During a visit to Vienna this week, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, sat down to speak with Austrian-born Holocaust survivors who are now British citizens. After they told their stories, the prince shared his own personal anecdote.
According to the Telegraph, the Prince told the group, "My father's mother took in a Jewish family during the war and hid them — she was amazing, my grandmother."
Charles was referring, of course, to Princess Alice of Battenberg (also known as Princess Andrew of Greece), his father Prince Philip's mother, who lived in Greece during the war and took in Rachel Cohen and two of her children to save them from the Holocaust. As the Jewish News Service reports, Rachel's husband Haimaki had fought with King George I in 1913, and the royal had promised Cohen help in the future if he ever needed it.
"She would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress." —Prince Philip
"She took them in during the Nazi occupation. She never told anybody, she didn't tell her family for many years," Charles continued, while visiting the Jewish Museum in Vienna. "She's buried in Jerusalem. In September last year, I went to the funeral of President (Shimon) Peres and finally got to see her grave."
In fact, it was only after a relative of the family suggested a street in Jerusalem be named in her honour that Princess Alice's selfless act came to light, reports the Independent.
Though Princess Alice died in 1969 at Buckingham Palace, where she lived for the last part of her life, she'd expressed her wish to be buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, which finally happened in 1988, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Prince Philip plants a tree in memory of his mother, Princess Alice, during the ceremony at Yad Vashem, 30 October 1994.
Six years later, Prince Philip attended a ceremony at Yad Vashem in Israel that gave Princess Alice a posthumous "Righteous Among the Nations" award, which honours non-Jews who helped Jewish people during the Holocaust.
In a speech at the ceremony, the prince noted, "I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress."