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Year 13 Students take part in the Lessons from Auschwitz Online Programme

Two Year 13 History students were recently awarded places on the Holocaust Educational Trust Online Programme. Jessica and Seerat in Year 13 committed their time after school and at weekends to take part in three live online seminars guided by experts in the field of Holocaust education. They also heard the first-hand testimony of a Holocaust survivor and took part in a virtual site-visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum as it is today. This has been a fantastic opportunity for both students, their write up of their experiences can be seen below.

Bringing understanding to a new generation

Over the last month, we have taken part in a series of online sessions and independent learning in order to develop our understanding of the Holocaust. By studying democracy and Nazism in Germany, we already felt confident in our understanding of the Holocaust and the treatment of Jewish people. By taking part in this course, it has allowed us to learn more about misconceptions and explore pre-war Jewish life in order to truly understand the Holocaust and its lasting impact.

We were able to look at direct case studies from different Jewish communities around Europe and learn about their fate during the Holocaust, which allowed us to truly understand about the pre-existing anti-Semitism even before the war. Oświęcim, a town in Poland that was later renamed Auschwitz and became the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau, had 14,000 Jewish residents and anti-Semitism was much less prevalent here than in the rest of Europe.

Throughout the course, we were told to focus on humanising everyone involved in the Holocaust, as even its perpetrators and bystanders were individual human beings with their own families and reasons for their actions. Although it is important for us to learn about the extent of violence towards different communities during the Holocaust, it makes it much more difficult for us to grasp the humanity of the event, such as learning that all Jewish communities had diverse backgrounds, cultures, political ideologies, and many did not even consider themselves religious, before being sent to concentration camps for being ‘inherently different.’

Being able to listen to a live testimony from Eva Clarke, a Holocaust survivor, and another testimony from Kitty Hart-Moxon, allowed us to realise the importance of ensuring that the memory of the Holocaust continues and that the past is not forgotten. It makes understanding the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust that much more valuable- through educating people on the consequences of hate and extremism in the past, especially when considering the growth in religious intolerance and racism currently in the UK. We wanted to encourage people to move away from the mistakes of the past and highlight the importance of carrying on the message of an event that happened less than one hundred years ago.

So, how can you help? There are numerous ways that you, as individuals, or the school as a whole can expand your knowledge on these events and help educate others. Firstly, a key way to educate yourself about Auschwitz-Birkenau is through the Holocaust Educational Trust website. This is an excellent resource where you can access a variety of information revolving around the Holocaust. You can read up on its history and the events that occurred during the Nazi regime. Another great feature that you can access is the survivor’s stories, where you can read the personal stories of people that survived the Holocaust to grasp a deeper understanding of how individuals were personally affected.

If you are into books, we would highly recommend ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel. Winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, Wiesel’s book captures a first-hand account of what it was like being rounded up by Nazis to be transported to Auschwitz when he was just a teenager. ‘Night’ gives one of the most accurate accounts of the Holocaust and explores the darkest side of human nature.

Another resource that you can access are your own history teachers. These people are experts when it comes to history and very knowledgeable when it comes to expanding your historical knowledge regarding the Holocaust and the events at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Finally, by using all of these available resources, you will be able to educate others on the events that occurred. Teaching your family, friends and peers about the Holocaust can help to keep this topic relevant for future generations, so that the memories and stories of those who had to endure the pain and hatred from Nazis can live on.

By Jess & Seerat (Y13)