At the start of November we embarked on a trip to Auschwitz, Poland. The project was funded by a government grant given to the Holocaust Educational Trust, to run the Lessons From Auschwitz Project.
In the first seminar, we were fortunate to be able to hear a survivor’s testimony, but in a few years people will not be able to hear their stories. This is why it is so important to inform people of the Holocaust, which is one of the reasons we both wanted to go.
The testimony we heard was by Eva Clarke, who spoke of her mother’s journey from Terezin, where Eva was conceived, to Auschwitz and then on to Mauthausen, on a cattle truck. On her way to Mauthausen, she gave birth to Eva just days before liberation.
It was an emotional speech and we both felt that we needed to bring this back with us and to share it with others.
On November 7, we flew to Krakow. Our first stop was Oswiecim, the small town where Auschwitz is situated. Here we stopped off at the site of the great synagogue.
It was then time to visit Auschwitz One. This was the smaller camp and consisted mostly of bunkers. We walked around and saw the inside of some othe bunkers, which housed museum artefacts of hair, shoes, suitcases, children’s toys and more. Thiswas a disturbing image of what the Nazis had done to the victims of the Holocaust. We also saw the memorial wall at which many prisoners were shot. After this first camp we then went to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
This camp was bigger, and blown-up bunkers, gas chambers and toilets were just some of the remains.
Reconstructions of a cattle cart and a bunker hit home in terms of what the conditions would’ve been like.
The railway tracks acted as a prominent reminder of what the prisoners had suffered. It was a tiring and saddening experience. You go there expecting that you will react in a certain way and then find yourself reacting in a totally different way. Everyone is affected in a different way, because everyone gets involved in projects like Lessons from Auschwitz for slightly different reasons.
You can describe Auschwitz to the best of your ability and talk to others of what happened there, but it is much more difficult to be able to describe your own reaction to an experience as shocking as it was.
We are definitely going to go on to educate pupils at our school on how important it is to recognise the acts that lead to the Holocaust and that the millions who lost their lives there were no different to us.
We are currently planning our next steps that involve coming up with ways to educate others in what happened during the Holocaust, which we are doing this with help from the Holocaust EducationTrust.
Aysha Hedley and Jessica Pringle, Year 13