Last week, when Queen Elizabeth II paid a visit to Bergen–Belsen, in addition to making history, in that it was her first time to visit a former Nazi Concentration Camp, the 89 year old British monarch in all likelihood made a deep impression on countless individuals world over. Ironically enough, it was not so much what Her Royal Highness did and said at Bergen-Belsen; it was what her Royal Highness didn’t do and say at Bergen-Belsen that justifies those who hold the Queen in such high esteem.
Unlike other world leaders, there was no moral equivalency on the Queen’s part. Exactly 30 years ago, another head of state paid a visit to Germany, where in addition to visiting the graves of American soldiers, also planned to visit graves of German soldiers. Queen Elizabeth II was much more focused. While touring Bergen–Belsen, the Queen went so far as to meet with some veterans of the British Army who helped to liberate Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 and asked them what they found when they first arrived. Upon hearing their answers, the Queen remarked,
“It must have been horrific…”
Accompanied by her 94 year old husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Royal Couple could have been easily been mistaken for an ordinary couple recapturing their youth, as they took their time to reflect and pay their respects. Other heads of state would have done differently. Other heads of state would have used the visit for a publicity stunt. After all, there is no shortage of newspaper people who might like a story like that. The queen however, is not a publicity hound. From the very moment Her Majesty ascended the throne over six decades ago, she brought with her a great deal of dignity. That dignity was very much apparent as the Queen and Prince Philip stopped to lay a wreath at the memorial obelisk at Bergen–Belsen.
As valiant a roll that America played during World War II, it could not begin to compare with the trials and tribulations faced by England. Unlike these United States, England did not have the safety net of the Atlantic Ocean to protect it from the Luftwaffe. Few other countries could have survived the way England did, as she clung to freedom with unparalleled tenacity. Yet with typical British modesty along with their signature stiff upper lip, not a word was uttered by the Monarch about the gallantry displayed by the British, including how British Forces liberated Bergen-Belsen. It’s been said that silence speaks louder than words. Too bad more citizens of the world did not hear the dignified silence of Queen Elizabeth II, who in all likelihood will soon become England’s longest reigning monarch, a true lady by all accounts.