Prince Charles has hailed seven portraits of some of the UK’s last remaining Holocaust survivors as a “powerful testament” to their lived experience.
The paintings, featuring elderly men and women, were commissioned by the Prince of Wales to serve as a lasting reminder of the horrors of the Nazi regime.
As the artwork was unveiled at the Queen’s Gallery in London ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, the heir to the throne was left moved by one survivor who rolled up her sleeve to reveal a concentration camp tattoo.
Lily Ebert, 98, also showed the prince a golden pendant she hid from camp guards in her shoe and her daily bread ration.
She told the prince: “Meeting you, it is for everyone who lost their lives,” and Charles replied: “But it is a greater privilege for me,” and touched her shoulder.
‘Auschwitz took everything’
In July 1944, a 20-year-old Mrs Ebert, along with her mother and five siblings, were transported to Auschwitz.
Her parent and some of her siblings were condemned to death in the gas chamber after encountering the infamous Josef Mengele, notorious for his experiments on those in the camp, while the remaining family members were put to work.
Speaking about her pendant in the shape of an angel, she said: “This necklace is very special. It went through Auschwitz and survived with me. Auschwitz took everything, even the golden teeth they took off people. But this survived.
“I put it in the heel of my shoe but the heel wore out so … I put it every day in the piece of bread that we got to eat. So that is the story of it. I was five years old when I got it from my mother for my birthday.
“My mother did not survive. My little brother and little sister did not survive.
“They arrived and they saw Dr Mengele, he took them straight away. I have worn my necklace every day since I survived.”
A reminder of the ‘depths of depravity’ people can fall to
In the foreword for a catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Prince Charles wrote we are all “responsible for one another, for our collective history”.
He added: “One of the starkest reminders of this was the Holocaust, when a third of Europe’s Jews were brutally murdered by the Nazi regime as it sought to extinguish not just the Jewish people, but Judaism.
“Seven portraits. Seven faces. Each a survivor of the horrors of those years, who sought refuge and a home in Britain after the war, becoming an integral part of the fabric of our nation.
“However, these portraits represent something far greater than seven remarkable individuals. They stand as a living memorial to the six million innocent men, women, and children whose stories will never be told, whose portraits will never be painted.”
The prince went on to say the portraits “stand as a permanent reminder” of the “depths of depravity and evil humankind can fall to when reason, compassion and truth are abandoned.”
Who else is featured?
Also featured in the exhibition is a painting of Helen Aronson, who was among a group of around 750 people liberated from a Nazi-run ghetto in Poland out of 250,000 people sent there.
“The portrait was just excellent, absolutely true to life. It has been such an experience,” she said. “It has been a very special and unforgettable day.”
Prince Charles, who is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, also commissioned portraits of Manfred Goldberg, Arek Hersh, Anita Lasker Wallfisch, Rachel Levy and Zigi Shipper.