The British heir to the throne, Prince Charles, has been awarded the International Auschwitz Committee’s Statue of Remembrance by Holocaust survivors in London. Prince Charles received the award during a meeting with survivors and representatives of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust at St James’s Palace in London.
The statue is a reference to the upside-down letter ‘B’ in the inscription above the main gate to Auschwitz concentration camp which reads: ARBEIT MACHT FREI (work makes you free). The prisoners who were forced to manufacture the sign, secretly upended the ‘B’ in an act of courage and defiance. The idea that inspired the Statue of Remembrance comes from the French artist Michèle Déodat. Trainees with Volkswagen in Hanover manufacture the inverted ‘B’ statue.
Prince Charles was fascinated by the story behind the letter ‘B’. He said he admired the courage of those who made this lasting mark, and that it is a sign for our own times against racism and persecution.
When he presented the statue to Prince Charles, Marian Turski, a survivor and chairman of the Council of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, said:
“The B tells of our desperation in Auschwitz and of our courage born from desperation in this darkness. It is the message from the survivors to the world of today, never to give in to the darkness of hatred, but to stand up for the dignity of all people. Knowing that we have the Prince of Wales at our side as an ally is a great honour for us and a signal of hope.”
Christoph Heubner, Executive Vice President of the International Auschwitz Committee said:
“The survivors of the Holocaust are deeply moved and profoundly impressed by the empathy that the Prince of Wales has repeatedly expressed over the years for their painful memories, and by his acute insight into the causes and consequences of the Holocaust. Prince Charles also speaks out very clearly today in his determined efforts to inspire people to overcome the new hatred and age-old prejudices. The Prince of Wales calls on people, not only in Europe, to remember and to demonstrate civil courage, and he appeals to them to overcome prejudice and hatred so that we can shape a common future together in a spirit of tolerance. The Auschwitz survivors sincerely appreciate the Prince’s personal stance which motivates and encourages them in their work with young people. And especially in view of the current challenges in many societies around our world, Prince Charles is an important ambassador for open-mindedness, tolerance and humanity.”
In 2010 the International Auschwitz Committee began awarding the Statue of Remembrance to public figures who speak out for human rights and consequently stand up against intolerance and anti-Semitism.
Previous recipients of the award include Pope Francis, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, the former President of Israel Shimon Peres and, from Germany, the president of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.