Recently, 2 Lower Sixth Form students studying History were presented with the opportunity to be involved with the Holocaust Educational Trusts Lessons from Auschwitz 2011 Project.

A level student, Vicky Von Hoven and former Lakelands pupil, Caroline Hayes studying the International Baccalaureate, wasted no time deciding that this was an opportunity not to be missed, as they both appreciated that this was to be a chance of a lifetime. Before departing for Poland, the pair went to a seminar to help prepare them psychologically for what they were about to experience and to share their expectations with fellow students that they were going to spend the rest of the project with. This initial seminar also allowed Vicky and Caroline to hear a testimony from a Holocaust survivor, Zigi Shipper, who Vicky commented, was a truly sensational man with no drive for revenge.

Philip Wood, Head of Sixth Form and History Teacher explained, The Lessons from Auschwitz Project aims to take 2 students from every school in the UK, promoting that hearing is not like seeing. Ellesmere College sends students each year and travelling through the camps is a very emotional and disturbing experience for many of them and one which is not easily forgotten.

In  Auschwitz 1 the girls saw the exhibitions  of personal belongings seized by the Nazis including the shocking images of personalised suitcases, glasses and shoes, whereas Auschwitz-Birkenau (the infamous extermination camp) was empty. Caroline added, The old adage, We learn from history that we do not learn from history proves all too true with our trip.  At Auschwitz 1, it was what we saw that shocked us the most and at Auschwitz-Birkenau it was what we didnt see.  Vicky added, Auschwitz-Birkenau had a huge impact on both of us. Both the desolate area surrounded by trees and even houses nearby and knowing that the victims we learn of walked the same ground I did to their death is chilling but allows your perspective on life to change.

At dusk, Rabbi Barry Marcus,  who had accompanied the group of students  on the trip, gave a very moving memorial service, just yards away from gas chambers where a minimum of 1.1 million people were murdered. Vicky added, He told us that if we were to hold a minutes silence for each victim, we would have been standing in the bitter wind for three years. Darkness fell and we, along with the other 200 students left candles at the end of the railway track, trying to process what weve been witnessing all day. It makes you realise that weve been learning about the Holocaust and events and factors that led to it and you look at all these statistics and numbers. But when you come here you realise that those numbers were people, with families and lives and futures.

Vicky concluded, The whole experience has allowed us to appreciate chances that are thrown at us in life. We learnt from the trip about humanity through the inhumane, the value of freedom and also identifying that those who were involved in the Holocaust were individuals just like ourselves. With Auschwitz happening over 60 years ago, its inevitable that soon there will not be any survivors left to educate children as to what happened in years to come. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn first-hand what happened and seeing the camp for ourselves. We will be sharing our experiences with our peer students at Ellesmere College and Lakelands School when we have a visit in the near future by a Holocaust survivor. We will be sharing what we learnt from the trip and are also instigating an event next term that commemorates those individuals whose lives were stolen.

6th April 2011  Back to News