BERLIN (AP) – Queen Elizabeth II began a state visit to Germany on Tuesday that will include her first trip to a former Nazi concentration camp.
The 89-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 94, received a red-carpet welcome as they left their jet at Tegel airport on a grey Berlin evening. A German military honor guard lined their route to their car, while artillery fired a 21-gun salute and fighter jets overflew the area in tribute.
The two shook hands with the British ambassador and others before walking to their waiting limousine to take them to the capital’s Hotel Adlon, which overlooks the historic Brandenburg Gate.
The state visit will focus on Berlin and Frankfurt, but the queen and Philip also plan to visit the Bergen-Belsen camp where diarist Anne Frank and her sister Margot died just weeks before the British liberated it on April 15, 1945.
She will visit a memorial dedicated to the sisters and to meet with aging survivors and liberators of the notorious Nazi camp.
“It is fitting the queen should go,” said Bernard Levy, 89, who helped liberate the camp as a young soldier and has been asked by the queen to attend the wreath-laying ceremony. “Holocaust education is so paramount, and many kids of today don’t really know about it. The queen going there lends credence.”
He said many who saw the horrors at the camp, or suffered as prisoners, tried to put the experience behind them but are now finding that they want to talk about it.
“After 70 years, there’s been a revival of people who want to say something before they die,” said Levy, speaking on behalf of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Elizabeth and Philip are planning a strenuous schedule.
Elizabeth will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday after a boat trip along the River Spree. They will also meet with President Joachim Gauck.
Thursday will be spent in the financial hub of Frankfurt, with time blocked out for the queen to meet the public in the city’s central square.
On Friday, the royal couple plans to meet with residents of Berlin in Pariser Platz before traveling to Lower Saxony for the concentration camp visit.
The queen and Philip also made state visits to Germany in May 1965, May 1978, October 1992 and November 2004.