Earlier this month, the Duke and Duchess took a guided tour at the Stutthof concentration camp, Poland. The tour guides were Holocaust survivors from the camp, who moved to England when the war ended. At the end of the tour, the couple described some of their impressions, mentioning the emotional effect and the message they took from the experience.
The Stutthof camp was the first to be built in Germany and the last to be liberated. Jews were imprisoned alongside political prisoners, such as the Polish intelligentsia. Through the first five years of its existence it hosted 110,000 inhabitants. 65,000 of them died due to the hard conditions in the camp or killing by the Nazis, 28,000 of them were Jews.
Five Holocaust survivors met with Prince William and Princess Catherine during the tour. Facing the traumatic memories, Manfred Goldberg returned to the camp for the first time. He spent more than eight months as a worker at the camp when he was 14, where he met his good friend, Zigi Shipper. Goldberg noted: “In 1946 when I was a youngster I was admitted to England, I didn’t dream I would ever have the privilege of shaking the hand of a future King of this country.”
Apparently the visit at the camp meant a lot for the royal couple. In the visitor book Kate wrote: “This shattering visit has reminded us of the horrendous murder of six million Jews, drawn from across the whole of Europe, who died in the abominable Holocaust. It is, too, a terrible reminder of the cost of war. And the fact that Poland alone lost millions of its people, who were the victims of a most brutal occupation. All of us have an overwhelming responsibility to make sure that we learn the lessons and that the horror of what happened is never forgotten and never repeated.”
Beyond the immense impression the visit had on the royal couple, it also was heavily symbolic on the political level. Antisemitism and Holocaust denial are present and alive in Britain, and felt everyday by Jews. According to the CFCA, most Jewish students feel uncomfortable with the NUS (National Union of Students) attitude towards Jews and their response to antisemitic complaints. Two thirds also reported that they feel targeted because of their religion. Jewish adults who answered the survey believe antisemitism to be prevalent in all political parties to some extent.
The tour resonated strongly with the British Jewish community, and sent a strong message of solidarity.
Sources: BBC, Israel Hayom, CFCA
By Roni Zedek