Here at SRC Bede Sixth Form we aim to give our students as many extra-curricular opportunities as possible. Two of our students, Tegan and Thomas, took part in the Lessons from Auschwitz Project, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust. Since 1999, over 37,000 students and teachers have taken part in the project, and just two students from each of the selected post-16 education organisations are able to attend each year.
As well as the visit to Poland, the trip includes seminars where participants examine pre-war Jewish life, hear first-hand testimony from a Holocaust survivor and consider the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust, amongst other topics.
Tegan, who studies Art & Design, Media Studies and Classical Civilisation here at SRC Bede, wrote up her reflection on the visit…
“Statistics, something that many are taught from a young age, are viewed as one of the most important things when documenting and teaching history. However, when in the classroom, something often overlooked is the individual stories. Each statistic is a human who lived through that ordeal; they had a family, a home, a life before said historical events happened. Each person that went through the Holocaust has a story to tell, one that needs to be shared and not forgotten. Testimonies are a way to ensure that those who were persecuted during the Holocaust are not forgotten along with their memories.
My initial motivations for participating in the LFA project was to further my knowledge about the Holocaust and to then educate others on what I had learnt. This however changed after listening to Eva’s talk about what her mother, family and friends went through during the Holocaust. This was what pushed me to think about the scale of the Holocaust in terms of individual experience’s and testimonies. Eva’s talk was particularly striking because although she discussed some awful things her family went through, she emphasised that it was now our turn to share her and her mother’s story and to make sure that the stories of those who went through the Holocaust are never forgotten.
Before our trip we were encouraged to look at specific stories of families that were affected in Europe during the activities. The phrase “we learn from history that we do not learn from history” by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel affected my approach to this by encouraging me to help remember the stories of survivors and make sure they are not forgotten.
My trip to Oświęcim put into perspective how the Holocaust effected the lives of many Jewish communities. The once thriving community of both Jewish and non-Jewish people had been forever disrupted and altered leading to the end of a Jewish community living in Oświęcim. Our trip to Auschwitz 1 truly puts into perspective the impact on Jewish people and those who were prosecuted during the Holocaust. The hair, gas containers, gas chambers, hall of shoes, bags, prosthetic limbs and photographs displayed all pushed me to think about how people were dehumanised during the Holocaust, and that we need to re-humanise them again to ensure that their stories are told.
I found that immediately after my return from Oświęcim I felt overwhelmed by emotion and that I needed to discuss what I had seen with someone. However, I felt it was extremely difficult to put into words what I had seen and felt during the trip. With the other person who went from my College we created an information board in a public space to allow people to read and understand for themselves how the Holocaust effected people who had stories.”
Tamara, who teaches history at SRC Bede and coordinated the students’ trip with the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “The Lessons from Auschwitz project presents a unique opportunity for students to learn about the Holocaust and to realise the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. Tegan and Thomas will play a vital role in ensuring that the lessons learned are spread through the wider college community. We are very proud of our students for taking part in the project and sharing their experience with us.”
Tegan has now completed her Next Steps work following the trip, making her one of the latest Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors – well done, Tegan.
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