Office of the Chief Rabbi

Op-Ed: The Queen visits Bergen Belsen

In the Jewish Chronicle this week, the Chief Rabbi acknowledges the momentous nature of The Queen’s first visit to a concentration camp, but concedes that the event was overshadowed by the eruption of more international terror – an arresting reminder that the lessons of the Holocaust have not yet been learnt. 

‘The Queen visiting Belsen was a significant gesture’

‘For us as proud British Jews, the visit of the Queen and Prince Philip to Bergen-Belsen was deeply significant.

I took the opportunity to thank her for making a most important gesture of solidarity with the victims, survivors and the entire Jewish world. The visit reflects our warm relationship with the monarchy and is emblematic of our community’s established and valued place in British society.

While news agencies from around the world lined up to document the Queen’s historic presence, the visit was to be overshadowed by shocking news emerging from elsewhere. At the very moment when the Queen was laying her wreath at the camp memorial, details were emerging of the brutal murders in Tunisia, and the attacks in France and Kuwait.

‘The visit is emblematic of our community’s established and valued place in British society’

The potential headline “Never again” was replaced by the question “Where next?” as people learnt of yet more killings in the name of murderous ideologies.

It is impossible for us to imagine the horrors of Belsen, but it would also have been impossible for the inmates to imagine the day when, on German soil, a British monarch accompanied by survivors, liberators and a Chief Rabbi would pay a visit to the site of such atrocity, in recognition of their suffering.

When faced with unimaginable, threatening events around the world today, we must be able to work towards a world where extremism has been defeated.

The Queen’s visit reminded us of a deeply tragic past while providing hope for a better future.’


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