survived Auschwitz and co-founded of the English Chamber Orchestra, of which he is patron.
Addressing the 100 or so survivors in the audience he praised their “strength of spirit, unparalleled courage and determined defiance of the very best of humanity when confronted with the very worst.”
An international philharmonic orchestra performed requiems in front of video footage of victims of the Nazi death camps and testimonies of survivors.
The event concluded with two Holocaust survivors lighting a memorial torch before the Prince joined world leaders in laying a wreath at the foot of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising monument.
The forum finished with the El Maleh Rahamim memorial prayer followed by the recitation of the Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer.