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Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall 'deeply moved' by Holocaust survivors' stories

The couple viewed a new exhibition at The Queen's Gallery

The Prince of Wales was deeply moved this week by a Holocaust survivor who showed him her concentration camp tattoo and the gift from her murdered mother that survived Auschwitz with her.

Lily Ebert, 98, rolled up her sleeve to show Prince Charles the number branded on her left forearm - A-10572 - and let him look at her pendant.

"This necklace is very special. It went through Auschwitz and survived with me," she said. 

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WATCH: Prince Charles and Camilla 'deeply moved' by Holocaust survivors' stories

Lily met Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at the Queen's Gallery in London as new portraits of her and six other survivors commissioned by the Prince were unveiled on Monday.

"Thank you so much for taking part in this," Camilla told her.

Lily replied firmly: "If I don't speak, nobody can be heard. I am a witness."

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The Duchess of Cornwall with Lily Ebert

Hungarian-born Lily was 20 when she was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau with her mother Nina and five siblings in July 1944. Her mother, younger brother Bela, and sister Berta, were sent to the gas chambers, but Lily and her remaining sisters, Renee and Piri, were selected for the work camp.

Lily was only allowed to keep her shoes and used the heel to hide the golden pendant of a cherub that Nina had given her for her fifth birthday. When her shoes wore out, she hid the necklace in her daily ration of bread. Incredibly, she still had it when the camp was liberated in spring 1945 and has worn it every day since.

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The Duchess of Cornwall with Helen Aronson

This week she told the heir to the throne: "Meeting you, it is for everyone who lost their lives."

"But it is a greater privilege for me," he replied, clearly emotional as he put a hand on her shoulder.

Lily's great-grandson, Dov Forman, who co-wrote her book, Lily's Promise: How I Survived Auschwitz and Found The Strength to Live, said: "The prince was very, very moved."

The future King hopes the display, Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust, will be a "living memorial" to the six million innocent men, women and children lost to the Nazi genocide and whose stories will never be told, as well as honouring the remaining survivors.

He said of the project: "As the number of Holocaust survivors sadly, but inevitably, declines, my abiding hope is that this special collection will act as a further guiding light for our society, reminding us not only of history's darkest days, but of humanity's interconnectedness as we strive to create a better world for our children, grandchildren and generations as yet unborn; one where hope is victorious over despair and love triumphs over hate."

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Charles with Anita Lasker-Wallfisch

The portraits will become part of the Royal Collection and a programme documenting their creation over the past year will air on BBC2 on National Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday. 

Lily's daughter, Bilha Weider, said: "It is such a wonderful idea by the Prince. This isn't just any old painting. This is a painting of people who were the bottom of the pile and now they are at the top of the pile."

Prince Charles devised the poignant year-long project, persuading seven internationally renowned artists to paint survivors Helen Aronson, Lily Ebert, Manfred Goldberg, Arek Hersh, Anita Lasker Wallfisch, Rachel Levy and Zigi Shipper.

The painters were Paul Benney, Ishbel Myerscough, Clara Drummond, Massimiliano Pironti, Peter Kuhfeld, Stuart Pearson Wright and Jenny Saville.

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Prince Charles with Zigi Shipper

Charles told Zigi Shipper, 92, who survived Auschwitz and Stutthof concentration camps: "I am so pleased this has been possible, to get you painted. I was so worried. I wanted to capture as many [of you] as we could. To remember what you have been through."

Zigi, from north London, said afterwards: "I feel this is a tribute to all victims of the Holocaust. This is as much for the ones who didn't survive. These are representations of all of them, men and women. I would like to thank Prince Charles for coming up with the idea."

The Prince is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and its chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman said: "His Royal Highness has created something profoundly meaningful and hope-giving. Those who were once targeted for murder for who they were – are today honoured in these immortal portraits displayed at Buckingham Palace."

The portraits are on display at The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace until 13 February, and then at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. For more information: www.rct.uk

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