A group of Year 10 students from The Peele Community College in Long Sutton have returned from an informative yet harrowing visit to Krakow in Poland.
For their GCSE History course they study Nazi Germany and this was a chance for them to fully comprehend the horrors of the Final Solution.
The students had learnt how, during the Second World War, for the sake of their “new order”, the Nazis sought to destroy all the Jews of Europe.
For the first time in history, industrial methods were used for the mass extermination of a whole people. Six million were murdered, including 1,500,000 children, in an event called the Holocaust.
The Nazis enslaved and murdered millions of others as well. Gypsies, people with disabilities, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, trade unionists, political opponents, homosexuals and others were killed.
The students had the opportunity to visit the largest German Nazi camp in occupied Poland – Auschwitz. Here they learned about the organisation and control that the Nazis introduced into their hatred of particular groups, especially the Jews.
In the labour camp of Auschwitz One they walked through the original gas chamber and crematoria, as well as viewing the death wall where those opposing the Nazis were shot.
A mile away is Birkenau – where four gas chambers are situated alongside many remaining huts which housed men, women and children.
For many, this prison stay was brief; some (especially the very young or elderly) went to their deaths within 20 minutes of arriving by train. Others remained to be worked to their deaths.
The visit was especially poignant as on the Tuesday morning, students had met a Holocaust survivor.
She gave the most vivid testimony of her time as a small child at Birkenau, including being sent for medical experiments by the dreaded Doctor Mengele.
Later on in the day, students visited the newly-opened Schindler Factory Museum. This exhibition includes much evidence of what life was like for both the Polish and Jewish population of Krakow during World War Two.
As part of their reflective process the students were asked to write a journal. Here are some of their thoughts:
“The thing which affected me most was when we stood and admired the memorial as it touched me how so many countries had cared to remember the victims of the Holocaust.”
– Georgie Massen
“Describing my feelings is really hard as I didn’t know how to deal with them. Seeing every-thing and remembering the story of the Holocaust survivor made it really sink in for me.”
– Megan Gittins
“I felt that I was shown the extremity of how violent and cruel the Holocaust was, even to those who were so young… what affected me most about Auschwitz was the scale – I never expected it to be so large.” – Shannon Oldfield