Britain’s Prince William, making the first ever official visit to Israel by a member of the royal family, on Tuesday visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, where he took part in a wreath laying ceremony and met with Jews who were rescued by Britain as children.
Before he laid a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance, the prince toured the Holocaust History Museum and the Museum of Holocaust Art, where he signed the museum’s guestbook.
“It has been a profoundly moving experience to visit Yad Vashem today. It is almost impossible to comprehend this appalling event in history. Every name, photograph and memory recorded here is a tragic reminder of the loss suffered by the Jewish people. The story of the Holocaust is one of darkness and despair, questioning humanity itself,” he wrote.
“We must never forget the Holocaust — the murder of 6 million men, women and children, simply because they were Jewish. We all have a responsibility to remember and to teach future generations about the horrors of the past so that they can never reoccur. May the millions of Jewish people remembered by Yad Vashem never be forgotten,” added the prince.
William also referenced his great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, who is recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations for helping save a Jewish family in Greece during the Holocaust.
“The actions of those few, who took great risks to help others, are a reminder of the human capacity for love and hope. I am honoured that my own great grandmother is one of these Righteous Among the Nations,” he wrote.
— Justin Cohen (@CohenJust) June 26, 2018
William will visit Princess Alice’s grave on the Mount of Olives Thursday. She was interred there in the late 1980s in accordance with her wishes.
Prince Philip, the son of Princess Alice and William’s grandfather, planted a tree at Yad Vashem in his mother’s honor during a private visit to the memorial in 1994.
Her grandson, William’s father, Prince Charles, visited the grave in October 2016 during his trip to Israel to attend the funeral of president Shimon Peres.
Yad Vashem said Princess Alice “hid the three members of the Cohen family – Rachel, Tilda and Michelle – in her palace in Athens during the Nazi occupation of Greece.”
It said: “Princess Alice personally saw to it that the members of the persecuted Jewish family had everything they needed, and even visited them in their hiding place, spending many hours in their company.”
Thanks to her, the Cohen family survived and today lives in France, it said.
Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem Libraries, told Hadashot TV news the prince showed great interest in the museum and asked questions such as why the Holocaust happened to the Jews.
During the tour, William met with Paul Alexander and Henry Foner, two survivors of the Kindertransport, which before the outbreak of World War II helped bring thousands of Jewish children from across Europe to Britain.
Before meeting the prince, Foner said he hoped to give William a copy of his book “Postcards to a Little Boy,” a collection of postcards his father sent him from Germany before he was murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz.
“I was a six-year-old refugee kid, and here I am giving a book I wrote, to honor my father, basically, to a member of the royal family,” Foner told Reuters before meeting the prince. “It’s great honor for me to be able to say thank you, symbolically, to the British people who saved my life.”
William was accompanied on his visit to the Holocaust memorial by Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev, as well UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
Following his visit to Yad Vashem, William was meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin at their respective residences in Jerusalem before heading to the Tel Aviv area for a series of events later Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
During the meeting with the Netanyahu and his wife Sara, descendants of the Cohen family also took part and William was presented with a copy of Princess Alice’s Righteous Among the Nations certificate.
William, the second in line to the British throne, will travel to the West Bank city of Ramallah Wednesday afternoon to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his Muqata headquarters and take part in various cultural events.
On Wednesday evening, William will address a reception at the UK’s Jerusalem Consulate, where he will meet “a range of people from across society in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” according to Philip Hall, the UK consul general in Jerusalem.
On Thursday morning, William will receive a briefing from a viewing point at the Mount of Olives from a member of the consulate. He will then proceed to the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene to visit the grave of his great-grandmother.
Later on Thursday, William is expected to tour several religious sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall, though these visits have not been confirmed.
That those visits are taking place under the auspices of the UK consulate in Jerusalem, which is in charge of London’s relations with the Palestinian Authority, has garnered some criticism from Israeli officials, with Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin accusing the second-in-line to the throne of “politicizing” his visit to the region.
But David Quarrey, the UK’s ambassador, defended describing Jerusalem’s Old City as being part of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” in the prince’s itinerary.
“All the terminology that was used in the program was consistent with years of practice by British governments. It’s consistent with British government policy,” he told reporters during a briefing at his Ramat Gan residence last week.
On Thursday, in the early afternoon, the Duke will depart from Ben Gurion International Airport en route to London on a special flight.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.