Monday 5th November 2012
I joined students from Bolton Sixth Form College on the Holocaust Educational Trust’s visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday 25th October. Along with more than 200 other post-16 students from across the North-West on the Project, this was a unique opportunity 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”. We 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. We 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.
The Lessons from Auschwitz Project visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was preceded by a seminar in the UK where participants were introduced to Jewish life in Europe before the War. Following the visit, the students attended a seminar to reflect on the visit and discuss their personal responses to it. The fourth part of the project requires all students to pass on the Lessons from Auschwitz to their schools and wider community. In this way, as many young people as possible benefit from the Lessons from Auschwitz Project.
Government funding has enabled the Trust to facilitate regional visits to Auschwitz, as part of its Lessons from Auschwitz Project for thousands of students each year.
I cannot underestimate the importance of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and recognising the full extent of the industrialised nature of the Holocaust. These events may have taken place over 60 years ago but as our society bears witness; we need to continue to teach the lessons of the Holocaust to the younger generations in order to fight bigotry and hatred today.
I look forward to seeing how the students will communicate their experience to their peers and am encouraged that many more students will have the opportunity to participate in the course in future years. I hope that this will ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten and that its lessons are truly learnt, disseminated and acted upon.