To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, Kate Middleton photographed two Holocaust survivors in moving portraits with their grandchildren. The Duchess of Cambridge took photos of Steven Frank, a man who survived multiple concentration camps, and Yvonne Bernstein, a woman who was hidden as a child in France. While both photographs are set to be displayed in an upcoming exhibition, Middleton said her goal was simply to create portraits that would be "deeply personal" to her subjects and capture the lives they've created.
"I wanted to make the portraits deeply personal to Yvonne and Steven – a celebration of family and the life that they have built since they both arrived in Britain in the 1940s," Middleton said in a statement released via the Kensington Palace Instagram. "The families brought items of personal significance with them which are included in the photographs."
In one photograph, Frank can be seen seated with his two granddaughters, Maggie and Trixie. According to Kensington Palace, Frank and his two brothers were three of the 93 children reported to have survived the Theresienstadt camp-ghetto in the Czech Republic. Frank also spent time at Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands. In the second photograph, Bernstein poses with her granddaughter Chloe. During the Holocaust, Bernstein was what is known as a hidden child. According to Kensington Palace, Bernstein was hidden in France, frequently changing homes and names while traveling in the care of her aunt and uncle.
"The harrowing atrocities of the Holocaust, which were caused by the most unthinkable evil, will forever lay heavy in our hearts," Middleton said in a separate Instagram post. "Yet it is so often through the most unimaginable adversity that the most remarkable people flourish. Despite unbelievable trauma at the start of their lives, Yvonne Bernstein and Steven Frank are two of the most life-affirming people that I have had the privilege to meet. They look back on their experiences with sadness but also with gratitude that they were some of the lucky few to make it through. Their stories will stay with me forever."
Along with the portraits, Kensington Palace also released a series of behind-the-scenes photos taken during the portrait sessions.
What's more, the Duchess of Cambridge also said, in a statement released by the Royal Photographic Society, that her portraits had been inspired by her reading of The Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl. "One of the most moving accounts I read as a young girl was The Diary of Anne Frank, which tells a very personal reflection of life under Nazi occupation from a child’s perspective," Middleton said in a statement shared on the Royal Photographic Society Instagram page. "Her sensitive and intimate interpretation of the horrors of the time was one of the underlying inspirations behind the images."
The Duchess of Cambridge's portraits are expected to be displayed later this year in an exhibition of 75 photographs from Holocaust survivors and their families being organized by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Jewish News, and the Royal Photographic Society. In a statement provided by the Royal Photographic Society, Frank said he hoped people saw the survivors' portraits as more than just beautiful pictures. "I would hope that the people who look at these pictures not only look at the beauty of the photography, but they will also think of the people behind the photos and their families that they lost in the Holocaust," he said.
On Monday, Middleton said it had been "a true honor" to have been asked to participate in the exhibition, which aims to honor Holocaust victims and celebrate the rich lives they went on to build in the United Kingdom. "I hope in some way Yvonne and Steven’s memories will be kept alive as they pass the baton to the next generation," Middleton said.