Britain’s Chief Rabbi Pays Tribute to Prince Philip: ‘I Could See His Deep Interest in Jews and a Particular Connection to the Holocaust’

Britain’s Prince Philip waves to members of the media as he leaves the King Edward VII Hospital in London, June 9, 2012. Photo: REUTERS/Paul Hackett.

Britain’s chief rabbi paid tribute to the late Prince Philip on Sunday, recounting how the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, who died on April 9, once showed him a Torah scroll that had been rescued from the Nazis and found refuge in the Royal Library, as well as his visit to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp with Philip and the queen.

He also recalled that Philip’s mother was also known for rescuing a Jewish family during the Holocaust, and was later buried in Jerusalem.

Speaking with the BBC, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis recalled being invited to visit the royal family at Windsor Castle, where Philip “particularly wanted me to see one particular gift that Her Majesty the Queen had received in the 1960s. And in the Royal Library, he showed me a Torah scroll that she had received as a gift. And he wanted me to explain it to him.”

“It was one of the Czech scrolls, and I was able to first of all describe what a Torah scroll is; and that in addition, this particular scroll had been rescued from the former Czechoslovakia,” he said. “It had been intended to be part of what the Nazis wanted to be a museum to the people that used to exist. And therefore, in Czechoslovakia, none of the Torah scrolls were destroyed. A whole lot of these scrolls were brought to London and one was presented to the queen.”

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“And throughout this explanation, I could see his deep interest in Jews and Judaism and Jewish faith and a particular connection to the Holocaust,” he said.

In 2015, Mirvis visited Bergen-Belsen with the royal couple.

“This was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belsen by British troops, the first time that the monarch had visited a concentration camp,” he said. “It was an exceptionally moving occasion. And you know, many times people want to know: when you were in conversation with the royals, what did they say? And on this occasion, I only remember the sense of pain on their faces.”

“There was a dignified silence, because there’s nothing you can say while standing in those fields where some of the worst atrocities that have ever taken place” occurred, said Mirvis.

Remembering Philip’s mother and the prince’s trip to Jerusalem to visit her grave in 1994, Mirvis said, “He also planted a maple tree in memory of his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, at Yad Vashem, which is Israel’s Holocaust museum. And we recall how his mother exceptionally bravely saved the lives of members of the Cohen family in Greece by sheltering them in her palace in Athens.”

“And on his visit to Jerusalem, Prince Philip met with members of the Cohen family,” Mirvis recounted. “And when he ran through the details of his visits with me, one could see his connection to his mother, her faith, connection to Jerusalem, and, of course, the suffering of the Jewish people.”

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