The Duchess of Cambridge sat down to speak with surviving ‘Windermere children’ during a poignant visit to Cumbria today alongside the television personality Judge Rinder.
Kate Middleton, 39, who resumed her public duties last week after a summer break, met with some of the Holocaust survivors who were rescued from concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe and taken to the Lake District at the end of the Second World War.
The royal said it was ‘powerful’ to hear how the lives of the survivors changed forever when they were brought to Cumbria and given the opportunity to begin healing from the trauma of their childhood experiences.
She later took a boat ride along Lake Windermere with two surviving Windermere children, Ike Alterman, 93, and Arek Hersh, 92, who were both prisoners at Auschwitz.
The duchess was also joined by television personality and barrister Robert ‘Judge’ Rinder whose own grandfather was among the Holocaust survivors who found a new life in the Lake District in 1945.
The Windermere children were a group of 300 orphaned Jewish refugees who began new lives in the Lake District in 1945 after they were rescued from Nazi concentration camps.
Last year, television judge Robert Rinder learnt how his grandfather Morris Malenicky, who passed away in London in 2001 at the age of 78, was a teenager when he was sent to the Buchenwald and Schlieben camps in Germany.
He was then moved to Theresienstadt in German-occupied Czechoslovakia before the region was liberated by the Russian Army in 1945 and he was able to escape along with hundreds of other Holocaust survivors to the UK.
The Duchess of Cambridge, 39, who resumed her public duties last week after a summer break, spoke with surviving ‘Windermere children’ during a visit to Cumbria today
The Duchess of Cambridge was joined by the television personality and barrister Robert ‘Judge’ Rinder whose own family members were mercilessly shot and buried alive by Nazis in a shallow grave during the Second World War
The royal appeared in high spirits as she sat down to speak with the Holocaust survivors who were rescued from concentration camps and taken to the Lake District
During the two-part programme My Family, the Holocaust and Me, on the BBC, the TV judge also learnt how members of his family were mercilessly shot and buried alive by Nazis in a shallow grave during the Second World War.
The programme saw Rinder re-tracing the Levin family on his grandfather’s side and travel to Voranava in Belarus, where he had a ‘heartbreaking’ conversation with 97-year-old Helena Sheshko.
Ms Sheshko vividly remembered the moment men, women and children were rounded up and killed, or buried alive, in a trench in the town in May 1942.
In her native Russian, she recounted how the mound of earth was ‘moving for several days’.
Rinder was told how his family on his grandfather’s side, the Levins, were forced to move to Voranava in 1941 from their home in the Lithuanian town of Dieveniškės.
Speaking to the Mirror about making the film, Rinder said: ‘I was listening to the testimony of the 97-year-old who is the last hearing witness of the massacre and only I and the fixer could understand what she was saying in Russian.
‘What she said landed with infinitely more power if you understood it in the Russian – ”mound was moving for several days”.
‘It was without question the most profound moment of my life and I’m certain it always will be.’
During her visit to Cumbria, the Duchess of Cambridge sat down for a boat ride with 93-year-old Ike Alterman and 92-year-old Arek Hersh, who were both prisoners at Auschwitz.
Mr Alterman told People: ‘She was absolutely delightful. We laughed, she asked questions and she wanted to know the answers.
He added: ‘I told her what happened to me during the war and when I arrived and how I progressed in business later.’
Meanwhile Mr Hersh said: ‘It was very nice. She was very interested. It brought back happy memories of being on the lake.’
In a message of Twitter the Duchess of Cambridge said: ‘Following the atrocities experienced in the concentration camps in 1945, a group of 300 child Holocaust survivors came here, to the Lake District, to heal from the trauma of their childhood experiences
‘This group of children were called the ‘Windermere Children’. I wanted to be able to meet some of the survivors Ike & Arek in person to hear their stories; about how they went on to create their own companies, write a book & to this day, still sneak in the odd round of golf.
‘It was so powerful to hear how their time in the Lakes enjoying outdoor recreation, sport and art therapy, allowed them to be able to begin to rebuild their lives and eventually, their families here in the UK.’
The royal, who sported her khaki coloured Seeland puffer jacket and a pair of black jeans, heard how the survivors lives changed forever when they were brought to Cumbria
The Duchess of Cambridge was joined by television personality and barrister Robert ‘Judge’ Rinder whose own family members were shot and buried alive by Nazis
The Duchess of Cambridge also took a boat road with two surviving’Windermere Children’ during her visit to Cumbr
The Duchess of Cambridge said it was powerful to hear how the time the Holocaust survivors spent in the Lake District allowed them to rebuild their lives
During her visit, Kate also took the plunge at Cathedral Quarry in Little Langdale, Cumbria, after having a go at mountain biking with a group of Air Cadets on Tuesday.
Thirteen-year-old Itelouwa Odipe, from Lancaster, spoke to the duchess, who is Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, as she waited to try abseiling.
He said: ‘She was about to abseil and I was next in line so she asked me if I wanted to go before her. I was a bit scared so I said no.
‘She said if I did she would meet me down there.’
The teenager spoke to her again after deciding not to brave the drop.
‘She said it was really good and I should try it,’ he said.
‘I think she was very kind. Even though she is a royal highness she still does things normal humans do.’
Kate Middleton put on a stylish display as she arrived in Cumbria this afternoon where she will carry out visits highlighting the beneficial, lifelong impact that nature and the outdoors can have on young people
The Duchess took part in activities including abseiling and cycling during a visit to the RAF Air Cadets’ Windermere Adventure Training Centre in Cumbria (left and right)
The mother-of-three appeared overjoyed during the visit and could be seen letting out a laugh as she tried out cycling with the cadets
The duchess asked the teenagers about the activities they took part in and how the pandemic had affected their mental health.
She said of the activities: ‘It’s so great to have these challenges.’
Josh Binnie, 15, from the Kendal squadron of the cadets, told her about his experience in a glider and was asked by the duchess whether it made him travel sick.
When he said no, she replied: ‘You’re made of tougher stuff than me.’
Josh said: ‘She was very nice, a lot less formal than I expected.’
Fergus Ripley, 16, from Lancaster, said: ‘It was a fantastic experience to talk to Her Royal Highness.
‘It was great to see her get involved.’
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