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European royals in Jerusalem to celebrate the liberation of Auschwitz

© Casa de SM el Rey

Several European royals attended a ceremony in Israel to commemorate that the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday. The ceremony was held at the Holocaust Memorial Centre Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The British Royal Family was represented by Prince Charles while King Felipe of Spain, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands, King Philippe of Belgium, and Crown Prince Haakon of Norway also attended the event.

The Kings of the Netherlands and Spain. © Casa de SM el Rey

Following speeches by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and a number of other heads of state and leaders, the memorial ceremony itself was initiated by Holocaust survivors, Rose Moskowitz and Colette Avital, who lit a torch in memory of all who died in the camp. Then, all the royals placed memorial wreaths in front of the monument of the Great Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The memorial prayer “Kel Maleh Rachamim” and “Kaddish” ended the ceremony with Jewish songs, followed by Israel’s national anthem.

Many of the royals used the occasion to do other things while they were in Israel. On Wednesday evening, many of the royals were present at a dinner hosted by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin for the many visiting heads of state. The Prince of Wales arrived in Israel on Wednesday evening to attend the World Holocaust Forum marking the 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. He is also scheduled to visit the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier on Thursday, Crown Prince Haakon met with representatives of the Mosaic religious community in Norway. No members of the Norwegian Royal House have been on official visits to Israel in the past. In 2014, Israel’s President Shimon Peres undertook a state visit to Norway. In addition to all the royal guests, more than 30 republics were represented. The guest list included US Vice President Mike Pence, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

What has created debate is that only 30 of 800 seats at the major international Holocaust memorial event in Jerusalem were reserved for survivors of the Jewish genocide. It noted that some 100,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel. Israeli media has, therefore, criticised the event and wrote: “The event is not a public ceremony but rather a gathering of leaders.”

© Casa de SM el Rey

On 27 January 1945, the Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland was liberated by soldiers from the Soviet Red Army. At least 1.1 million people were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau where the vast majority of the victims were Jews. In addition, a large number of Poles, ethnic minorities, gays and political dissents were also killed there. The date of 27 January is recognised as International Holocaust Day.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.