Lessons from Auschwitz

Year 12 students, Georgie Elsom and Kimberley Lines together with Miss Parry from RE, recently took part in the four stage project ‘Lessons From Auschwitz’ organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.  The students have written this report about taking part in the project:

The first stage of the project involved attending an orientation seminar in London on 19 April, where Holocaust survivor, Steve Frank spoke to us about life for Jews before and during the Holocaust.  This gave us a first person perspective on the Holocaust, the first contribution towards us humanising the victims of the Holocaust rather than just viewing them as a statistic.

On 23 April, we went to Oświęcim in Poland where we visited the site of the Great Synagogue which had been destroyed during World War II. We then visited a restored synagogue to learn more about the Jewish culture. One thing we noticed whilst in the area was that the churches and synagogues were built next to each other to promote harmony, but this ideal was destroyed by the Nazis. We then visited the first concentration and extermination camp - Auschwitz I. There we saw things we would never forget, such as piles of human hair, victims belongings and the sort of conditions they had to live in. It reminded us that these were ordinary families who thought that they were beginning a new life but this was not the case. We also walked through the gas chambers, which are indescribable.

 We then visited the second camp - Auschwitz-Birkenau. The first thing that we noticed about this camp was the size of it, even when we saw it from the top of the watchtower, we could not see where it ended.  We walked along the railway track which brought the victims to the camps, but which never let them leave. We were allowed to look at the buildings where the prisoners were kept giving us an idea of the cramped and cruel conditions. In one building, there was a wall of photographs showing the prisoners before they entered the camp; including family portraits, wedding photographs and baby pictures. This was truly upsetting and again, humanised the victims for us. At the end of a very emotional day, all the students on the visit gathered to read poems and prayers. We remembered those whose lives were taken by the Nazis and talked about the importance of not forgetting about the Holocaust. Everyone lit a remembrance candle which then lined the railway track.

We attended a follow-up seminar in London on 28 April where we discussed how we felt and what we had learnt from the trip. We all agreed that we now thought  about the individual lives that were lost rather than a statistic when we thought about the Holocaust. We also spoke about the actions we were going to take to share our experience with others and explain why the Holocaust is still relevant today.

The Holocaust involved the dehumanisation and killing of innocent, smart and loving people. The idea that somebody wanted to exterminate an entire race from the world is frightening, but it is even more frightening that they carried out this idea and those that knew about it allowed it to happen. An ideal world would be one without hatred and kindness and this starts with small things that we can do every day.