Speaking with Holocaust survivors at the Jewish Museum in Vienna, Prince Charles shared his pride for his ‘amazing’ grandmother, who sheltered a Jewish family from the Nazis during World War Two.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were in Vienna on the final stop on their nine-day European tour, which saw them visit Romania, Italy and Austria. Their visit to the Jewish Museum gave the royals the opportunity to speak with Holocaust survivors – including 95-year-old Freddie Knoller, 80-year-old Gerda Frei and 91-year old Harry Bibring – over tea. After hearing their harrowing stories, the Prince shared the experiences of his paternal grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenburg.
A great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Alice sheltered the Cohen family in her Greek home during the Nazi occupation. Prince Charles shared: ‘My father’s mother took in a Jewish family during the war and hid them. She was amazing, my grandmother.
‘She took them in during the Nazi occupation. She never told anybody, she didn’t tell her family for many years.
‘She is buried in Jerusalem. In September last year, I went to the funeral of President (Shimon) Peres and finally got to see her grave.’
Princess Alice hid Rachel Cohen and her children, Michel and Tilde from September 1943 until October 1944 when the Nazis withdrew. Rachel was a widow of Haimaki Cohen who had helped the Greek royals to shelter from floods decades earlier.
Though she lived opposite the Gestapo headquarters and faced threats of search, Princess Alice refused to stand down and saved the Cohen family’s lives. For her bravery she was granted the honour of being buried at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on Israel’s Mount of Olives, was recognised as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and was awarded the British Government’s Hero of the Holocaust medal posthumously.
Gerda Frei said of Prince Charles’s visit: ‘It is wonderful that the Prince and Duchess came here. The Prince told us how proud he was of his grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who hid a Jewish family from the Nazis.’ Prince Charles also told of how he had taken flowers from his garden at Birkhall to lay on his grandmother’s grave.
The meeting at the Jewish Museum came as part of a busy final day of engagements on the royal tour.