Lessons From Auschwitz
The Sixth Form was honoured to be awarded two places on the Lessons from Auschwitz Project recently which involves an orientation seminar, a one-day visit to the former Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and a follow up seminar. More than just a visit to Poland, the course is a journey of learning and exploration – about the history of the Holocaust and about the world we live in.
As we had more students than places wanting to take up this ambassadorial role for the school, Mr Ward, History Teacher, launched an application process in January. Following this two Y13 students, Alexander Haigh and Dan Clark were successful in their application and were honoured to represent the school.
The experience has been incredibly moving and thought-provoking and their next steps are to become ambassadors for the LFA Project by completing a project of their choosing to disseminate to other students and in the community about lessons they have learned.
Report written by Dan & Alex on their experiences at Auschwitz
Having been fortunate enough to have been chosen to visit Auschwitz in conjunction with the Holocaust Educational Trust, we would now like to share our experiences with the school in general, in order to prove that historical events still have a bearing on today’s society.
At first I thought it was quite surreal, walking under the famous “arbeit macht frei” gate, which I have seen in multiple films and documentaries. The first thing that shocked me about Auschwitz I was the uniformity and the symmetry of the place, as far as the eye can see there are rows of identically sized red-brick buildings, like everything had been planned for generations. At the site, we were taken around these buildings which contained the memories of people’s lives: suitcases, glasses, pots, pans and most striking of all, a whole room filled with the shoes of the people who were kept at Auschwitz. All serve as reminders that these were real people with very real dreams just like you and me, and they were not merely just numbers quoted from a history book. A Rabbi came with us to Auschwitz, and at the end of our day near the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial he made one of the most powerful speeches I have experienced. He told us that “the Nazis fought with the sword, and the Jews merely parried with the sword and fought with the light”. This proved a symbol for me, that even though what happened was catastrophic, the light that serves as a memory of the persecution of the Jews should never go out.
I think what struck me the most about Auschwitz-Birkenau, the main extermination camp in the Auschwitz complex, was the emptiness of the place, as it has only partly been restored since the German Army demolished it in 1945 in an attempt to hide what they had done. Our guide for the day mentioned two key things which will stay with me: firstly that the camp should be described as a ‘factory of death’, in that this was a deliberately and methodically organised industrial system designed to kill vast numbers of different groups. Secondly, we must not think of the main perpetrators as ‘mad’ or ‘monsters’, as this makes it seem like they were not in control of their actions. They were, in fact, human beings like you and me, and entirely aware of what they were doing.
Alex Haigh and Dan Clark