Evy Cohen, whose grandmother, uncle and aunt were saved from the Nazis by Princess Alice of Greece, on Saturday hailed the “extraordinary” princess in an Israeli television interview broadcast as Prince Philip was being laid to rest.
Cohen, who lives in France, noted that the princess had known her grandfather Haimaki, a former Greek politician, decades earlier, but that by the time her family reached out to her during the Nazi occupation of Greece, “she probably had not remembered that part.”
Nonetheless, when the family managed to make contact with her — initially via a woman with whom the princess played cards, but didn’t trust, and then via a more trusted emissary — the princess responded immediately that she would be “more than happy” to shelter the Cohens in her residence.
“This is a story of a film. It’s not a story of reality. But it was reality,” Evy told Channel 12. Her relatives found “the right people at the right time” to reach out to Alice. And for “the princess herself, it was a miracle too, because she really did want to take them in.”
“The family was in great danger,” Cohen stressed. “They had moved to Athens. They had escaped from being taken with 95% of Salonika’s population to the death camps.”
Alice sheltered them for more than a year. “At one time the Gestapo came to her residence because they might have heard that there were some Jews in [there],” said Cohen. “She used her true deafness — she could lip-read very very well — but she used her deafness to say she couldn’t understand what they were talking about. So the Gestapo left and never returned.”
Three of Alice’s daughters were married “to Germans, Nazi officials, but her son Prince Philip was fighting with the British at that same time,” Cohen noted, praising Alice as a “humanitarian” of “extraordinary quality.”
“What Princess Alice did, she saved the whole family,” Cohen has said in previous interviews. “Clearly I wouldn’t be alive, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be born if it hadn’t been for her.”
Prince Philip, who died on April 9 at 99 and was laid to rest on Saturday, made a historic visit to Israel to 1994 — the first by a British royal — to honor Alice, who is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
He came to accept Yad Vashem’s recognition of his mother as a “Righteous Among the Nations,” for saving the three Cohen family members, and said in a speech at the event that his mother never told him about her actions.
“We did not know, and, as far as we know, she never mentioned to anyone, that she had given refuge to the Cohen family at a time when all Jews in Athens were in great danger of being arrested and transported to the concentration camps,” said Philip. “In retrospect, this reticence may seem strange, but I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She would have considered it to be a perfectly natural human reaction to fellow beings in distress. You must also bear in mind that she had been well aware of the Nazi persecution of the Jews for many years.”