The Holocaust was remembered by royalty in Britain with a moving video interaction between Duchess Kate of Cambridge and aging survivors, including a virtual reunion with two nonagenarians who have been friends since they met as teens in a concentration camp in 1944.
Zigi Shipper, 91, and Manfred Goldberg, 90, were among the survivors and youth education ambassadors the duchess spoke to via video call on Wednesday to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Jan. 27, the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps and killing centers.
The two men, close friends to this day after surviving horrors and escaping to England, try to put "a human face to history" by talking publicly about the Holocaust alongside young people through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Outreach program.
Almost two-thirds of millennials, Gen Z don't know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, survey finds
The program, of which Kate's father-in-law, Prince Charles the Prince of Wales, is royal patron, helps educate younger generations about the Nazis' mechanized murder of millions, mostly Jews, during WWII, in the effort to ensure it's never forgotten and never repeated.
Approximately 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust after Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime came to power in Germany in the 1930s. Jews and other groups were targeted by the Nazis and their allies on beliefs of perceived racial inferiority. Millions were sent to ghettos, labor camps and concentration camps and killed in mass shootings, gas chambers and from starvation.
Kate and husband Prince William met Shipper and Goldberg three years ago when the couple visited Germany and Poland and went to the Stutthof camp near Danzig (now Gdansk) set up by the Nazis in occupied Poland.
"Manfred and Zigi, hello! Very nice to see you again," Kate said, waving at her laptop screen from a couch in her country home in Norfolk, dressed in a grey sweater top.
The two men were delighted to see her.
"When I arrived in this country in 1946, I did not dream that in my lifetime I would ever have the privilege of seeing, never mind connecting with, royalty," Goldberg told Kate. "It confirms for me I would never appreciate fully how lucky I was to live my life in this country in freedom."
Shipper teased her, saying, "I didn't need your husband, you were the one that I wanted," making Kate, 39, chuckle. "Zigi, I'll tell him you miss him very much, and he sends his regard."
But their conversation was mostly hard to bear; in fact, the video of the virtual meeting contained warnings of viewer discretion due to "graphic descriptions of traumatic events."
The two men talked about how they met as children in ghettos and labor camps, how they witnessed terrible crimes, including the murder of women and babies, and how they came close to losing their humanity – wishing for someone to die to make room on a packed train, for instance – in the face of terror and inhumanity, and the guilt they still feel.
Kate asked what kind of long-term impact did all this horror have on families.
"Many survivors have not had a peaceful night sleep, even to this day they invariably have nightmares," Goldberg said. "I was lucky: I was one in a million who had both parents alive at the end" of the war.
“The stories you both have shared with me again today, and your dedication in educating the younger generation about your experiences and the horrors of the Holocaust shows extreme strength and such bravery," Kate told them. "It’s so important and so inspirational, so thank you so much once again for sharing your stories with me and for all the work you do in sharing your experiences.”
Kate also spoke to youth ambassadors Farah Ali and Maxwell Horner about how they felt visiting the camps, their conversations with survivors, and why it's important to continue to talk to their peers about the Holocaust and its continuing relevance.
Since 1999, the Holocaust Education Trust has taken students from across the United Kingdom to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of the Lessons from Auschwitz project, and more recently to Bergen-Belsen to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation, according to Kensington Palace.
Since the return of strict lockdown rules in the U.K. due to the coronavirus pandemic, Will and Kate and their three children, Prince George, 7, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 2, are living at their country estate and carrying out engagements virtually.
Last January, before the pandemic struck the world, Kate, an ardent amateur photographer, proved her skills in Old Master-style photo portraits that she took of Holocaust survivors to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The moving and artistically impressive photos were released by Kensington Palace in advance of the annual Holocaust Memorial Day commemorative ceremony in Westminster.
Contributing: Ryan Miller, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kate Middleton marks Holocaust Memorial Day with call to survivors