In a speech yesterday to hundreds of supporters at the annual dinner of the World Jewish Relief charity, The Prince of Wales warned that the lessons of World War II are in ‘increasing danger’ of being forgotten.
Speaking to the 800 attendees, Charles said: ‘The work of World Jewish Relief allows us to rally together to do what we can to support people practically, emotionally and spiritually, particularly at a time when the horrific lessons of the last war seem to be in increasing danger of being forgotten.’
Sources say that the comments were ‘off message’ and their timing – following the US President’s controversial ban on travel – led many in attendance to see them as a thinly-veiled criticism of Donald Trump.
Saying religion ‘empowers’ rather than limits, Prince Charles, spoke passionately about how his work with all faiths and efforts to reach across communities was inspired by the links he and his family have with the Jewish community. He specifically referenced Princess Alice’s sheltering of a Jewish family during the war and his time being taught by Jewish immigrants, saying: ‘I’ve not forgotten their wisdom and dignity.’
His comments touched on the charity’s work with impoverished Jews in Ukraine, with Syrian refugees fleeing the country’s horrors and with agricultural entrepreneurs in Rwanda when he said: ‘In reaching beyond your own community you set an example for us all of true compassion and friendship.’
The Prince hailed Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott for the: ‘extraordinary grace and strength you’d expect from someone who captained the British weightlifting team at the Olympics. To me, Ben and others like him who have endured persecution are a reminder of the danger of forgetting lessons of the past.’
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis also spoke at the event, branding Trump’s policy as ‘totally unacceptable’, comments that were loudly applauded by the crowd at London’s Guildhall.
Prince Charles has been Royal Patron of the WJR for more than a decade since he was ‘drawn’ to the charity which is known for: ‘doing things not just talking about them, about supporting local communities and not imposing solutions from outside. Not just supporting those from your own community but people irrespective of faith.’
His 2008 meetings with survivors in Krakow inspired the establishment of a community centre there, which WJR President Nigel Layton called ‘a modern day miracle’. The centre now boards more than 600 members.