Yesterday, Ruth Cadbury MP and around 200 students from schools and colleges across south London have visited the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project.
Now in its seventeenth year, the Government funded project is based on the premise that “hearing is not like seeing”. On the visit, they first visited Oświęcim, the town where the Nazi concentration and death camp was located and where, before the war, 58% of the population was Jewish. Students then visited Auschwitz I to see the former camp’s barracks and crematoria and witnessed the piles of belongings that were seized by the Nazis. Finally they spent time at the main killing centre of Birkenau where the day concluded with candle lighting and a period of reflection to remember the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the other victims of Nazi persecution.
The visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau 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. Following the visit, the students will attend a seminar to reflect on the visit and discuss their personal responses to it. The fourth part of the project requires all students to pass on what they have learned in their schools and wider community, becoming Ambassadors for the Holocaust Educational Trust. They are supported by the Trust’s Ambassador Programme. In this way, as many people as possible benefit from the Lessons from Auschwitz Project.
Ruth Cadbury MP said:
“It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of a project that in one town, over 4 years, around 1.3m men, women and children, 90% of whom were Jewish, were systematically executed.
Seeing the camps at Auschwitz and neighbouring Birkenau hits home the human side of this state organised genocide. We saw the shoes, the children's clothes and suitcases that families brought with them thinking they were to start a new life. Instead, all but the healthiest men were sent straight to the gas chambers within hours of arriving on trains that had travelled from the four corners of Europe.
The visit not only reminded us all of the horror of the Nazis "final solution" but also reinforced our commitment to do what we can to ensure such genocide can never happen again.”
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said:
“We are delighted that Ruth joined us on the visit with students from her constituency. The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project is such a vital part of our work because it allows young people to learn about the Holocaust in a way they cannot in the classroom. The Holocaust was a defining episode in history, and this visit enables young people to see for themselves where racism, prejudice and antisemitism can ultimately lead.”