A visit to Edinburgh’s royal palace will, from today (Thursday, 17 March), include a special display paying tribute to the stories of seven remarkable Holocaust survivors.
‘Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust’ has been commissioned by His Royal Highness The Duke of Rothesay (The Prince of Wales’s title when in Scotland) as a living memorial to the six million innocent men, women and children who lost their lives in the Holocaust and whose stories will never be told.
Each of the portrait sitters sought refuge in Britain after the war, and each has in recent years been honoured for services to Holocaust awareness and education. The profoundly moving portraits, which will become part of the Royal Collection, stand as a powerful testament to the extraordinary resilience and courage of those who survived.
HRH The Duke of Rothesay wrote in the accompanying catalogue: ‘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.”
The seven survivors are:
- Lily Ebert painted by Ishbel Myerscough. During her time at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Lily managed to conceal a small gold pendant, given to her by her mother, by hiding it first in the heel of her shoe and then in her daily bread ration. Lily wears the pendant still and is depicted with it in her portrait.
- Helen Aronson painted by Paul Benney. Helen is depicted holding a small silver powder compact, given to her by her brother for her 17th birthday in 1944, when her family were incarcerated in a Polish ghetto. After the war, Helen came to England with nothing except for the silver compact.
- Arek Hersh painted by Massimiliano Pironti. Arek was just ten years old at the outbreak of the Second World War, in which 81 members of his close and extended family perished. In his portrait, Arek rests his right hand on his left arm, covering the spot that bears the number from Auschwitz-Birkenau.
- Anita Lasker Wallfisch painted by Peter Kuhfeld. Anita credits her survival at Auschwitz-Birkenau with the fact that she was selected to play the cello in the camp’s Women’s Orchestra, playing each day as the labour force set out to and returned from work. After the war, Anita went on to become a founding member of the English Chamber Orchestra.
- Rachel Levy painted by Stuart Pearson Wright. From 1942, Rachel and her family evaded capture by hiding in the forests and mountains surrounding their remote village in Czechoslovakia (now Ukraine), but in 1944 they were rounded up and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, Rachel and her brother were spared because they were able to work, but her mother, sisters and baby brother were sent to the gas chambers.
- Manfred Goldberg painted by Clara Drummond. Manfred spent two years in a ghetto in Latvia before being taken to a nearby labour camp and then to Stutthof concentration camp. There he became friends with Zigi Shipper, another portrait sitter. The two met again on a death march to Neustadt, with Manfred helping to carry Zigi when he became too ill to walk.
- Zigi Shipper painted by Jenny Saville. Zigi was nine years old when Poland was invaded by the Nazis. By the age of ten, he was working in an ammunitions factory and living with his grandparents in a ghetto. In 1944 he was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and from there to Stutthof concentration camp, where he worked in the railway yards alongside Manfred Goldberg. The two have remained lifelong friends.
‘Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust’ is part of a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse from 17 March until 6 June 2022.
Visitor information and tickets: www.rct.uk, +44 (0)303 123 7306.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is open five days a week, Thursday to Monday, remaining closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.