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Prince William's moving tribute to great-grandmother at UK Holocaust Memorial Day service

Princess Alice was Prince Philip's mother

Emily Nash

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined Holocaust survivors at the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony on Monday, where Prince William delivered a moving reading about the Duke of Edinburgh's mother Princess Alice. The Duke took to the stage at Westminster's Central Hall to read a letter written by a friend of his great-grandmother Princess Alice, who hid the Cohen family in her Athens home after the Nazis invaded.

READ: Prince William and Kate Middleton honour survivors at UK Holocaust Memorial Day service – all the photos

 

WATCH: William and Kate attend the UK Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Ceremony

Wife Kate appeared emotional as he read: "When the persecution of the Jews by the Germans began, Princess Alice asked to be informed about the fate of the Cohen family. Having been informed by friends and by her lady in waiting about the plight of Mrs Cohen and her young daughter, the Princess decided to offer her hospitality to the two ladies; in fact, to hide them in her home despite the danger this entailed. 

"The Princess put a small two-room apartment on the third floor at the disposal of Mrs. Cohen and her daughter. It was thanks to the courageous rescue of Princess Alice that the members of the Cohen family were saved. The members of the Cohen family left the residence three weeks after liberation, aware that by virtue of the Princess's generosity and bravery had spared them from the Nazis.

MORE: Kate Middleton shares personal photos of Holocaust survivors to mark 75 years after Auschwitz liberation

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Prince Philip and his mother Princess Alice in 1960

"The great-granddaughter of Rachel Cohen, Evy Cohen, said this two years ago: 'My family would not exist without the courageous act of Princess Alice. Her story of incredible courage must keep being told in her memory. My generation, the past generation and the future generation are, and will eternally be, grateful to his great-grandmother Princess Alice for the great act of bravery, risking her own life to take in a family in need.'"

Actors Martin Shaw and Sir Simon Russell Beale also read the accounts of survivors, before the audience heard from Mala Tribich, who survived Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen – where she contracted typhus –  and Ian Forsyth, a wireless operator with the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars in the Royal Armoured Corps, who was among the first troops to liberate Bergen-Belsen in April 1945.

The former soldier said: "There were bodies lying everywhere. When you see people, they looked like skeletons with skin on them. What do you do? I don’t think anyone that didn’t see this would understand what it was like."

MORE: Kensington Palace shares never-seen-before images of Kate Middleton during moving photoshoot 

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Mala Tribich and Ian Forsyth

Mala then appeared on stage to tell of how she was taken to Sweden after liberation, before finally being reunited in the UK with her brother Ben – now Sir Ben Helfgott. She said: "I feel like it is my duty to speak for all those whose voices were silenced and tell of those dark days in Europe. By speaking out it is my greatest hope that something positive will be handed down to future generations."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's attendance at the service comes a day after Kensington Palace released portraits of two Holocaust survivors, Yvonne Bernstein and Steven Frank, taken by Kate. The Duchess, who took the photographs at Kensington Palace, said she was inspired to take the images by her childhood reading of The Diary of Anne Frank, and said the stories of those who survived the Nazi genocide of European Jews should "never be forgotten".

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