L6 History Trip – Lessons from Auschwitz
5 am found Eleanor Johnson and Abi Thomas, the St John’s College Cardiff Lessons from Auschwitz ambassadors, queuing at the departures desk in Cardiff airport. Four hours later we were standing in the centre of the market square in Oswiecim. We expected the temperature to be fifteen degrees colder and that there would be snow at this time of year but the bright colour of the grass could be easily be made out beneath the bright cobalt sky. It was in every way, the antithesis of what it should have been. In 1940 60% of Oswiecim’s population was Jewish; by 1941 90% of these were dead – murdered by the Nazis. These chilling statistics were the beginning of our visit to Auschwitz I, the concentration camp, and Auschwitz II – Birkenau, the extermination camp.
The weather was surprisingly good. We were guided by representatives of the Holocaust Trust who encouraged us to think of the victims of the Holocaust as individuals, members of thriving communities rather than as faceless millions who met their deaths in unimaginable horror. Amongst their possessions we were particularly struck by the collection of shoes – workers hobnailed boots, a child’s first shoes, red holiday sandals, patent pumps made for dancing – such personal items which left a trace of their owner’s personality upon them. The magnitude of the systematic terror brought upon so many people robbed us of our emotions and left us feeling numb unable to comprehend such inhumanity. We ended our visit in the shower room of Birkenau where Rabbi Marcus of the London Synagogue led us in a memorial service.
Our visit to Auschwitz was harder than we imagined, something which we will never forget. We felt it had changed our perspective of the world and made us more aware of the fragility of life.
Eleanor wrote: ‘The lessons from Auschwitz project has provided me with a unique and invaluable experience and through both the LFA’s pre-visit seminars and the visit to Auschwitz itself, I have been able to better understand the vital importance of remembering the incomprehensible acts of genocide which have occurred instead of simply consigning them to history. Visiting the concentration camps and standing on a site of genocide has had a profound impact on the way in which I view these historical events, enabling me to focus on the re-humanisation of the victims here – a key focus of the LFA project.’
Mrs Bryan Jones
26 February 2017
Sixth Form News