The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall Attend Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust

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 THE PRINCE OF WALES AND THE DUCHESS OF CORNWALL VISIT THE QUEEN’S GALLERY 

Monday 24th January 2022

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will attend an exhibition of Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust, which were commissioned by The Prince of Wales to pay tribute to Holocaust survivors, at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London. 

During the visit to The Queen’s Gallery, Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will view the paintings in the special display Seven Portraits: Surviving The Holocaust and then meet with the sitters and artists involved in the project. 

The special display Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace has been commissioned by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to pay tribute to the stories of seven remarkable Holocaust survivors, each of whom has in recent years been honoured for services to Holocaust awareness and education. The Prince of Wales, Patron of the National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, commissioned seven leading artists to paint the portraits as a living memorial to the six million innocent men, women and children who lost their lives in the Holocaust and whose stories will never be told. The profoundly moving portraits, which will become part of the Royal Collection, stand as a powerful testament to the extraordinary resilience and courage of those who survived. Admission to the display is included with a ticket to the current exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace, between 27th January and 13th February 2022. The portraits will then go on display for visitors to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh between 17th March and 6th June 2022. 

Royal Collection Trust: 

Royal Collection Trust, a department of The Royal Household, is responsible for the care of the Royal Collection and manages the public opening of the official residences of The Queen. The aims of The Trust are the care and conservation of The Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational programmes. Royal Collection Trust’s work is undertaken without public funding of any kind. 

The Royal Collection is among the largest and most important art collections in the world, and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact. It comprises almost all aspects of the fine and decorative arts, and is spread among some 15 royal residences and former residences across the UK, most of which are regularly open to the public. The Royal Collection is held in trust by the Sovereign for her successors and the Nation, and is not owned by The Queen as a private individual. 

Biographies of the Holocaust Survivors: 

Arek Hersh MBE 

Arek was 11 years old when the war started and was born in Sieradz, central Poland. In this town, the Jewish population numbered around 5,000. The Jews in Sieradz were ordered to leave on 31st August 1939, just before the Nazi invasion of Poland. Arek’s family went to Lodz to stay with cousins. Whilst there, Arek was taken by German soldiers and put on a train to Otoschno to work as a slave labourer on a new train line to Russia. He stayed there for 18 months and was then sent back to Sieradz. In August 1942, during a raid by the Nazis, Arek told SS officers he was a tailor, and so, deemed useful, he was sent to the Lodz ghetto with 150 others. All other Jews in the town were sent to Chelmno concentration camp and murdered on arrival. Arek was ‘adopted’ by a woman and her daughter in the Lodz ghetto, with whom he stayed for several months. Then he was accepted to stay in an orphanage and worked in a textile mill. 

On 25th August 1944 (after 23 months in the Lodz ghetto), Arek was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was taken to the Cygainer Lager (so called gypsy camp) which had been liquidated and emptied just before his arrival. Arek was selected to work and was taken to Block 4 in Auschwitz 1 – the first camp in the vast complex. 

After three weeks in Auschwitz 1, Arek was sent to Budy where he was put to work ploughing fields, and then he was made to work in the fisheries. After 12 days at the fisheries, he was then sent to Plawy, a sub-camp. 

Nine days before Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated, in January 1945, Arek was sent on the Death March to Germany. Once they reached Katowice, Arek and the other prisoners were put into goods wagons and travelled to Buchenwald, where they were put into the Russian Prisoner of War block. 

In April 1945, Arek was sent on a Death March from Buchenwald, and put onto a wagon at Weimar. After three and a half weeks, he arrived at Roundnice, Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia. From there he was moved to the Terezin Ghetto where he was finally liberated four days later. Arek’s older sister, Mania, was the only other family member who survived. He was reunited with her in Ulm, Germany, in 1947. Arek now lives in England with his family. 

Helen Aronson BEM 

Helen was born in Pabjanice, near Lodz, Poland on 24th April 1927. In May 1942 all the Jews from Pabjanice were evacuated to the notorious Lodz ghetto. Helen is one of only 750 Jews who miraculously survived the ghetto, from a total of 250,000 who entered it. Soon after entering Lodz, Helena’s father was murdered at Chelmno concentration camp, together with all of Pabjanice’s children, whom he had volunteered to accompany. Helen managed to survive the ghetto alongside her mother and brother, as slave workers. After being liberated from Lodz by the Red Army, her mother joined her older sister in Israel and her brother went to Australia. In 1946, Helen began her new life in London where she joined her uncle and learnt English. She married, worked as a secretary and had two daughters. In 1954, Helen, her husband George and their two daughters – Monica and Annie – moved to Lagos, Nigeria, where George had been posted with the colonial service. 

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch MBE 

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch was born in Breslau which was then part of Germany and is now Wrocław in Poland. She was part of an assimilated Jewish family and lived with her parents and two sisters. All three children played an instrument from a young age. Anita played the cello. By the time Anita was 12 years old her parents arranged for her to go to Berlin where she had private tuition in school subjects and could continue her cello lessons with the only remaining Jewish cello teacher in the city. However, this ended soon after Kristallnacht, at which point Anita left Berlin to return to her family in Breslau. 

Following Kristallnacht, Anita was forced to leave school and was conscripted to work in a paper factory. Around this time, Anita’s family were also forced to leave their home and move in with Anita’s aunt. On 9th April 1942, Anita’s parents were deported to Izbica near Lublin. Anita and her sisters had wanted to go with them, but their father refused. Anita learnt after the war that they had been killed on arrival. Anita continued to work in the paper factory and became involved in clandestine activities, mainly forging paperwork for French prisoners of war. One day she realised that the Nazis had been watching her. Anita forged some papers for herself and attempted to escape but she was quickly caught and imprisoned for forgery, helping the enemy, and attempted escape. After a year in prison, Anita was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She credits her survival at Auschwitz to the fact that she was able to join the camp orchestra. The prisoners who were part of the orchestra played by the gates of the camp as the other prisoners left for work in the morning and arrived back in the evening. The orchestra was also expected to be on call to play whenever a member of the SS wanted to hear music. From Auschwitz, Anita was sent to Bergen-Belsen. On 15th April 1945, Belsen was liberated by British troops. After serving as an interpreter for the British army, she settled in the UK in 1946 where she achieved fame as co-founder and member of the English Chamber Orchestra. 

Rachel Levy BEM 

Rachel was born in 1935 and was raised in rural Czechoslovakia in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains. She lived with her father, mother, older brother Chaskel, two younger sisters and one baby brother. 

In March 1939, the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia. Three years later in 1942, Rachel’s father was taken from his home. A few months later, Rachel and her family were able to hide in the surrounding mountains and forests, thus avoiding later round ups. However, in Spring 1944, her neighbours handed the family over to the Nazi soldiers. Rachel and her family were put on cattle trucks and transported to Auschwitz. Rachel’s mother, Shlima, her sisters Rivka and Eta and her infant brother Ben-Zvi were all gassed upon arrival. Rachel was separated from her brother Chaskel and uncle and sent to the female section of the camp. 

As the allied forces approached Auschwitz those remaining in the camp were sent on the infamous Death March. After 21 days of walking Rachel made it to Bergen-Belsen. On 15th April 1945 British troops liberated the 60,000 inmates from Bergen-Belsen. After the war, Rachel and her brother agreed to travel to the UK as refugees and rehabilitate there. 

Lily Ebert BEM 

Lily was born in Bonyhád, Hungary, in 1923. She was the eldest daughter in a family of six children. In July 1944, when Lily was 14 years old, she, along with her mother, younger brother and three sisters, was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Lily’s mother Nina, younger brother Bela, and younger sister Berta were immediately sent to the gas chambers whilst Lily and her sisters Renee and Piri were selected for work in the camp. She was ordered to shower and then all her clothes and possessions were taken. Lily was only allowed to keep her shoes. In her shoe heel, Lily had hidden a golden pendant, given to her by her mother. It was the only trace of her mother she had left. When her shoes wore out, Lily hid the pendant in a piece of bread. 

Four months after arriving in the camp, Lily and her two sisters were transferred to a munitions factory at Altenburg, near Leipzig. Here, Lily was made to work as a slave labourer. Lily was liberated in spring 1945. After she was liberated, Lily travelled with her surviving sisters to Switzerland to recuperate and to start rebuilding her life. In 1953 Lily was reunited with her older brother, who had survived the Nazi camp system, and the family then moved to Israel. In 1967 Lily and her husband moved to the UK. 

Manfred Goldberg BEM 

Manfred was born on 21 April 1930 in Kassel in central Germany into an Orthodox Jewish family. He and his family suffered escalating persecution in Germany under the Nazi regime in the years before the Second World War. Manfred’s father was able to escape to Britain in August 1939, just days before the war began, but the rest of the family were unable to join him. 

The situation deteriorated following the outbreak of the war and in 1940 Manfred’s Jewish school was closed by the Nazi authorities. In December 1941, Manfred, his mother and younger brother were deported by train from Germany to the Riga Ghetto in Latvia. Life in the ghetto was characterised by lack of food, use as slave labour and constant fear: throughout Manfred’s time in the ghetto, the Nazis and their Latvian collaborators regularly selected inmates of the ghetto for mass shootings in forests on the edge of the city. Despite this, Manfred was able to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah in March 1943. 

In August 1943, just three months before the ghetto was finally liquidated, Manfred was sent to a nearby labour camp where he was forced to work laying railway tracks. 

The prisoners in the camp were treated brutally and again subjected to frequent selections. As the Red Army approached Riga, Manfred and the other surviving prisoners were evacuated to Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig (today Gdańsk in Poland) in August 1944. He spent more than eight months as a slave worker in Stutthof and its subcamps, including Stolp and Burggraben. The camp was abandoned just days before the war ended and Manfred and other prisoners were sent on a Death March in appalling conditions. Manfred was finally liberated at Neustadt in Germany on 3 May 1945. Manfred came to Britain in September 1946 to be reunited with his father. After learning English, he managed to catch up on some of his missed education and he eventually graduated from London University with a degree in Electronics. He is married with four sons and several grandchildren. 

Zigi Shipper BEM 

Zigi was born on 18th January 1930, to a Jewish family in Łódź, Poland and attended a Jewish school. When he was five years old his parents divorced but, because they were Orthodox Jews and divorce was frowned upon, he was told that his mother had died. Following his parents’ divorce, he lived with his father and his grandparents. In 1939, when war broke out, Zigi’s father escaped to the Soviet Union, believing that it was only young Jewish men who were at risk, and not children or the elderly. However, in 1940 Zigi and his grandparents were forced to move into the Łódź Ghetto. During this year his father attempted to return to see Zigi but could not get into the ghetto. Zigi never saw his father again and still does not know what happened to him. In 1942, all children, including Zigi, were rounded up and put on lorries to be deported from the ghetto. Zigi managed to jump off the lorry and escaped back into the ghetto where he remained, working in the metal factory, until the ghetto’s liquidation in 1944. When the ghetto was liquidated, all of the people from the metal factory were put onto cattle trucks and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. 

On arrival, they were sent to the so-called Sauna building, where they were stripped, shaved and showered. Everyone from the ghetto had to go through a selection, where a Nazi officer decided who was fit enough to work and those who should be killed immediately. Within an hour of the selection, those from Zigi’s transport who were not classed as fit for work had been murdered. 

A few weeks after arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau, all of the surviving workers from the metal factory were sent to Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig. Once there, Zigi volunteered to work at a railway yard, where he was able to get more food. With the Soviets advancing, Zigi and the rest of his group were sent on a Death March, arriving in the German naval town of Neustadt. Here they were told they were going to Denmark. However, before this could happen there was a British air attack, and during the chaos that followed Zigi realised that all of the Nazis had left. They were surrounded by British troops and liberated on 3rd May 1945. As soon as they were 

liberated, Zigi and his friends from Danzig and the march went looking for food. Three days after liberation, Zigi ended up in hospital for three months due to the effects of overeating after a long period of malnutrition. Once he left hospital, he and his friends were sent to a Displaced Persons’ camp. 

Zigi finally arrived in the UK in 1947, where he married and had a family. He now lives in Hertfordshire and regularly shares his testimony in schools across the country. 

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