Lessons from Auschwitz PDF Print E-mail
Written by Caitlin Armstrong and Ella Briggs   
Friday, 25 January 2013 09:59

The “Lessons from Auschwitz” project, open to students across the country is a journey of learning and exploration about the history of the Holocaust, about the world we live in, and about yourself. Possibly the most enduring memory which we gained from this was the chance to meet a Holocaust survivor , Ziggy Shipper, a truly inspirational man who has never lost his faith and works today to spread his incredible and heart- warming story, his message that you should never give up, “because I didn’t.”


On the 25th of October we flew to Kracków to visit several historic sites, allowing us to reflect on the atrocities which took place and to learn about some of the stories which were left behind. Firstly, we visited the Polish town of Oświęcim, more famously known by the name given to it by Nazi troops, “Auschwitz”. Here we visited the only remaining Jewish cemetery, closed to the public in 2007 due to anti-Semitic vandalism. The overwhelming feeling was one of neglect, the bleakness of the autumn leaves and the eerie atmosphere making the chill in the Polish air feel twice as prominent. Auschwitz

From here, we travelled onto Auschwitz I, differing vastly from our expectations we were faced with an almost industrial style factory, outlined by the iron gates crowned with the infamous motto, “Arbeit Macht Frei”, work makes you free. The sheer scale of the atrocity was further emphasised by the shoes, 40,000 pairs, each one a life, merely a fraction of those who died, but also their hair, their suitcases, pot and pans. As night was beginning to descend, we moved on the Birkenau, Auschwitz II, to be confronted with the notorious train tracks, watch tours and field shelters each used to house thousands of prisoners previously designed to hold 50 horses. The gas chambers, many destroyed by the Nazis when they heard of the Russian army’s approach, were cleverly hidden to the back of the camp, “out of sight, out of mind”, now appropriately positioned within sight of the memorial, a promise of remembrance.

auschwitz2Our day ended with a memorial service, conducted by Rabbi Barry Marcus. The temperature had plummeted and we wrapped up in scarves, hats and gloves were suddenly faced with a realisation of how much colder it would have been for the innocent victims clothed merely in lice-ridden, pale blue pyjamas, as we only visited in October, imagine minus twenty degrees with snow and ice. Rabbi Marcus reminded us of how the Jewish community are yet again beginning to feel threatened, intimidated and outnumbered as they had done back in the 1940s. We each then lit a candle, remembering those who died, the suffering and also pledging that we, as ambassadors for the Holocaust Educational Trust, would spread their message, “don’t hate for eventually it will ruin your life.”  

This Holocaust Memorial Day, please spare a minute to remember the victims of genocide across the world, after all, if we were to take a minute to remember each of the Jews who died in the Holocaust, we would be silent for three years. Remembering these events is one of the most powerful weapons to prevent genocide in the future, as is written on the wall at Auschwitz I “the one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”

Last Updated on Friday, 25 January 2013 10:14

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