STUDENTS from Long Sutton took a three-day voyage of discovery when they visited the scene of Nazi Germany’s most notorious crimes in Poland.
The Peele Community College humanities department took 23 GCSE history students on the trip which involved an extensive study of Krakow’s Jewish Quarter and Ghetto, the setting of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, and guided tours of the concentration and death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
History teacher Mark Twigge said: “It was a highly emotional experience that the students felt would stay with them for life.”
“For many the privilege of meeting 84-year-old Holocaust survivor, Pan Joseph, was the highlight.”
At 16 Joseph was involved in the Warsaw Uprising and was sent to Mauthausen concentration camp as punishment.
Starved, tortured, severely beaten and with his family all murdered, Joseph was only days away from death when American soldiers liberated the camp on May 5, 1945.
Student Miles Parsons said it had changed his views on his life, making him grateful for what he has while Emma Ketteringham said seeing what he went through made her life seem so much better.
Mr Twigge added: “Auschwitz-Birkenau evoked even more personal thoughts.
“Here were the rooms full of shoes and luggage left by those executed in cold blood, the cells where people starved to death, and the roll call yard with its gallows.
“Here were the tracks that saw the arrival of millions and the gas chambers where people were chillingly put to death.
“The students were deep in thought – there is little to say when faced with the unthinkable and all felt the weight of history on their shoulders.”
Year 11 student Chloe Chadwick said: “It feels like we are trespassing, but I also feel that it is everyone’s duty to come here and see what happened.”
Mr Twigge, himself a witness of genocide when he served as a soldier in Bosnia, said he thought this was the most difficult day of his life putting the scenes of 1995 into perspective.
Returning from the trip the students have made full use of their Facebook accounts.
For many of them the act of uploading their photos and being able to share their feelings with their friends has helped in coming to terms with the unspeakable horror of history.
They make a strong case that everyone should visit Auschwitz and understand what man is capable of.
Mr Twigge added: “The Peele Community College is immensely proud of the students that took part in this trip – both for their mature understanding and for their desire to face this type of learning.”