Young people from around Derbyshire travelled to Poland on Tuesday (March 2) to visit the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz project.
Youngsters from Alderwasley Hall School, Anthony Gell School, both near Wirksworth, Chesterfield’s Brookfield Community School, Chesterfield College, Tupton Hall School, Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, the Ripley Academy and the Ecclesbourne School, in Duffied, Belper all took part in the 17th annual programme.
It is based on the premise that “hearing is not like seeing”, and encourages young people to go to the camp, close to the Polish city of Krakow, to experience the trauma of the camps for themselves.
On the visit, students first visited the town of Oswiecim - the town that was remaned Auschwitz by the Third Reich - where the camps were located and, before the war, had a population which was 58 per cent Jewish.
Today, not a single Jewish person lives in the town, which is home to a major pre-war Jewish cemetery.
Students then visited Auschwitz I to see the former camp’s barracks and crematoria and witnessed the piles of belongings seized by the Nazis.
Finally, they spent time at the main killing centre of Birkenau, where the day concluded with a candle-lit ceremony close to the camp’s destroyed gas chambers, and a period of reflection to remember the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the other victims of Nazi persecution.
Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “The lessons from Auschwitz project is a vital part of our work, allowing young people to learn about the Holocaust in a way that they can’t in the classroom.
“The visit enables young people to see for themselves where racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism can ultimately lead, and its importance is demonstrated by the inspiring work students go on to do in their local communities.
The visit was preceded by a seminar in the UK where participants were introduced to Jewish life in Europe before the Second World War and heard the testimony of a holocaust survivor.
Speaking on the way to the camps, Anthony Gell student Eleanor Sparks said: “I want to understand the Holocaust better. I don’t know what to expect at all - it’s going to be fascinating but horrific.”
Henry Fanshawe student Evie Walters said: “Sometimes you can’t understand something by just hearing about it, you need to see it with your own eyes. I know it’s going to be a real eye-opener for me.”
Ecclesbourne pupil Brogan Piggott said: “I’m quite worried because I really don’t know what to expect, but I know it will make me understand what humanity can be capable of.”
Tupton Hall student Jake Myhill said: “It will be fascinating to see how I react when I see the camps. When people talk about the Holocaust and the people who died, it’s just a number really. I hope to be able to understand the reality of it by being here.”
Ben Bradley, from Ripley Academy, added: “You hear about this in school or you read about it in books, but you can’t identify with it in the same way as you can if you see it with your own eyes. People are still making the same mistakes today.”
The students will now become ambassadors for the Holocaust Educational Trust, and will share their experiences with their schools and wider communities.
Pictured: Ecclesbourne students Kizzy Austick and Brogan Piggott with other Derbyshire students on the visit - (c) The Holocaust Educational Trust.