I n April 2013, I was luckyenough to be chosen to attend a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in the Lessons from Auschwitz Project –which included a trip to Poland.
During the visit, we were to visit one of the pre-war Jewish sites in the town of Oświęcim.
My group was taken to the Auschwitz Jewish Centre and the site of the Great Synagogue – demolished by the Nazis.
There was only one remaining synagogue in Oświęcim which was saved only because the Nazis needed to store some carpets.
Just one Jewish man ever returned to the town of Oświęcim, as many had died during the Holocaust and the rest could not face returning to a place that was once a hive of Jewish activity. Afterwards, we visited Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
It was snowing and we couldn’t help but feel guilty because whilst we were all in our thermals keeping warm, the prisoners of the camp would have been dying.
The main thing that occurred to me was the mental and physical strength of not only the survivors, but all who had to endure the horrendous conditions at the camps.
In any survivor story you hear or read, there is an overwhelming show of strength, even in the face of such inhumane atrocities.
One survivor story I’d recommend is the story of Zigi Shipper who lost nearly all of his family during the holocaust and miraculously beat many illnesses that could have easily killed him.
His attitude to life now is simply remarkable and the humour he uses in explaining his story is unbelievable.
The visit to Poland was the most haunting experience I have ever had, but with thanks to the seminars everybody was able to reflect upon their day and use it to go on to help others.
I am so very thankful for this opportunity as it allowed me to begin to understand the atrocities people had to face.
I have also been able to expand my knowledge of the Holocaust and intend on using it to educate others.
The project was extremely worthwhile and rewarding and I am pleased to have participated.
About one and a half million men, women and children perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau and due to the mass amount of deaths it’s difficult to even begin to comprehend the trauma that people must have gone through during their time there.
It is important to remember that every single person who was victim of the holocaust had lives and feelings no different to yours and mine, every single person had the possibility of a future no different to yours and mine, all but a few of these people had their lives, dreams, goals and futures taken away from them.
By Laura Bladon
Tupton Hall Sixth Form student