Sixth Form pupils Megan Jones and Molly Sharp have just returned from a trip to Auschwitz as part of an educational initiative supported by the Holocaust Educational Trust.
The Holocaust Educational Trust invited two teenagers from every school and college in the country to see the former concentration camp at first-hand. Backed by the Welsh Assembly Government, the Lessons from Auschwitz Project last week flew 150 youngsters from Cardiff to Poland for an insight into the Nazis' World War II regime.
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Megan Jones interviewed by ITV Wales
Molly's report is below.
In March, Megan Jones and I were given the opportunity to visit Auschwitz, in Poland with the Holocaust Educational Trust and Lessons from Auschwitz organisation. This was a useful visit, as we both are studying A-level history, and it would be an amazing way to put some context to everything we have been studying this year, and everything we will hopefully study next year.
As the time came closer, we both began to dread both the early morning, as well as the emotional toil the trip would take on us. When we arrived in Krakow, after having been awake for 8 hours, the temperatures were zub-zero, and it was already snowing. However, the moment we arrived at our first destination, the Jewish cemetery in Oswiecim, we knew that it was going to be worth it for the experience. The cemetery preceded WW II, and was in the centre of the town closest to Auschwitz, which before the WW II, had been a predominantly Jewish town. They took us here to show us the stark contrast to the life the Jews had before the war to that that they had in Auschwitz, and the years following the holocaust. They were respected after death, and had a community here.
After this, we went on to the first of the camps in Auschwitz; Auschwitz I. Here they showed us an insight into the way the prisoners were treated at this time, and how their lives had been torn away from them. We saw a pile of their hair, untouched since it had been taken, with plaits hidden in the mound. We also saw possessions, suitcases, glasses and prosthetic limbs of the people taken to Auschwitz. All of this was highly emotional, as it made us realise not only the sheer scale, but also the brutality of what these people had to endure, which they didn't deserve. It made us aware of the fact that these people had a life, friends and family, and were all individual people before all of this happened.
From here, we moved on to Auschwitz Birkenau, the second camp within Auschwitz. Here we experienced with shock, how large the place was. They also tried to show us here what the conditions would have been like, showing us the small non-insulated huts many of the prisoners would have had to share. We saw the remains of crematoriums and the railway which they would have arrived on. This is where we had our memorial service, laying down candles in respect for the millions that died, and listening to the words of Rabbi Marcus.
Meg and I found the visit very enlightening, and both agree it has changed our perspective on life, as well as benefiting our school work. Now we are back we really appreciate the experience we had and are learning to use what we have seen and been told, to not forget what happened and to ensure it's remembered as part of history. We are extremely thankful for the opportunity and experience.