The duchess and the Holocaust survivor – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted By on August 3, 2021

Steven Frank holds the plain aluminium cooking pot with reverence, undoing the side clips that fasten the lid. Battered, utilitarian, unremarkable, you wouldnt look at it twice in a junk shop. Yet its story and its survival are matters of wonder. It is perhaps the most precious relic of his past and one of the most poignant of the Holocaust.

In this pot, Franks English-born mother would store bits of bread she had bartered in the disease-ridden transit camp of Theresienstadt in German-occupied Czechoslovakia. When the pot was about a quarter full, which might take weeks, Beatrix Frank would add hot water to make a sort of slop and feed this to her three starving sons.

It was a bit like the consistency of wallpaper paste, says Frank, a Dutch-Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, now 85. We had one spoon and we took turns till the pot was empty. My mother must have been starving, too, but I never saw her take a spoonful herself. Other children, just as hungry and weak as we were, looked on but we didnt care about them because hunger is an unbelievably selfish thing.

Typhus and other diseases were raging through the overcrowded camp, killing thousands. Realising that the best way to keep typhus at bay was cleanliness, this resourceful woman had volunteered to work in the hospital laundry the only place with regular hot water so she could secretly wash herself and her sons. She would do other prisoners washing in return for crusts that went into the bread porridge.

In a striking photograph taken by the Duchess of Cambridge for a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, Steven Frank is shown with the cooking pan on his lap, alongside two of his granddaughters. The exhibition, which aims to celebrate the full lives Holocaust survivors have led since arriving in Britain in the 1940s, features more than 50 contemporary portraits by 13 British photographers, including the duchess, who is patron of the Royal Photographic Society (an exhibition partner), and a respected photographer in her own right. Besides Frank, her other subject was Yvonne Bernstein, 84, who was hidden in France in the care of her aunt and uncle.

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The duchess and the Holocaust survivor - Telegraph.co.uk

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