Portraits of Holocaust survivors go on display

Lily Ebert by Ishbel Myerscough

Lily Ebert painted by Ishbel Myerscough - Credit: Royal Collection Trust/Matthew Hollow

Portraits of two Golders Green Holocaust survivors have gone on display at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

Seven paintings were commissioned by The Prince of Wales as a lasting reminder and “powerful testament” to those who endured the horrors of the Nazi regime.

As the portraits were unveiled last week, the Prince was moved as Auschwitz survivor Lily Ebert, 98, showed him her concentration camp tattoo and the gold pendant she hid from camp guards in her daily bread ration.

EMBARGOED TO 2230 WEDNESDAY JANUARY 26 The Prince of Wales meets with Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert

The Prince of Wales meets with Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert as he attends an exhibition at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, of 'Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust', which were commissioned by the prince to pay tribute to Holocaust survivors. - Credit: PA

“Meeting you, it is for everyone who lost their lives,” she told Charles, who replied: “But it is a greater privilege for me."

Fellow sitter Rachel Levy 91, who survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen also lives in Golders Green, and Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who played in the Auschwitz camp orchestra, lives in Kensal Rise.

The prince, who is patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: “Seven portraits. Seven faces. Each a survivor of the horrors of those years, who sought refuge and a home in Britain, becoming an integral part of the fabric of our nation.

Rachel Levy by Stuart Pearson Wright

Rachel Levy by Stuart Pearson Wright - Credit: Royal Collection Trust/Matthew Hollow

"However, these portraits represent something far greater than seven remarkable individuals. They stand as a living memorial to the six million innocent men, women, and children whose stories will never be told, whose portraits will never be painted.”

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch painted by Peter Kuhfeld - Credit: Royal Collection Trust/Matthew Hollow

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Hungarian-born Lily was transported to Auschwitz in July 1944, where her mother and younger siblings were murdered, while she and two sisters survived. She said her pendant in the shape of angel was "very special".

"It went through Auschwitz and survived with me. I put it in the heel of my shoe but the heel wore out so... I put it every day in the piece of bread that we got to eat. I was five years old when I got it from my mother for my birthday. My mother did not survive. My little brother and little sister did not survive. I have worn my necklace every day since I survived.”

Islington artist Ishbel Myerscough had fulfilled a similar royal commission to paint a Spitfire pilot and D Day veterans, and was "thrilled to be asked" to paint Lily.

"To have the chance to meet Lily and sit with her for hours was extraordinary. She was incredibly engaging, talking about her life, after the war, getting married, moving to Israel. The first sitting at her flat was brilliant, she has so much stuff, it's a visual dictionary of her life; photographs of her little sister, a photograph that Rankin had done of her, and her own paintings. She was just extraordinarily energetic, elegant like a bird, very bright and eager."

The sittings took place during lockdown and between the first and second, Lily caught Covid.

"When I saw her again she had been so ill, my first impression was I didn't want to make her seem less than when I first met her. She's tiny and incredible and I wanted the picture to be powerful, for her to have a presence."

Lily herself had a firm idea how she wanted to be painted.

"You try to see which angle to paint someone, but wherever I moved my chair, she moved too, so she was looking at me straight on. She said: 'You are going to paint me smiling. Are you going to make me smile with my eyes or with my mouth?'

"Then she did the whole sitting smiling with all her teeth showing. I realised these are not my decisions, this person has a definite idea of how they want to be seen, and that is a gift."

Myerscough was amazed that with the help of great grandson Dov Forman, Lily has become a Tik Tok star, answering questions via social media.

"It's extraordinary to let people ask any question they liked. She feels a deep responsibility to tell people what happened to her and just wants to promote tolerance and kindness. She said in her situation 'you choose to live or you curl up and die'. She's a mesmerising force of nature, so cherished and loved by her family. You think 'they wanted to get rid of you and you have 35 great grandchildren'. What better than to go on and live a good life?"

EMBARGOED TO 2230 WEDNESDAY JANUARY 26 The Prince of Wales meets Holocaust survivor Rachel Levy as h

The Prince of Wales meets Holocaust survivor Rachel Levy at the launch of an exhibition at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, of 'Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust', which were commissioned by the prince to pay tribute to Holocaust survivors. - Credit: PA

The portraits are part of the Royal Collection and on display at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace until February 13. Visit www.rct.uk/whatson/event/1070553/Seven-Portraits:-Surviving-the-Holocaust