Bingley Grammar School

Lessons from Auschwitz 2016

In May 2016 two of our Year 12 Religious Studies students, Cara Dickerson and Megan Halford, were awarded places on the national Lessons from Auschwitz project facilitated by the Holocaust Education Trust. Here is their report:

At the beginning of May, we (Megan Halford and Cara Dickerson) attended a seminar in Leeds for the Holocaust Education Trust. This seminar gave us an insight into the horrific events that took place during the Holocaust. We met a Holocaust survivor, Zigi Shipper. He’s 86 years old and still able to tell his story. He survived Auschwitz-Birkenau and has gone on to create his own family and share his message that we should never forget what happened during the war to over 11 million people.

We then went on a day trip to Poland a week later which gave us the opportunity to visit Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau which was a sobering experience. The myth that there is no longer any life there is very wrong, it was a warm day and the birds were singing, although there was a very sombre atmosphere. It was very uncomfortable seeing a room filled with thousands of shoes of victims as well as in another room where there was two tons of human hair. It really made you step back and look at these victims as not just a number but as individuals with lives before the Holocaust.

A short bus ride took us to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the more ‘famous’ death camp which looked like it stretched on for miles. The atmosphere here was very different as Birkenau has not been changed to look more like a museum:  It’s raw. The remains of hundreds of barracks and the reconstruction of the cattle cart, demonstrated how little space the prisoners had. A cattle cart made to hold 4 horses was used to carry up to 100 people all crammed in, unable to sit-down.

Originally people who were sent to Auschwitz were prisoners of war, political prisoners, Roma and Sinti and Jews. Prisoners who were not immediately sent to die were registered by being tattooed and photographed. In Auschwitz I they have hundreds of photos of some of the prisoners in parts of the museum looking lost and hopeless.  

We also learnt that around 1.2 million people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau and overall 3 million Polish Jews were murdered during the war.

Our trip was a very sombre yet interesting one, it was eye opening but upsetting. When you hear all the facts it’s easy to forget that the 1.2 million estimated to of died there were all individuals with lives, families, hopes and dreams like all of us. We must try remember this and use that to try stop this from happening again, especially when everyone promotes the message of ‘lest we forget’ and ‘never again’ when other horrific events of mass murder take place in parts of the world. So the most important thing we learnt and remembered was to remind ourselves that everyone is an individual with emotions that matter and we should try understand this and accept others: “It is not our differences that divide us, it is out inability to recognise, accept and celebrate those differences”- Audre Lorde

By Cara Dickerson and Megan Halford


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The railway leading to Auschwitz

Photographs of the victims

Entering Auschwitz

A room full of victims shoes

A railway carriage used to transport victims