The Duchess of Cambridge heard the moving stories of Holocaust survivors sent to a British beauty spot to recuperate from the horrors of the Nazi regime.
Kate took a boat trip on Lake Windermere with two elderly men who more than 75 years ago were part of a 300-strong group known as the Windermere Children who went from “hell to paradise”.
While living close to the famous lake they underwent psychiatric sessions, art therapy and swam and climbed to aid their recovery, something the duchess described as “so forward thinking for the time”, adding: “It’s so relevant still today.”
TV celebrity and barrister Robert Rinder, star of ITV’s Judge Rinder, was among a group of Windermere Children family members.
In an episode of the BBC’s genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? He described the journey of his grandfather Morris Malinicky to Britain as a group, and he thanked the Lake District people for being so accommodating to them.
In a tweet after her visit, the duchess said: “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 300 Jewish children were flown to Britain in 1945 after many had been used as slave labour and witnesses to atrocities in camps like Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
Kate joined Arek Shesh and Ike Altman, both 93 years old, on Osprey (a steam launch from 1902), for a tour around the places they had previously visited. They also pointed out the bay where they used go swimming, as well as the wartime housing complex for workers in the aircraft industry. It was their home for six months their first time in Britain.
She had asked to meet them after reading about the Windermere Children and wanting to know if their resilience in overcoming the horrors they had witnessed and the therapy they received offered lessons for her own work with disadvantaged children across Britain.
He lost 81 family members during the Holocaust, and only one of his sisters survived.
As Mr Alterman (who lives in Manchester), he also spent time in Auschwitz, and other camps.
He went on to become an accomplished jeweller in Manchester and had a happy marriage with Kate. They had two children and two grandchildren.
“Each chalet had a bed, clean sheets.
“There were showers.
“I went swimming every third day, I went walking and climbing in the mountains,” He stated.
“We had come from hell to paradise.”
Mr Hersh, who eventually became a car mechanic and then went into property rental, said: “It was a new life for us, no home, no parents, nobody.”
Kate was interested in the role that the outdoor life, something she believes in passionately as a way of helping create health and happiness, had played in their recovery.
Although he agreed that it helped, he also said that he had nightmares for many years from seeing people die in the camps.
Between eighteen and fifteen years old, the wartime Jewish refugees were mostly from Poland. They spoke little to no English when they arrived.
While most of them were strangers, six months spent in Windermere proved to be a bonding moment that became a lifelong friendship.
After the event, some of their grandchildren and children met Kate and spent an hour talking to her at Windermere Jetty. They talked about how survivors met up once per year for the rest of their lives.
“We had no family so they became our family,” Dr Trevor Friedman, a psychiatrist who lost his father to cancer and became one the Windermere Children, said that Kate was an inspiration.
“For us Windermere was this mythical place.”
Kate had attempted abseiling before, having previously tried it with a group made up of Air Cadets.