John joined students from Southampton City College in St Mary’s and Hope Lodge School in Midanbury to learn about what happened at Auschwitz-Birkenau, to pay respect to those who lost their lives, and to explore the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today. The students will now use the experience to commemorate and educate others about the Holocaust at their schools and in their local communities.
Now in its thirteenth year, the Project is based on the premise that “hearing is not like seeing”. Students first visited Osweicim, the town where the Auschwitz death and concentration camps were located and where before the war, 58% of the population was Jewish. Students then visited Auschwitz I to see the former camp’s barracks and crematoria and witnessing the piles of belongings that were seized by the Nazis. Finally they spent time at the main killing centre of Birkenau where the day concluded with candle lighting and a period of reflection to remember the 6 million Jews, and the Roma, Sinti, gay, disabled, black people, and other victims of the Nazis killed in the Holocaust.
John said after the visit:
“The full impact of a visit to Auschwitz only grows after the days that follow. To stand at the top of the steps to the gas chambers where a million people died was both chilling and moving. But the significance which dawns is that this happened in a society which, until the 1930s was not so very different to our own; it relied on the participation or passive tolerance of hundreds of thousands of people; and resulted from the willingness to leave racism and prejudice unchallenged. Above all it was a tragedy of the Jewish people. But also many who died were trade union members, ordinary people who stood up against fascism, political activists who simply believed in democracy, patriotic soldiers, homosexuals and travellers.”