MPs and students from across Norfolk return from Nazi Death camp ready
to act on lessons learned
Norfolk MPs Richard Bacon (centre)
and Tony Wright (right) visited
Auschwitz-Birkenau along with
students from eight Norfolk schools,
including (from left) Eleanor Jarvis and
Alex James Denby from Costessey High
School, and Hannah Lane from
Wymondham High School
Norfolk MPs Richard Bacon and Tony Wright and students from eight Norfolk schools returned from the Holocaust Educational Trust’s visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau vowing to act on the lessons learned from the experience.
Some 200 other students from across the East of England took part in the visit, which is part of a project exploring the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today.
Students from 8 Norfolk schools and colleges took part, including Costessey High School, East Norfolk Sixth Form College, Fakenham High School and College, Gresham's School, Langley School, Sheringham High School and 6th Form Centre, Wymondham College, and Wymondham High School.
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said:
“Visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is a deeply moving experience. Seeing the sheer scale of it helps you to take in the enormity of the crimes which were committed there. The Nazis used all the scientific and technical resources of a modern state to commit industrialised mass murder, based on a sick and evil ideology that said some people were not allowed to exist because of who they were.”
“The importance of teaching about the Holocaust cannot be overstated. Young people have to know what happened so that they can help in the constant argument which must be fought against bigotry and hatred”.
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said:
“We are delighted that Richard Bacon and Tony Wright joined us on the visit with students from Norfolk. The HET’s ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ Project is such a vital part of our work because it gives students the chance to understand more the dangers and potential effects of prejudice and racism today on a national and local scale. With the support of Government funding, we are excited to be expanding the programme to enable many more students to benefit from this life–changing experience.”
The visit was a unique opportunity to see what happened, to pay respect to those who lost their lives, and to explore the universal lessons of the Holocaust. The group was shown around the camp’s barracks and crematoria, and witnessed the registration documents of inmates, piles of hair, shoes, clothes and other items seized by the Nazis. They were then taken, the short distance to Birkenau where a memorial and candle-lighting service was held 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 course includes an orientation and follow-up seminar, to prepare students for the visit and to reflect on their experiences. On their return, the students are required to give a presentation to their peers, based on their experience of visiting Auschwitz and the lessons they have learnt. 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.
27 February 2008
The Holocaust Educational Trust
The Holocaust Educational Trust was established in 1988 to educate young people from every ethnic background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. HET works in schools, universities and in the community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, providing teacher training, an outreach programme for schools, teaching aids and resource materials. HET regard one of their earliest achievements as ensuring the Holocaust formed part of the National Curriculum for History. HET continues to play a leading role in training teachers on how best to teach the Holocaust and earlier this year, the Treasury pledged a three-year commitment to enable HET to administer a broad programme of teacher training.
In November 2005, the Government announced funding of £1.5 million for HET to support its Lessons from Auschwitz Project for teachers and sixth form students. In February 2008, the Government announced the continuation of funding for the Lessons from Auschwitz programme for a further three years from 2008 to 2011. The funding is enabling HET to facilitate visits to Auschwitz for 2 sixth-form students from every school and college in the UK.
The Holocaust Educational Trust has produced a BAFTA
award-winning DVD-ROM Recollections: Eyewitnesses Remember the Holocaust, in conjunction with the USC Shoah Foundation
Institute. The groundbreaking interactive teaching resource
integrates testimony from 18
eyewitnesses to the Holocaust, including Jewish survivors, Roma and
Sinti survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors and political prisoners
as well as testimony from survivors of the eugenics programme.
Lessons from Auschwitz Project
The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project for teachers and sixth-form students is now in its ninth year. The course is run over three non-consecutive days with the focus being a one-day visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The visits, combined with pre-and post-visit seminars, leave an unforgettable emotional and educational mark on participants. The Project aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust based on the premise that ‘seeing is better than hearing’ and to signal what can happen if prejudice and racism become acceptable.
Since the Projects’
inception in 1998, HET has taken over 6,000 students and teachers to
Auschwitz-Birkenau, as well as many MPs and celebrities.
Participants are given the opportunity to hear a Survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau give testimony at the orientation seminar. During the seminar participants are divided into small groups which are facilitated by one of our educators or by a member of staff. The participants remain in these groups throughout the Project. Each group discusses their reasons for taking part in the Project, their expectations, preconceptions and the potential impact that the visit may have on them. It also provides a useful opportunity for participants to get to know each other before they share what for many is a very moving and important life experience.
Visit to Auscwitz-Birkenau
During the visit itself, students are first taken to Osweicim, the small town next to Auschwitz death and concentration camp where the local Jewish community lived prior to the start of the Second World War. The groups are then shown several barracks at Auschwitz I – registration documents of inmates, piles of hair, shoes, clothes and other items seized from the prisoners as they entered the camps. Participants are then taken the short distance to Birkenau. This is the site that most people associate with the word “Auschwitz” and where the vast majority of victims were murdered. The remnants of barracks, crematoria and gas chambers are in stark contrast to Auschwitz I and many people feel this has a greater impact on them. The tour of Birkenau culminates in a memorable service held next to the destroyed crematoria II. The service includes readings, a moment of reflection and ends with all participants lighting memorial candles and placing them around the remains of the crematoria.
At the follow-up seminar participants discuss the visit, their personal responses and the impact it had on them. The seminar is very important for participants, as often visitors to Auschwitz have a delayed reaction to the experience and many find it difficult to speak to those who have not been there.
All student participants are required to disseminate what they have learned to their school and wider communities. Teachers and students describe it as life changing.
|© Richard Bacon 2010|