Office of the Chief Rabbi

Chief Rabbi visits Bergen Belsen with the Queen

The Chief Rabbi has joined the Queen on her first visit to a concentration camp, noting the profound impact of the experience on both Her Royal Highness and her husband Prince Philip.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis meets the Queen and Prince Philip

Chief Rabbi Mirvis meets the Queen and Prince Philip

The Queen was accompanied by Chief Rabbi Mirvis as she laid a wreath at Bergen Belsen, in Germany, and later spoke to camp survivors, liberators and Jewish ex-serviceman. The Queen conveyed to Chief Rabbi Mirvis her appreciation for the enormity of the visit, which was the climax of a state trip to Germany, and occurred just 2 months after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen Belsen by British Forces.

The Chief Rabbi hailed an “historic” occasion, assuring the Queen of the appreciation felt throughout the Jewish community for her expression of solidarity. He hoped that the event would “contribute to a world free of prejudice and suffering.” He was also interviewed at the site by BBC Radio 4 for his views on remembrance, telling the interviewer of the difficulty of “standing on this soil…even in our wildest imaginations, we could never fully appreciate how this beautiful landscape became a brutal killing field…we need to remember the past for the sake of a better future.”


 

Coverage of the Chief Rabbi’s trip to Germany in the Jewish Chronicle:

Chief Rabbi praises Queen for ‘moving’ visit to Belsen

By Marcus Dysch

The Chief Rabbi has praised the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh following their visit to the former Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis accompanied the royal couple as they laid a wreath at the site in Germany on Friday. He said the “Jewish world” appreciated the solidarity shown by the Queen.
She and Prince Philip stood at the memorial to Anne Frank, who died at the camp, and later spoke to survivors.
Rabbi Mirvis said the couple had “appreciated the enormity of their visit” and were “moved” by their conversations with survivors and liberators.
“This was a very special day, and a historic occasion,” he told the JC as he prepared to fly back to London.
“I told the Queen of the appreciation that is felt around the Jewish world and for her showing solidarity and sending the message that we have to remember what happened and that it will never be forgotten.
“She identified with those sentiments. She was moved, as was Prince Philip; they appreciated the enormity of their visit.”
Rabbi Mirvis said the trip, to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp, was “a reminder of how fresh the wounds are and how she wanted to recognise the suffering of the Jewish people and to make the point that we should never forget the Holocaust.
“I was with her when she laid the wreath and we had a meaningful conversation. Her conversation with the survivors was very special.”
Among those to meet the royal couple were Jewish ex-servicemen who had liberated the camp. Rabbi Mirvis said it had been a highlight of the trip to see the Queen meet the former soldiers.
“The survivors are remarkable people – they have retained their sanity and are able to convey their memories to the world,” he added. “They said it was a privilege to be there and thanked the Queen for including them. They showed incredible humility.
“I told the Queen of the appreciation that is felt around the Jewish world and for her showing solidarity and sending the message that we have to remember what happened and that it will never be forgotten.
“She identified with those sentiments. She was moved, as was Prince Philip; they appreciated the enormity of their visit.”