To help mark Holocaust Memorial Day (in January), and to help ensure that we do not forget about the horrors of the past, the School participates in the ‘Lessons from Auschwitz Programme’, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust. As part of this programme two students from selected schools are able to visit the site of the Auschwitz extermination camp. Izzy Lunn and Eva Buckler, both from 13Ridgeway, went on behalf of Bishop Luffa School, and will also be helping to organise events in School to mark Holocaust Memorial Day next month. Their account of their visit is below:
“A few weeks ago on the 8th November 2022, we went on a trip to visit the memorial site of Auschwitz, which was once a Nazi-operated extermination camp located in a town in Poland called ‘Oświęcim’, which was renamed by the Nazis as ‘Auschwitz’. It was a trip which we both will never forget and will remind us of the effect of prejudice and the horrors it can lead to.
“The school are involved with the charity Holocaust Educational trust which is an organisation which aims to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned today. The charity run a programme with schools called ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ where students are given the opportunity to go to Auschwitz as well as listening to a Holocaust survivor. We then use our knowledge and experiences of this journey in School, showing what we can learn from history in order that it can never be repeated. Izzy and I (Eva) put ourselves forward as candidates for the opportunity. In order to secure a place we had to propose an idea of how we were going to complete our ‘next steps’ after the visit and the seminars. Our idea will be incorporated to the remembrance week in School for Holocaust Memorial Day, where we will be working with other students in the school to not only teach them about our experience and what we have learnt, but also allowing the stories of victims of the Holocaust to be kept alive in memory.
“The trip comprised a 2am wake up scheduled for a 9am arrival in Krakow- only to be back at Gatwick at 10pm the same day. Digesting everything in one day was not the easiest to say the least. An hour’s coach journey and we had arrived in Auschwitz 1, the original Auschwitz camp. The majority of it has been preserved ever so carefully. Strangely, the brick huts barely looked lived in. I can now comprehend that this was precisely because no one was ‘living’ in them as such. They were merely surviving in them. This was reinforced to us upon entering the buildings. Each room was filled with a more heartbreaking display than the previous. From piles of shoes, to wooden legs, to two tons of human hair. However, perhaps the most shocking was a long piece of fabric with a victim’s human hair deliberately incorporated into the design. To me and Eva, this epitomises the extent of dehumanisation the perpetrators were committed to.
“After a brief reflection we were directed to our next destination, Auschwitz Birkenau. It is the largest component of Auschwitz, stretching over 425 acres of bleak landscape and place of death for 1.1 million individuals. Upon entering the gates of Birkenau along the train tracks, the morbidness was instantly increased. Unlike Auschwitz 1, much of the camp had been destroyed and only ruins of the 4 gas chambers remained. Our tour guide decided to take us on the exact route that the prisoners took on their way to their death. Perhaps this was the most impactful moment of the entire trip. During the 20 minute walk we were utterly numb, something about it did not feel right nor did it feel real. Therefore, finding the right words to describe our experience at both camps has not been an easy task, nor will it ever be. However, what we can confidently claim is that the camps feel as though they belong to some disturbed dystopia. Somewhere that one cannot seem to place into reality.
“We are grateful we have been able to take the opportunity and are now ready to advocate for those who lost their lives and those who continue to face antisemitic discrimination, by sharing our experience.”