Trip To Auschwitz
Two of our very promising A Level Historians, Caitlin and Zach seized the opportunity last week to represent Prince William School at the 'lessons from Auschwitz' Project organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.
The Trust provides seminars to help Sixth Form students understand the events of the Holocaust and includes a visit to Auschwitz. By seeing and experiencing the location of this dreadful event in European History, our students can then act as ambassadors within the school to educate others through describing their experiences. Mrs Ashworth (Head of History) has organised this event, in collaboration with other local schools for the past six years and believes it is invaluable in maintaining an awareness of genocides both during and post-World War II for our students.
On arrival to Poland, we took a coach to the small town of Oswiecim. Before the war, Oswiecim had the largest population of Jewish people with around ten synagogues. There is only one remaining synagogue in the square where once Christians and Jews had flourished together. The emergence of anti-Semitic Nazi policies forced the Jews to be deported from this very square to areas across Eastern Europe in resettlement programmes, ghettos and concentration camps.
The next place we visited was Auschwitz - 1, built by the Nazis just a few miles from Oswiecim. From the outside, it resembled a normal town, yet the horrors of what happened there are infamous and can be felt in the atmosphere it portrays. Whilst there, we learnt of individual stories to humanize those involved, rather than to just remember a number. We saw pictures of those imprisoned, the gas chambers and the belongings of the victims. The most harrowing, a room full of human hair from those who were murdered. This image is something we will never forget.
Auschwitz - Birkenau was the second camp we visited. It was an extension of Auschwitz- 1, and just 2km away, home to a large majority of the 1.2 million murders committed across both camps. The vast size of Birkenau gave a completely different atmosphere to the first camp. It gave a sense that victims would have been there for a very short time, only sent there to be murdered. This was confirmed when we were told that almost all the prisoners where there no longer than four months. Here we heard many stories of individual experiences of brutality, starvation, and isolation in both extreme cold and heat, with little shelter or shade. We were told of how poor the conditions were and how the prisoners were treated. We will never fully understand what it was like to be a victim of Auschwitz or any other concentration camp.
Throughout the project the importance of keeping the memory alive has been a re-occurring theme from the Holocaust Educational Trust's organisers, the guides and Susan Pollack, (a survivor whose testimony we were witness to).
If ever the opportunity arises, we would encourage everyone to visit Auschwitz and partake in research of their own, so that all can ensure it will never happen again.
Click here to view pictures from the trip.