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Students Learn Lessons From Auschwitz 

Visit to Auschwitz

Sixth Form History students, Sofia Greco and Louis Collis, have participated in  the Holocaust Education Trust’s ‘Lessons From Auschwitz’ project and are now spreading the word about what they have learned from their experience.The project comprised four parts—the first was an orientation meeting to get to know more about the project and to meet with a Holocaust survivor. 

The students then went on a one day visit to Oświęcim, the Polish town where Auschwitz is located. After tours of Auschwitz 1 and Birkenau the day culminated in a memorable ceremony held next to the destroyed crematoria at Birkenau. The ceremony included readings, a moment of reflection and ended with all participants lighting memorial candles. 

There was also a follow up seminar and the fourth part of the project requires participants to disseminate what they have learned to their peers and the wider community. Sofia and Louis have decided to write an article exploring what the Holocaust has taught us and how we can join together to prevent discrimination.   

Speaking about their experience, Sofia said: “Going to the Auschwitz concentration camp has genuinely been an incredible experience that I won’t ever forget. When I got home after the trip, I felt immensely guilty for the suffering of the people who had been in the camps as I couldn’t forget how what had happened to their lives was so unfair, and the horrific conditions they lived through and died in were absolutely abhorrent. Witnessing the massive size of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the second camp, was extremely overwhelming and really put the holocaust into perspective, and seeing in person what I had seen only in pictures so many times before was unforgettable as I hadn’t imagined it to be so big. Auschwitz, being one of hundreds of concentration camps, was only one part of the holocaust and again seeing it put into perspective the extent and size of the atrocity. What I saw has stayed in my mind, particularly the Barracks in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the suitcases taken from the people and the pile of hair cut off of 50,000 people. The site of where the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau were was eerie as well. At the end of our visit we did a memorial service with a Rabbi, who gave a beautiful sermon on helping other people and sung a Jewish prayer; it was really moving and I felt that the rabbi was singing for the Jewish people at the camps who couldn’t, and who suffered so much just for who they are and what they believed in.  

"Another reason I am extremely grateful for being able to take part in this educational program was that we met Susan Pollack, a holocaust survivor at a seminar in London before the trip. Her story was amazing and inspiring as when she was a young, Jewish girl in Hungary she and her family were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and survived. She is still religious and her response to someone asking if she forgave the Nazis for what they did was that although she doesn’t feel anger towards them, she doesn’t forgive them. That really stuck with me and the fact that she carries on smiling and talking about it despite what she went through is incredible. She said she was so grateful to tell her story to us because we will be proof that the Nazis didn’t succeed and we won’t let what happened be forgotten; she believed there was goodness and kindness in the world.  

"This educational program and trip has been an interesting and moving experience that has furthered my knowledge on the holocaust and pre-war Jewish life as well as really further instilled in me how important it is to remember the holocaust to try prevent such an atrocity from happening again, and keeping the memory and testimony of those who died and those who survived alive.” 

Louis said:  “This trip has taught me a lot about life and the holocaust and genocides in general. When looking at these cases we need to act respectful and be considerate in what the people went through but also we must not dehumanise the perpetrators, we must also understand what they went through. But the most important message I took from this whole experience is that we should never forget the holocaust.”

You can read Louis' notes about his Auschwitz experience here.


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