the weekly newsletter from Dr Ruth Weeks, Headmistress
Lessons From Auschwitz
06 March 2015
The Holocaust Educational Trust works with schools, colleges and communities across the UK to educate about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance. Hanna Alam in Year 12 and Georgia Khanna in Year 13 were chosen to participate in this year's 'Lessons From Auschwitz' programme and below they give an account of their one day visit to Poland.
Last Wednesday 25 February, we flew over to Krakow, Poland for the day to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. This was one of the camps used by the Nazis for the extermination of Jewish people along with other groups such as political prisoners and those with disabilities.We started our day early, arriving at the airport for 5am, and when we arrived in Poland we started by visiting a Jewish cemetery in the town of Oswiecim in order to help us to understand the position of the Jews as individuals in society before the war.
Next, we visited Auschwitz I concentration camp, which began to make the horrors of the Holocaust a reality, as we saw piles of shoes taken from prisoners, as well as thousands of personal photos. We also went inside a gas chamber, which was an extremely moving experience. A particularly poignant moment was entering a room that contained the victims' hair as it illustrated the extent of the Nazi regime.We then visited Birkenau, about 3 miles from Auschwitz I, which was overwhelming for its extensive size alone. Birkenau was the larger of the two camps, and was an extermination camp with four gas chambers. The living quarters in Birkenau were particularly shocking, which brought home to us the extensive suffering of the prisoners; many prisoners slept on beds of straw, sometimes in temperatures which could be as low as -25 degrees celsius.
We finished our day with a ceremony of remembrance at Birkenau conducted by a Rabbi. The Rabbi shared a moving story of how his grandfather had suffered at the hands of the Nazi Regime. The lighting of candles was a particularly humbling moment; their placement on the railway lines which had brought so many Jews and other ethnicities to their death an act of remembrance and respect.
Overall, the day was one that shall never be forgotten for all those who visited. The visit posed many moral questions about humanity; how such horrors were able to happen, and how this cannot be allowed to be repeated.
Hanna Alam and Georgia Khanna
The girls are planning an assembly to tell the rest of the School what they experienced and have other ideas in the pipeline to raise awareness of the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance.
For more information on The Holocaust Trust visitwww.het.org.uk