As part of the HET national initiative, every Sixth Form can send two students and one teacher to visit the concentration and death camps in Poland. This trip took place on 7th November 2017 and the purpose of the trip was to start to unravel the complex nature of anti-Semitism in Europe throughout history and how the Holocaust was not the start of such genocidal activity, but rather a culmination of centuries of maltreatment. Fundamentally, it was to remember the victims and to retell their personal stories – to see the personal nature of the Holocaust, rather than focussing on the shocking statistics. It is only when we can put names and faces to this tragedy that we can begin to humanise it.
We spent a significant amount of time in both Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz 2. In Auschwitz 1, we visited a very emotional exhibition, which exposed the mass scale of the genocide, which took place through personal items discovered once the camp was liberated in 1945. In addition, we had a very knowledgably tour guide and educator from the HET who provided critical information about context and conditions of the camp. At Auschwitz 2, where the mass exterminations took place in the four crematoria, we received another expert guided tour and attended a memorial led by Rabbi Garson.
Throughout the visit, and during the pre-requisite seminar, an emphasis was given to the intellectual and emotional complexity of the Holocaust – a series of questions were asked: How should we remember those who were persecuted? Why did this happen? What was the starting point of the Holocaust and has it truly ended?
The experience both the students and teacher shared will last a lifetime and we will now begin our roles as ambassadors and begin to educate others about what happened to prevent further genocides, and to remember those who perished.