Godalming College students take part in ‘Lessons from Auschwitz Project’

In November 2023, four of our Upper Sixth history students – Coco, Alisdair, Maddie and Julian – participated in the Holocaust Educational Trust’s ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ Project. This is a four-stage project that enables two to four students from Sixth Forms across the country to develop their understanding and knowledge of the Holocaust. The students heard the testimony of Mala Tribich, a survivor of the Holocaust; reflected on pre-war Jewish life; and engaged in a one-day site visit to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, as well as visiting Jewish sites in the adjacent town of Óswięcim. Coco, Alisdair, Maddie and Julian then gave a talk to staff and students in the History and Politics department about the lessons they learned from participating in the Project. 


Coco says, “The most impactful part of the trip for me was while we were walking around and visiting Auschwitz II. We listened to Graham (our leader) read testimonies of those who had survived the Holocaust. Hearing an extract from Primo Levi’s ‘If This Is A Man’; words from a woman highlighting the small sense of community she found in the toilets, despite the horrific conditions; and the letter written and buried by a Sonderkommando describing what he saw, were crucial in breaking down the impersonal and incomprehensible statistic of 6 million, and the fact that most people don’t hear these personal experiences really highlighted the need to continue talking about the Holocaust, particularly with the rise in Holocaust deniers and the last survivors coming to the end of their lives.” 


Alisdair says, “When looking back on the Project, the stories and information that stand out the most are the ones that seem so familiar. The descriptions of pre-war Jewish life and videos in the Block 27, ‘the Shoah’, at Auschwitz I was particularly important to me and my understanding of the devastation that was the Holocaust. Videos filled the walls of that exhibit presenting communities across Europe that would soon be brutally persecuted, and in some cases, completely destroyed. I watched the videos playing time and time again, activities and scenes that anyone could remember at some point being a part of in their life. Understanding and knowing, unlike them, what was to come was one of the hardest things that the exhibit forces you to consider.” 


Undoubtedly the Project was an invaluable opportunity for the students to reflect on the meaning of the Holocaust in the twenty-first century and a great addition to their historical studies. 

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