Pupils see for themselves the true horror of death camps

The reamins of the Birkenau camp in Auschwitz, Poland, after German forces destroyed the camp at the end of World War II
The reamins of the Birkenau camp in Auschwitz, Poland, after German forces destroyed the camp at the end of World War II

STUDENTS from Wigan visited the notorious death camps of Auschwitz to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust.

As part of an initiative run by charity the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), more than 200 teens from across the North West made a day trip to the Nazi camps, near to Osweicim, Poland.

Winstanley College pupils Liv Hayes and Caitlin Dowell joined Danii Doward and Jess Causby from St Mary’s Catholic High School in Astley on the HET’s Lessons from Auschwitz project.

The groups were shown round Auschwitz I, a concentration camp that has now been turned into a museum, witnessing the piles of belongings seized by the Nazis from their prisoners.

They were then taken to Auschwitz II – Birkenau, the death camp, where the “final solution to the Jewish question in Europe” took place.

More than a million Jews, 140,000 Poles, 20,000 gypsies and 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war were killed at Birkenau, many in gas chambers.

Winstanley College student Caitlin Dowell, 17, said: “It wasn’t until the day after the trip that I was truly affected by what I had seen.

“The sheer mass of belongings, including human hair, which have been preserved after being taken from the prisoners, is an image that keeps coming back to me.

“When I got home, back to my reality, I could put in perspective the horror of the camp and appreciate that I had been to the site where the atrocities of the Holocaust took place.”

The students will now go back to their schools to educate their peers about the lessons that can be learnt from the Holocaust and, in doing so, become HET ambassadors.

HET Chief Executive, Karen Pollock, said: “The Lessons from Auschwitz project is such a vital part of our work because it gives students the chance to understand the dangers and potential effects of prejudice and racism today.”

The day was brought to a close with a moving remembrance service led by Rabbi Barry Marcus in front of the huge memorial now standing at one end of the Birkenau camp.

Liv Hayes, 17, said: “Birkenau was particularly daunting but the memorial service was very moving and it really focused us all on why we were there.

“I don’t think you can ever really realise the extent of the inhumanity until you see what’s left first hand and I’ve come away from it with a completely different perspective.

“It is important that people learn about the Holocaust in the hope that prejudice and hatred on such a massive scale can be prevented in the future through education.”