“Most people have heard of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Polish death camp responsible for around 1.5 million deaths of Jews and other races the Nazi Regime deemed inferior during World War II. On the 5th March we were part of the Holocaust Education Trust day visit to Auschwitz. This is a foundation which takes 6th Form students to Krakow, Poland in order to promote tolerance in the hopes that such a horrific event will never be repeated.

Upon arrival in the camp, our guide David took us through the camps first instalment where most of the Officers were based and the Head of the camp lived with his wife and children. The gate entering the camp reads ‘arbeit macht frei’, meaning ‘work will set you free’. The first group of prisoners to enter the camp, Polish political prisoners, believed that if they laboured hard enough they would be freed and were unaware of their actual fate. We were also taken into the gas chamber which is still standing in the camp where visitors are asked not to take photos or talk when passing through out of respect for those who died.

The second part of the visit was to the camp’s second instalment, known as ‘Auschwitz II’ where prisoners were housed in small wooden huts built in large quantities and the Germans had planned to build even more before the end of the war. Inside these huts were rows of triple bunk beds which prisoners struggled to get into through lack of nourishment. The prisoners were granted no blankets and although there was a burner, they were not given any coal for it. Vast amounts of prisoners died through hyperthermia because of the harsh polish winters. Running down the middle of the camp is a long train track, installed in 1944, in the hopes of raising efficiency of the execution of 400,000 Hungarian Jews as part of Himmler’s final solution. Prisoners would be sifted through during a separation process in which German Officers would decide whether prisoners would be sent to work or be executed.

The experience was extremely powerful, the buildings and belongings of the deceased puts the effect of the holocaust into perspective. It is an experience I will always hold with me.”

Charlie Jones Y12

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