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What every schoolgirl should know about Auschwitz – video

This is my daughter Sophie-Anne’s account of her trip to Auschwitz as part of the Lessons from Auschwitz project. The visit was arranged by the Holocaust Educational Trust who work to educate young people about the Holocaust so they can see for themselves  the terrible consequences of  prejudice and racial hatred and bring these lessons back to their schools and communities.

Candle of Remembrance at Auschwitz Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Candle of Remembrance at Auschwitz

We woke up early around 4am and headed, partly awake, to the airport. The Lessons from Auschwitz project were out in force and we soon knew where we were supposed to check in by the huge amount of sleepy teenagers milling around. After a two hour flight, where breakfast was thankfully provided, we arrived in Poland.

Please see below the video with my daughter’s personal account of her visit to Auschwitz

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The first place in Poland where we were scheduled to stop was the town of Oświęcim where we were taken to an empty site which was merely a piece of land at first sight. Our clue was the street sign that translated as “Street of the Jews”. Street of the Jews, and yet there was nothing here. We soon learned that under our feet were the ruins of a once great synagogue that had been at the hub of a previously thriving and prominent community within the small town. This small town would shortly become known to the world in the German translation “Auschwitz”. After a brief trip to the Jewish centre in the town and an introduction to the Jewish faith by Rabbi Marcus we left for Auschwitz Camp.

Site of the Synagogue at Oświęcim Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Site of the Synagogue at Oświęcim

On arrival I was surprised to see vending machines and crowds in a place of trauma and genocide. Nevertheless we entered and saw the famous sign “Work Makes You Free” looming above our heads. Everywhere around us was wire, watch towers and poles where public hangings had happened. One cannot imagine the fear of a prisoner stood in the same place where I was standing, their vision being a haunting reality. To be robbed of your rights, culture, family, name and humanity one after another and then be greeted with such a vision as Auschwitz Barracks is hard to conceive.

Work makes you free - entrance to Auschwitz Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Work makes you free – entrance to Auschwitz

The exhibition showed us rare pictures from the camp as it once was and the warning greeting us read ” The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again”. The exhibitions were extensive and we were shown a particularly personal exhibition; a collection of the prisoners belongings. The collection included a mass of human hair that had been shaved off deceased victims, all with the goal to make a more efficient camp.

There were also thousands of shoes but most moving was the display of suitcases. All had a name and date of birth written on them. It was very eerie that I was able to read their names with ease like you might read names on a register and yet they had no life in them. It was really disturbing to understand that these items were preserved and the prisoners were not. A suitcase was worth more to the persecutors than a human life.

Suitcases at Auschwitz Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Suitcases at Auschwitz

We visited some barracks, such as the Torture Block 11 which was particularly unpleasant. I became increasingly resentful to the persecutors who may have been mislead but still ignorant of their actions. How the scream of a Jewish child be told apart from an Aryan child is something I cannot understand. I was angry for humanity at this point of the trip for it appeared to me so misguided and wrong.

Bikenau - view from the watch tower Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bikenau – view from the watch tower

The second site of the museum was Auschwitz 2 or Birkenau, some short distance away. When we arrived, the atmosphere was similar to Auschwitz but more imposing. There was barbed wire as far as the eye could see. We climbed the watch tower where the scale of the camp was immense. Many survivors have spoken of how they could never fully get a feel for the scale of Birkenau. We visited some barracks and compared to Auschwitz 1 the structure was awful, originally being designed as stables.They would accommodate 700-1000 prisoners that would sleep ten on one bunk without any heating in temperatures that could reach -20 degrees C.

Bunks in Auschwitz Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bunks in Auschwitz

We then walked along the iconic railway which was the road of no return. We saw exactly where the selections took place, where a man with lower morality than those being judged would decide with the flick of the wrist whether someone would live or die. In Birkenau, there are only ruins of the gas chambers because the guards had attempted in vain to shield the truth from the outside world. The rubble I saw and its purpose is extremely difficult to comprehend, partly because it is so unbelievable and tragic.

Road of no return - Auschwitz Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Road of no return – Auschwitz

We must learn from this tragedy then, about prejudices and their dangers. I cannot stress enough the importance of educating people so that they understand how important it is to live in harmony and also to remember all the victims who were not granted the life they deserved. Projects and experiences like the Lessons from Auschwitz are truly worthwhile and allow perspective within one’s life.

I feel that I have learned more in one day than I would reading text book for a year.

For more information about the Lessons from Auschwitz Project and the Holocaust Educational trust visit their website.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    What every schoolgirl should know about Auschwitz – video_Go Time Travel Blog | Go Time Travel Blog
    April 3, 2012 at 3:42 am

    […] If you can’t see the video above abo… […]

  • Reply
    Trish
    April 3, 2012 at 7:34 am

    ‘A suitcase was worth more to the persecutors than a human life’
    This is such a moving account, written extremely well.
    I remember seeing the Holocaust memorial in Berlin and feeling very moved being there: seeing Auschwitz must be an unforgettable experience.
    Trish´s last blog post ..The day Alan Shearer proved to be a thoroughly good egg.

    • Reply
      Heather
      April 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      @Trish – Thanks I think my daughter was really moved by it and part of the purpose of the trip was to be able to come back and share the lessons she learned.

  • Reply
    Blue Trips
    April 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I visited Krakow and the salt mines of Wielicka but couldn’t bring myself to visit Auschwitz, despite its historical significance. I went on a hoiday trip to have fun, so didn’t want to face a tragic past.
    Well, I suppose here it was an educational visit…

    • Reply
      Heather
      April 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      @Bluetrips – Although I think it’s incredibly important to see places like Auschwitz and understand the past through them I do agree that it’s not really a think to do for fun.

  • Reply
    Aushcwitz camos | Bestoptionsnew
    April 3, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    […] Visiting Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland | Heather on her … […]

  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    April 5, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    I am so pleased to learn about the Holocaust Educational Trust. The work they do is so important, and the fact that they are concentrating on younger folks who may not have learned much about WWII in school, is fantastic. My niece, who is 28, told me that her high school history book had a page and a half about the war – how shameful is that? Without programs like this, we are destined to repeat the same mistakes. Kudos for your daughter for participating. I can tell from her writing that it made a really strong impact on her.
    Barbara Weibel´s last blog post ..PHOTO: Dozens of Inca Ruins Dot the Hillside Above Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of Peru

    • Reply
      Heather
      April 5, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      @Barbara Yes, not exactly a fun trip but an amazing experience all the same and I think they are so right to educate the young who have no direct experience of war

  • Reply
    Mindy
    April 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    I’m extremely moved by this video. I came across it doing some research on Europe. I live in San Diego, California and am not aware of any such education in our school systems. Such a shame. I would love to see the kids be able to experience this. There is a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and a Holocaust Museum in Washington DC but most of the schools here do not push Holocaust education (short of the little bit they learn in their school textbooks). I would love to see your daughter’s video go viral. Excellent job and thank you from California!! I have posted the link on my Facebook wall.

    • Reply
      Heather
      April 13, 2012 at 4:26 am

      @Mindy Thanks so much for your encouraging comments – Auschwitz is not a fun trip but a very worthwhile one for teenagers like my daughter to see first hand

  • Reply
    Emily
    April 16, 2012 at 2:02 am

    Wow…very powerful stuff. I was raised Jewish, and half of my heritage is Polish, so I really want to go there and see Auschwitz with my own eyes. I’ve been to many of the Holocaust museums and seen the exhibits, and that’s been hard enough, so I am terrified at that I will have a total breakdown at the actual camps. But regardless of culture or background or age, this horrible part of history is something we all need to remember forever. I’m glad to see young people learning about it, especially on the actual grounds where it took place. I’m sure it wasn’t fun for them, but it sounds like it was very enlightening.

    • Reply
      Heather
      April 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      @Emily Thanks so much, your comments are encouraging, my daughter found it a very moving experience even thought it left a chill up her spine as she says in the video

  • Reply
    Where Heather travelled in 2012 - a year in photos | Heather on her travels
    December 29, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    […] My daughter, Sophie-Anne wrote about her moving visit to Auschwitz with the Lessons from Auschwitz educational programme, designed to ensure that young people understand what happened and don’t let history repeat itself in the future. Read Sophie-Anne’s article on What every schoolgirl should know about Auschwitz – video […]

  • Reply
    Robert Etison
    June 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Amazing experience all the same and I think they are so right to educate the young About the History.

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