Auschwitz 2023

Six post 16 students who study either Philosophy, Ethics and Religion or History were chosen to take part this term in the Understanding Auschwitz program, run by the Holocaust Education Trust. They took part in 2 webinars, heard from a Holocaust survivor and visited Auschwitz itself. Over the coming months they will be sharing their learning with students, staff and governors. For now, here are their initial reflections. 

“My time visiting Auschwitz Birkenau was both memorable and overwhelming. The sheer scale of the atrocities at that camp alone didn’t even begin to convey the true horrors of the Holocaust but the trip helped me to recognise that the people who died were humans and had lives before these tragic events. The trip, whilst only touching the huge scale of the tragedies that occurred, helped me to understand that on a much smaller scale, it wasn’t just one big number of people that died, but it was every innocent individual who suffered and that is a message that I will remember for the rest of my life.”  Matthew Taylor

“Following the trip in Poland, I had many things to reflect upon. I was surprised that I was not as obviously sad as I had imagined leading up to the trip, no tears. However, after some reflection, I realised the deeper impact it had on me. Even after seeing it with my own eyes, I still cannot completely comprehend the scale of the atrocities which took place. It is easy to fall in to seeing these people as a statistic, the horrific feeling of dread arises once you acknowledge that these were all individuals with dreams and aspirations and lives like any of us. Therefore, it is crucial that we remember not only the tragedy which took place, but the names and the stories of the individuals who were persecuted, not just in camps, but those who also suffered from any form of discrimination. We had the privilege of speaking to a Rabbi who told us that now, it is our duty, to live our lives to the full extent we can, to take hold of any opportunity we can, for those who weren’t able too; we do this as we remember and ensure this never happens again.”   Wiktoria Krol

“Going to Auschwitz was a really difficult experience, but at the same time I feel like it was very important. It helped me to realise the sheer scale of the horrors that took place, but also humanise and personalise the statistics. Seeing the piles of small shoes, suitcases and even children’s drawings made me realise that these were real, normal people, who were put through such horrific things. The moment that will stick with me most will be the end of the day, when everybody sat in front of the Rabbi as he spoke to us all. He described how that night we were going to walk out of the camp, the walk that so many never got to take, and how we now have the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest, spreading love and joy and happiness. ” Megan Woollias

“Ever since coming back from Auschwitz-Birkenau, I have been unable to fully answer and give a just description of my time there. It truly has been an experience I am unable to convey to others unless they too have been and will therefore understand the inner turmoil of emotions that comes with it; suddenly all of the statistics and nameless victims were humanised to me and I was able to commemorate them so rightfully. In my case, as I know everyone’s reactions will have been different, it has been the little things I found most effective: my journey home and sliding my house keys into my home reminding me of the set of house keys left at the camp, getting into a safe, warm bed, the walk back from millions’ final resting place, and living a life of freedom – all of which the victims of such a heinous period of history were unable to. I do ardently encourage anyone and everyone to take some time to visit such an important place as not only have I gained a deeper, more gratuitous, perspective on life, but I am now able to spread and share the horrors that humanity is capable of to each other in order to better our future.”  Mollie Pattison

“Travelling to one of the sites at which the atrocities that comprise the Holocaust took place was truly eye-opening. Standing in that place brought home the vastness of just Auschwitz-Birkenau and brought a clarity to the scale of the Holocaust that cannot be expressed through facts and figures alone. Seeing piles and piles of shoes and belongings in front of me, and knowing they only represent a tiny fraction of the victims, was incredibly sobering and brought with it a wave of sadness that cannot be truly expressed through words. Seeing the Book of Names, a huge book that contains the names of all those we know were killed during the Holocaust, and being told there were still empty pages for anyone whose names we do not know showed us the scale of everything but also brought home the fact that these were just people, with families and lives. This visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau has been truly life changing and I hope to be able to share some fraction of my experience with the people around me.” Sam Gates

“My experience at Auschwitz-Birkenau has forever changed my perception on life and how we should be living. At the end of our trip, Rabbi Epstein used a set of keys someone had brought to the camp to personalise the individuals who suffered and were murdered by Nazis. He remined me that the unimaginable figure of 6 million Jewish deaths during the Holocaust was made up of real people just like you and I now feel connected to those who lost their lives by doing simple things like locking the door as I leave my house and are forever reminded of the consequences of hate and mistreatment of ordinary people.”  Charlotte Seymour

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana)

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