Student’s tragic mission

A collage of photos by Hayley Maunder who was selected to represent St John Rigby College at the annual Lessons From Auschwitz Project in Poland
A collage of photos by Hayley Maunder who was selected to represent St John Rigby College at the annual Lessons From Auschwitz Project in Poland

A WIGAN teenager has been given a harrowing glimpse into the experiences of Holocaust victims as she was chosen to represent her college.

Year 13 religious studies student Hayley Maunder from Orrell’s St John Rigby College was selected to attend the annual Lessons From Auschwitz Project in Poland.

Her first task was to attend a seminar where she met up with other 16 to 18-year-old students participating in the scheme, before listening to the testimony of Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper.

Hayley, 18, said: “It was a moving experience which made me realise how difficult it would be to see first hand the places he spoke about.”

The visit to Poland took place over one eventful day that began with an early flight.

The students were straight onto a coach from the airport to visit the site of pre-war Jewish town Oświęcim, where 60 per cent of the population were wiped out by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

This part of the visit gave students an insight into life before and after the cataclysmic tragedy.

Next was a tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, led by an expert guide and a Lessons From Auschwitz representative.

Hayley, who hails from Hawkey Hall, said: “The worst part for me was seeing the different personalities through their shoes and the names on the suitcases. It made it all the more real.”

The day culminated in a memorial service held at the railway line, which is the main entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Rabbi Barry Marcus sang a Hebrew prayer and Hayley read a poem, before the students lit candles and paused for a moment of silent reflection.

Hayley’s next task on the project is to attend a follow-up seminar where the participating students will reflect on their experiences and the impact that the visit had on them.

They will also plan how they can educate others in their respective local communities, such as by holding assemblies in schools to raise awareness about the project and passing on what they have learned from the profound experience.