King Charles Awards Holocaust Survivor with British Honor — and Her Great-Grandson Shares Why She's a 'Queen'
ANDREW MATTHEWS/POOL/AFP via Getty
Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert had an emotional message for King Charles III as he awarded her an MBE at Windsor Castle.
On Tuesday, the 99-year-old was made a Member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her services to Holocaust education. Lily shot to stardom on social media during the coronavirus pandemic when her great-grandson Dov Forman launched a TikTok account to share her incredible story of survival. During the lockdown, Dov interviewed Lily for what would become their bestselling memoir Lily's Promise: Holding On to Hope Through Auschwitz and Beyond ― A Story for All Generations.
"It was so humbling to see my incredible, 99 year old, great grandmother receive her MBE today, at Windsor Castle, from His Majesty The King," Dov tweeted Tuesday, posting a smiling shot with his great-grandmother and her medal.
"Lily said to the King: 'I was in the hell, Auschwitz. How special it is to be here today, with The King, in the Palace!' " he added.
RELATED: King Charles and Queen Camilla Welcome Genocide Survivors to Palace to Mark Holocaust Memorial Day
'How can I explain the unexplainable? It is a very special honour.'
Lily Ebert is one of the UK’s last living Auschwitz survivors and has devoted her life to educating people about the Holocaust.
🎖️ This week, she was awarded an MBE for her work by The King at Windsor. pic.twitter.com/IClrIcjy4s
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) February 1, 2023
Dov, 19, tells PEOPLE that four generations of their family were at Windsor Castle as his great-grandmother accepted the honor.
"For so long, my great-grandmother has shared her incredibly harrowing Holocaust testimony and spent so much time going up and down the country educating young children about her story, educating through the book that we wrote together, Lily's Promise, and her TikTok which has over 2 million followers and has been seen by over 1 billion people," Dov says. "There's so much hard work that's been put into this, and I think it's entirely appropriate that now at 99-years-old, she been awarded this honor. As we see antisemitism rising, now is the perfect time for her to be honored in this way."
ANDREW MATTHEWS/POOL/AFP via Getty
Ebert was 20 when she and her family arrived at Auschwitz, where her mother and two of her siblings were killed. Ebert fought to survive and protect her two other sisters, witnessing liberation from the concentration camp in 1945. The Hungarian-born woman forged a new life for herself in Israel, later settling in London, and would welcome three children with her husband. Today, she is a grandmother of 10 and great-grandmother of 36, The New York Times reported.
King Charles wrote the foreword for the book, first published in the U.K. in September 2021.
Dov said they spoke with the King for "quite a few minutes" during the investiture ceremony.
"Lily is now in a wheelchair, so [King Charles] leant right down, holding her hand whilst he was talking to her," Dov says. "He presented her with the honor and then was just asking her how she's doing."
He adds, "She said to him how she never thought she would survive the hell of Auschwitz-Birkenau and now to be here with the King in the palace, it's so special. And how the award is for all the work of all the survivors."
Mazal Tov Lily Ebert MBE!
The 99 year old Holocaust survivor received her MBE yesterday at Windsor Castle.
Lily said to the King: “I was in the hell, Auschwitz. How special it is to be here today, with The King, in the Palace!”
*MBE: Member of the Order of the British Empire pic.twitter.com/BgrhY2lwP0
— Humans of Judaism (@HumansOfJudaism) February 1, 2023
The King and Lily have known each other for years, most recently seeing each other at a Clarence House holiday party.
"At the last meeting, he actually gave her a kiss on the cheek at the end!" Dov recalls of King Charles and his great-grandmother.
They lit candles together at a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in 2015 and met again at the unveiling of "Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust" last January. Charles, who served as patron of the National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, commissioned a series of artists to paint seven people who lived through the trauma of the Holocaust — including Lily.
ARTHUR EDWARDS/POOL/AFP via Getty
During the investiture ceremony, Dov said a Jewish blessing in front of King Charles.
"There's a Jewish blessing we say called a Bracha, and I was honored to say that to him on behalf of my family and also on behalf of the Jewish community in the U.K.," he tells PEOPLE. "I said the blessing to him, and he bowed his head a little and he said it was a beautiful tradition and thanked me."
The teen adds that seeing Lily get emotional touched him.
"To see the tears coming down her cheeks as she was speaking to him and to stand beside them and hear their conversation was so special," he says.
He adds, "My great-grandmother really is the queen of the family."
Lily Ebert MBE
It was so humbling to see my incredible, 99 year old, great grandmother receive her MBE today, at Windsor Castle, from His Majesty The King.
Lily said to the King: “I was in the hell, Auschwitz. How special it is to be here today, with The King, in the Palace!” pic.twitter.com/R9uuj1X5QM
— Dov Forman (@DovForman) January 31, 2023
Lily's investiture fell a few days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27. Last Friday, King Charles and Queen Camilla marked Holocaust Memorial Day by speaking with survivors of genocide.
The royal couple marked the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau at Buckingham Palace, meeting with Holocaust survivor Dr. Martin Stern and survivor of the Darfur genocide Amouna Adam. Stern was taken to a Nazi concentration camp at age 5, while Adam grew up as a member of the persecuted Fur tribe.
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VICTORIA JONES/POOL/AFP via Getty
At the end of their meeting, King Charles, 74, and Queen Camilla, 75, joined Stern and Adam in lighting a candle in remembrance of the victims of genocide.
At 4 p.m. local time, candles were lit in the windows across the United Kingdom to "Light the Darkness" in a national moment of commemoration and solidarity.
Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates the lives of the six million Jewish people murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of others killed under Nazi persecution and during subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.