History students learn lessons of the Holocaust at Auschwitz trip

A guard tower at Auschwitz. Picture: Luca Chadwick

A guard tower at Auschwitz. Picture: Luca Chadwick - Credit: Archant

History students were selected to visit the site of one of the most harrowing pieces of modern history.

Luca Chadwick and Hana Harvey-Crysell. Picture: Daniel Todd

Luca Chadwick and Hana Harvey-Crysell. Picture: Daniel Todd - Credit: Archant

Harvey-Crysell and Luca Chadwick, A-level students at Mildenhall College Academy, attended a scheme by the Holocaust Education Trust as part of a four-part course entailing an orientation, seminar and trip to three Holocaust sites in Poland.

Accompanied by history teacher Rachael Harris, the trio landed at Krakow airport at about 10am, March 7, to begin their tour at a Polish town called Oswiecim.

Mr Chadwick said: "The town suddenly gains a less normal image, however, when referred to by its German name, Auschwitz.

"This was one of many towns which had been destroyed and succumbed to Nazi rule during the early stages of the Second World War. Not much can be said for this town other than for how normal it seemed."

Auschwitz guardhouse and railway main entrance. Picture: Luca Chadwick

Auschwitz guardhouse and railway main entrance. Picture: Luca Chadwick - Credit: Archant

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They then made the trip to Auschwitz I, the first of two concentration camps in the area. This consisted of political prisoners such as communists, Polish resistance, homosexuals, gypsies as well as people from other ethnic and religious minorities.

The camp was also used to house prisoners of war, who were kept separately to ensure that they were treated as per the Geneva convention.

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Mr Chadwick added: "Visiting this site was unusual to say the least. To think we were walking around buildings and on ground where so many forgotten victims had walked was harrowing. For the first time, the holocaust ceased to be a story, but a reality.

"Seeing people's belongings, shoes, cases and their possessions seems trivial but to think that every item you see represented a lost story is saddening."

The last part of the trip was to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where at least 1.1m people, 90pc of them Jewish, were murdered. Mr Chadwick said that this was the most disturbing part of the visit.

"Walking through the gates is something that can only be done in silence," he added, "This was not just a prison for innocent people, this was the place where they would die.

"Perhaps the most disturbing thought of the day being that to its staff, this place was a success. The harsh conditions were visible, and even in the bright Polish sun the camp remained dark.

"After much discussion and exploration, it slowly started to sink in where we were and what we were doing. Both victims and perpetrators' stories were everywhere you looked yet remained untold, it was fascinating."

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