Charles marks Auschwitz liberation during official Middle East tour

The Prince of Wales honoured those who died in the Holocaust during his first official tour of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Charles’ tour – the highest level visit by a member of the monarchy to Israel and the Palestinian areas – marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The heir to the throne delivered a speech at the World Holocaust Forum being staged at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, joining around 40 world leaders including US vice president Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has refused to attend the event, complaining he had not been allowed to address the audience, whereas Mr Putin and other leaders will speak.

Prince Charles spoke frankly on the lessons learned of the Holocaust and how hatred and intolerance still "lurk" today.

He said: "All too often, language is used which turns disagreement into dehumanisation.

"Words are used as badges of shame to mark others as enemies, to brand those who are different as somehow deviant. All too often, virtue seems to be sought through verbal violence.

"All too often, real violence ensues, and acts of unspeakable cruelty are still perpetrated around the world against people for reasons of their religion, their race or their beliefs.

"Knowing, as we do, the darkness to which such behaviour leads, we must be vigilant in discerning these ever-changing threats; we must be fearless in confronting falsehoods and resolute in resisting words and acts of violence.

"And we must never rest in seeking to create mutual understanding and respect."

Prince Charles spoke frankly on the lessons learned of the Holocaust and how hatred and intolerance still 'lurk' today. Credit: APTN

The prince, who was invited to the major event by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, also spoke of how a "lifetime has almost passed" since the horror of the Holocaust.

"Those who bore witness to it are sadly ever-fewer," he said.

"We must, therefore, commit ourselves to ensuring that their stories live on."

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lays a wreath during a ceremony at Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem in 2019. Credit: AP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has invited Charles to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Charles will also visit Bethlehem and sit down for talks with Mr Abbas.

Scott Furssedonn-Wood, the princes’ deputy private secretary, said about the World Holocaust Forum: “The prince is honoured to be among the small number of international leaders who have been invited to address the event and have the opportunity on behalf of the United Kingdom to honour the memory of all those who were lost in the Holocaust.”

Charles’ visit has added significance as the Queen has never made an official visit to Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories during her 67-year reign.

The ministerial jet Voyager is believed to be undergoing scheduled maintenance and Charles has travelled by chartered plane to the Middle East.

Mr Furssedonn-Wood said: “We always look at a range of options, we take a number of factors into account when we decide how to travel, we weigh up things like cost of course with environmental impact as you’d expect, but also efficiency of time, size of delegation and crucially safety and security.”

During his first day in the Holy Land Charles will also meet Holocaust survivors and be joined by the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Charles is also likely to pay his respects at the resting place of his grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg in Jerusalem’s Church of St Mary Magdalene.

She was honoured by the Jewish people for hiding and saving the lives of Jews in Nazi-occupied Athens during the Second World War.

The heir to the throne’s forthcoming visit will follow one made by his son the Duke of Cambridge who toured Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2018.

Charles has travelled to Jerusalem to attend the funerals of President Shimon Peres in 2016 and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.