Lessons from Auschwitz 2017

Last month, two Year 12 students, Lydia and Florence took part in a day trip to the former Nazi extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, close to the town of Oświęcim in Poland which was organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Once we had arrived in Poland, following a very early start, we visited the town of Oświęcim. As a consequence of the Holocaust, the population of this town was reduced from 12,000 in 1939 to 5,000 in 1945. This statistic, in conjunction with the town's sombre and almost haunting atmosphere, allowed us to begin to comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust's impact. Having established a greater contextual understanding of the Holocaust and pre-war Jewish life, we moved on to the Auschwitz memorial and museum. What struck me the most was the newest exhibition, in which drawings by children who had been imprisoned in the camp were exhibited. This was particularly moving, and served to re-humanise the Holocaust, in a way the figures alone cannot. Following this we visited the second part of the Auschwitz facility, 'Birkenau', which was, for me, the most thought-provoking part of the day. This camp was much larger than Auschwitz 1 and so the enormity and mechanical nature of the Holocaust was reinforced. The day came to a close with a memorial ceremony, which allowed us to reflect upon the unimaginable horrors of 75 years ago. Despite the day being both moving and shocking, it allowed me to gain a much greater understanding of the Holocaust, in a way you cannot fully comprehend through just reading about it.

Lydia, Year 12