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Don’t Stand By – Holocaust Memorial Day 2016

Wednesday 27th January was Holocaust Memorial Day – when we remember those who have been persecuted or murdered during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. Our remembrance programme included a number of sessions in which students used iPads to create presentations on the subject of the Holocaust, and a trip to the Floral Pavilion to hear testimony from Holocaust survivor, Joanna Millan

Mr Harrison presented assemblies all week on the topic, where he was joined by Sixth Formers Ryan & Daniel who spoke of their visit in November to Auschwitz-Birkenau. A video of their moving speeches about the trip with Holocaust Educational Trust (UK) – and how the experience has affected them – can be seen here:

Travelling to Auschwitz is something that cannot really be put into words, but in this guest post Sixth Former Ryan Ellison tries to do just that…

The fact that our tour guide told us Birkenau was unfinished was a difficult concept to take in as it stretched at least 40 square km already. The sheer size upon the initial sighting from our coach was able to hit home how extensive the extermination of this race become. With the day being jam packed it was very difficult to perceive how destructive Hitler’s regime was, our tour guide was excellent giving an exceptional description of the events, however despite accurate description it was still not possible to replicate the feeling that those Jewish sufferers had during that time.

The atmosphere contributed to me being able to empathise how they may have felt on most days during the winter as when darkness and a bitter chill struck of the evening, and the sun begin to set, it provided me with a glimpse of what type of violent weather conditions the prisoners had to suffer throughout the Harsh Polish winter, with barely any clothing to keep them at any humane temperature.

Birkenau consisted of many different barracks, all with different purposes, some were set up for work, some categorized into children’s barracks, adults barracks and even barracks for washing or toilets. What took great impact on me was the fact that children had carved their names into the walls and even created paintings in order to give themselves some positivity or entertainment, but this was no compromise for the suffering that they were to endure.

The barracks were very basic and living conditions would have been so unhygienic, what was worse was that the barracks were not built for them, the prisoners had to build their own residence.

Being in Birkenau was clearly a very painstaking experience for those who were unfortunate enough to stumble upon such a vast punishment scheme. The experience of Auschwitz itself will never leave my head or heart, and it is quite unexplainable until you are able to witness it first-hand and take in the atmosphere that the camp provides. What happened within this vicinity was an absolute atrocity that will never be forgotten and will lay prominent as an act of genocide in History forever more.

It was a privilege to be able to visit a site of such historical interest and to be able to see it in its raw form, a truly unforgettable experience…