Prince Charles Writes Moving Foreword to Holocaust Portrait Exhibition: 'A Permanent Reminder'

All seven people featured in the project are concentration camp survivors who are now in their 90s and living in Britain

The Prince Of Wales Visits The Welsh Guards
Prince Charles. Photo: Peter Cziborra - WPA Pool/Getty

Prince Charles says the seven portraits of Holocaust survivors he recently commissioned "stand as a living memorial to the six million innocent men, women, and children whose stories will never be told, whose portraits will never be painted."

The royal heir, 73, wrote the foreword for the catalogue of the Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust exhibition at The Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace, opening Thursday on Holocaust Memorial Day. Charles, who is patron of the National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, commissioned a series of artists to paint seven people who lived through the trauma of the Holocaust in March 2020.

"Seven portraits. Seven faces," Prince Charles wrote in the foreword. "Each a survivor of the horrors of those years, who sought refuge and a home in Britain after the war, becoming an integral part of the fabric of our nation."

He continued, "However, these portraits represent something far greater than seven remarkable individuals. They stand as a living memorial to the six million innocent men, women, and children whose stories will never be told, whose portraits will never be painted. They stand as a powerful testament to the quite extraordinary resilience and courage of those who survived and who, despite their advancing years, have continued to tell the world of the unimaginable atrocities they witnessed. They stand as a permanent reminder for our generation — and indeed, to future generations — of the depths of depravity and evil humankind can fall to when reason, compassion and truth are abandoned."

Prince Charles, who is both a painter himself as well as an advocate for religious tolerance, concluded the foreword, "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 about history's darkest days, but of humanity's interconnectedness as we strive to create abetter world for our children, grandchildren and generations as yet unborn; one where hope is victorious over despair and love triumphs over hate."

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall attended a viewing of the exhibition on Monday, where they met with the survivors and artists.

All seven people featured in the project are concentration camp survivors who are now in their 90s and living in Britain. The participants include Helen Aronson painted by Paul Benney; Lily Ebert painted by Ishbel Myerscough; Manfred Goldberg painted by Clara Drummond; Arek Hersh painted by Massimiliano Pironti; Anita Lasker Wallfisch painted by Peter Kuhfeld; Rachel Levy painted by Stuart Pearson Wright; and Zigi Shipper painted by Jenny Saville.

A BBC documentary airing Thursday follows the creation of the paintings as the artists and survivors come together for their final sittings, with the artists reflecting on their time getting to know the survivors and how their experiences informed their paintings.

According to the BBC, viewers will hear the testimonies of the seven remarkable men and women "who witnessed one of the greatest atrocities in human history, and will meet the artists tasked with creating portraits that represent their pain and loss, as well as their dignity, light and hope."

Prince Charles and Camilla
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles. Samir Hussein/WireImage

Olivia Marks-Woldman, CEO Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: "It is our privilege to have His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales as Patron of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. We've been overjoyed about HRH's commission of Holocaust survivors' portraits. Their lives are surely miracles. The Holocaust was an experience of destruction — of homes, of culture, of lives. To celebrate survivors in such a timeless portrayal is a powerful act of affirmation. We often hear survivors say that Britain has become a dear home for them — a safe and accepting place where they have been able to rebuild their lives."

Marks-Woldman added, "His Royal Highness has created something profoundly meaningful and hope-giving. Those who were once targeted for murder for who they were – are today honored in these immortal portraits displayed at the Buckingham Palace."

Charles' daughter-in-law Kate Middleton also honored Holocaust victims with a 2020 photography project, in which she captured survivors with their grandchildren.

"The harrowing atrocities of the Holocaust, which were caused by the most unthinkable evil, will forever lay heavy in our hearts," the Duchess of Cambridge, 40, said. "Yet it is so often through the most unimaginable adversity that the most remarkable people flourish. Despite unbelievable trauma at the start of their lives, Yvonne Bernstein and Steven Frank are two of the most life-affirming people that I have had the privilege to meet."

"They look back on their experiences with sadness but also with gratitude that they were some of the lucky few to make it through," she added. "Their stories will stay with me forever. Whilst I have been lucky enough to meet two of the now very few survivors, I recognize not everyone in the future will be able to hear these stories first hand. It is vital that their memories are preserved and passed on to future generations, so that what they went through will never be forgotten."

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