Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020
Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020
Photo: MCT
Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020

Prince Charles visits Jerusalem grave of grandmother who saved Jews in WWII

Heir to British throne shown around 19th-century Mount of Olives church by local Russian Orthodox leader; says Princess Alice's decision to hide Jewish family in Athens during Holocaust was source of 'immense pride' for his family

Associated Press |
Published: 01.24.20 , 20:23
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, paid a solemn visit Friday to the tomb of his grandmother, who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust and whose tumultuous life was marked by exile, mental illness and a religious devotion to serving the needy.
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  • Princess Alice is interred at the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene, whose gold domes rise up from the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem's Old City.
    Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020 Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020
    Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020
    (Photo: MCT)
    Charles was shown around the 19th-century church by Archimandrite Roman Krassovsky, the local head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who offered prayers as nuns dressed in black sang hymns.
    The Prince of Wales made no public remarks, but he paid tribute to his grandmother the night before at the World Holocaust Forum, which was attended by dozens of other world leaders and coincided with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
    "I have long drawn inspiration from the selfless actions of my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who in 1943, in Nazi-occupied Athens, saved a Jewish family by taking them into her home and hiding them," Charles said.
    She is counted as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, an honor bestowed by Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Charles said that was a source of "immense pride" for him and the royal family.
    Princess Alice in 1906 Princess Alice in 1906
    Princess Alice in 1906
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    She was born Princess Alice of Battenberg in 1885. She was deaf from birth and suffered from mental illness, but managed to devote much of her life to aiding the poor, the sick and refugees.
    The great granddaughter of Queen Victoria married Prince Andrew of Greece in 1903 and had five children, including Prince Philip, the future Duke of Edinburgh and consort to Queen Elizabeth II.
    The family was driven into exile on two occasions, and the princess was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and spent time in a sanitarium after suffering a nervous breakdown.
    She became a Greek Orthodox nun in 1928 while living in France, and returned to Athens alone in 1940, living in her brother-in-law's three-story residence. During World War II, she worked with the Swedish and Swiss Red Cross to help those in need. She later founded an order of nuns known as the Christian Sisterhood of Mary and Martha.
    When the Nazis entered Athens in 1943, she sheltered three members of the Cohen family. The father of the family, former parliamentarian Haim Cohen, had been close to the royal family until he passed away that year.
    Princess Alice did not not know Cohen's wife, Rachel, or his daughter, Tilde, but hid them away in her mansion anyway, and later sheltered Rachel's son, Michael, as well.

    Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020 Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020
    Charles, Prince of Wales visits his grandmother's tomb at the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jan. 24, 2020
    (Photo: AP)
    Yad Vashem says the princess regularly visited with the family and wanted to learn more about their Jewish faith. At one point, when suspicious Gestapo officers came to the home to interview her, the princess used her deafness to avoid answering their questions, it said.
    Her own family, however, fought on both sides of the Second World War. Prince Philip served in the British Royal Navy, while her German royal sons-in-law fought for the Nazis. The Nazis and their collaborators killed 6 million Jews during the war.
    Alice died in Buckingham Palace in 1969 and was later interred in the church in Jerusalem. She had requested to be buried next to her aunt Elizabeth, the Grand Duchess of Russia, who had also devoted her life to charity and was canonized as a Russian Orthodox saint. Elizabeth's tomb is in the church itself, while Alice was laid to rest in a small, attached chapel.
    At its foot is the Garden of Gethsemane, revered by Christians as the place where Jesus prayed before he was crucified.
    הנסיך וויליאם בכנסיית הקבר  ירושליםהנסיך וויליאם בכנסיית הקבר  ירושלים
    Prince William visits his great-grandmother's tomb in Jerusalem during his 2018 visit to Israel
    (Photo: EPA)
    Prince William visited the tomb of Alice, his great-grandmother, in June 2018. In a 1994 visit to the Holy Land, Prince Philip planted a tree at Yad Vashem in his mother's honor and visited her grave.
    'A just peace'
    Charles also called Friday for "a just and lasting peace" in the Middle East as he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.
    "It breaks my heart... that we should continue to see so much suffering and division. No one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face," Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, said on his first official visit to the Palestinian Territories.
    "...I can only join you, and all communities, in your prayers for a just and lasting peace... It is my dearest wish that the future will bring freedom, justice and equality to all Palestinians, enabling you to thrive and to prosper."
    The 71-year-old prince said it would be "the greatest tragedy" if the ancient Palestinian Christian communities were to disappear from the Holy Land, an apparent reference to the departure of many Arab Christians from the Middle East.
    Prince Charles meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. Jan. 24, 2020 Prince Charles meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. Jan. 24, 2020
    Prince Charles meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. Jan. 24, 2020
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Britain's royal family steers clear of politics, though Charles, who will become governor of the Church of England when he ascends the throne, has long spoken out on issues such as inter-faith dialogue and the environment.
    "I have endeavored to build bridges between different religions, so that we might learn from each other and be stronger together as a result," he said on Friday after visiting in Bethlehem the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Nativity, where according to tradition Jesus Christ was born.
    Reuters contributed to this report
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