Duchess Kate has released a series of powerful and moving photos of Yvonne Bernstein and Steven Frank, two Holocaust survivors.
The Duchess of Cambridge took the images to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which falls Jan. 27, also recognized annually as Holocaust Memorial Day.
Steven is a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps of Westerbork and Theresienstadt, respectively. Yvonne's parents fled Germany for the UK, but she was forced to go into hiding in France with her uncle before her parents could have her sent across the Channel to them. Her uncle was later murdered in Auschwitz, and Yvonne eventually went to the UK when she was eight years old.
"The harrowing atrocities of the Holocaust, which were caused by the most unthinkable evil, will forever lay heavy in our hearts," Kate said in a statement. "Yet it is so often through the most unimaginable adversity that the most remarkable people flourish.
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As part of the commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, The Duchess of Cambridge has taken photographs of two Holocaust survivors with their grandchildren. The first photograph features Steven Frank with his granddaughters, Maggie and Trixie. Alongside his mother and brothers, Steven was sent to Westerbork transit camp then to Theresienstadt. Steven and his brothers were 3 of only 93 children who survived the camp - 15,000 children were sent there. The Duchess also photographed Yvonne Bernstein with her granddaughter Chloe. Yvonne was a hidden child in France, travelling in the care of her aunt and uncle and frequently changing homes and names. The Duchess said: “I wanted to make the portraits deeply personal to Yvonne and Steven – a celebration of family and the life that they have built since they both arrived in Britain in the 1940s. The families brought items of personal significance with them which are included in the photographs. It was a true honour to have been asked to participate in this project and I hope in some way Yvonne and Steven’s memories will be kept alive as they pass the baton to the next generation.” The portraits will form part of a new exhibition opening later this year by @holocaustmemorialdaytrust, Jewish News and @royalphotographicsociety , which will feature 75 images of survivors and their family members. The exhibition will honour the victims of the Holocaust and celebrate the full lives that survivors have built in the UK, whilst inspiring people to consider their own responsibility to remember and share the stories of those who endured Nazi persecution. Portraits ©The Duchess of Cambridge
"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. 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."
Kate, who is a patron of the Royal Photographic Society, said her portraits were inspired by Dutch baroque painter Johannes Vermeer's famous Girl With a Pearl Earring painting and Anne Frank's diary.
"One of the most moving accounts I read as a young girl was 'The Diary of Anne Frank,' which tells a very personal reflection of life under Nazi occupation from a child's perspective," Kate said. "Her sensitive and intimate interpretation of the horrors of the time was one of the underlying inspiration behind the images."
The image of Steven shows him with his granddaughters, Maggie and Trixie Fleet, 15 and 13, while Yvonne is pictured with her granddaughter, Chloe Wright, 11. Yvonne's image shows the two looking at the ID she was forced to carry in Germany, while Steven's image features his family looking east, toward Jerusalem.
"I wanted to make the portraits deeply personal to Yvonne and Steven - a celebration of family and the life that they have built since they both arrived in Britain in the 1940s," Kate continued. "The families brought items of personal significance with them which are included in the photographs. It was a true honour to have been asked to participate in this project and I hope in some way Yvonne and Steven's memories will be kept alive as they pass the baton to the next generation."
Trixie and Maggie both praised Kate's openness, according to HELLO! UK.
"The Duchess of Cambridge was really interested in our family and in Opa's story, and the items we brought with us," Trixie said.
"It's important to tell the story so it doesn't happen again," Maggie added.
Steven also thanked the duchess for helping him tell his story.
"I would hope that the people who look at these pictures not only look at the beauty of the photography, but they will also think of the people behind the photos and their families that they lost in the Holocaust," he said, according to People.
The photographs will be part of a Royal Photographic Society exhibition created in partnership with The Jewish News and Holocaust Memorial Trust that will open later this year. It will consist of 75 photos of survivors and their families.
While Kate was at university, she wrote her undergraduate thesis on photography. She is an accomplished shutterbug, and has previously drawn praise for the portraits of her children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, that she's taken for their birthdays. This is the most serious subject matter she's covered in photos to date, and we can't wait to see how her work continues to progress.
On Jan. 27, Duchess Camilla will travel to Auschwitz for a moving visit to mark its liberation. Kate's news comes the same week Prince Charles visited Israel and the West Bank and made a moving speech at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem. He also visited the grave of Princess Alice of Battenberg, his grandmother, who is recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel for rescuing Jews during World War II.