This month, Miss Carr and Mr Chapple took a group of Year 10 pupils to Krakow in Poland to visit Auschwitz and to see the effects of the Holocaust. It was a four day trip and it included sightseeing, Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II: Birkenau, a folk evening (including traditional folk dancing!), a tour of Schindler’s Factory, a tour of the Salt Mines and the Galicia Museum.
Considered by many as a trip of a lifetime, the pupils experienced for themselves the end result of prejudice and discrimination being allowed to reign free topics which are integral to their Religious Studies GCSE course. At Auschwitz I, the work camp, pupils were able to see the variety of inhumane exhibits that remain as a result of anti-Semitism, including the room full of human hair and stolen property such as shoes and suitcases. The efficiency of the Nazis in their use of human ‘remains’ made the visit more ‘chilling’ and ‘cruel’, according to this group of Year 10s.
At Auschwitz II: Birkenau, the pupils were given the full tour of the death camp and were guided to all areas, including the gas chambers, living quarters, registration block and the so-called ‘Canada’ blocks, which had stored in them all of the stolen possessions of the prisoners. After such a haunting day, the pupils went to a traditional Polish restaurant in the centre of Krakow to enjoy a three-course Polish meal complete with traditional Polish dancing! A tentative start from a few more confident pupils led the group to the dance area, now free from their pre-dance anxieties and ready to whirl each other around! Even Mr Chapple and Miss Carr got involved! And how could they not, after they had all been hit on the head by the mythical unicorn, bestowing good luck on the diners?
During the tour of Schindler’s Factory, the pupils were able to see the ‘silver lining’ that Schindler provided for many of his employees. With the threat of Auschwitz hanging over many Jewish people, Schindler’s kindness and attempt to save as many Jews as he could showed the pupils that even when it might have seemed darkest, there was Hope, which fits in well with our Christian Values.
The Salt Mines, although not directly linked with the Holocaust, were a sight to behold! Pupils weaved their way through caverns of glistening salt and illuminated sculptures and visited the chapels buried deep beneath the surface. Of course, to prove that everything was made of salt, the pupils chose to lick everything as they passed, just to make sure.
It was an educational and exciting visit, with almost all pupils expressing their wish to stay longer and learn more about the events of the past, putting to mind the poignant quote that is hanging at the entrance to one of the blocks in Auschwitz I:
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”