Letter: Lessons from the Holocaust

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Through working with the Holocaust Educational Trust we have learnt many things about the Holocaust on the whole.

Our aims in participating were to understand the true scale of the Holocaust, with reference to how many people, particularly Jews, were massacred, but also, the scale of the sites themselves. However, upon attending the introduction seminar, we began questioning the motives of the perpetrators and the reasons for which they contributed to the Holocaust.

The visit itself was indeed very harrowing; made only more impactful with the freezing weather that the Jews would have had to endure in only thin clothing and bare feet.

Yet, the full impact did not hit us until we returned home and had time to consider everything we had learnt.

Whilst at Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz Birkenau we found it particularly difficult to take in everything that we were being told.

We took many photos whilst at Auschwitz and this helped us with our next steps project, but also with beginning to understand and relive the experiences at Auschwitz, which we did not necessarily attach great meaning to whilst there.

In the next steps project, we attempted to incorporate as much as we had learnt and all that we had seen, however, we focused particularly on the scale of Auschwitz and the motives of the perpetrators.

By including the photo of the SS women eating blueberries on a day away from Auschwitz, we think we managed to get the message out that it was not only the Jews who were affected by Hitler’s regime but also the ordinary German people; how could anyone imagine that the perpetrators are so similar to us?

We also included photos of the graveyard in the town of Oswiecim which allowed us to include the background of many of the Jews affected by the Holocaust, but it also allowed us to talk about how anti-Semitism still affects the town today, with the graveyard being fenced in and no Jewish people living in the town.

Out of all the experiences we had, the talk from a Holocaust survivor remains most firmly within our minds.

The experiences that Zigi Shipper had really enforced how we think of the Holocaust. Before we took part, the number of people killed in the Holocaust was just a number, whereas now, we think of the people killed as individuals, which indeed they were.

Our experience with the Holocaust Educational Trust has inspired us to research the Holocaust in more depth, focusing particularly on the motives of perpetrators.

We find this most interesting as these days people find out about the holocaust and are absolutely abhorred by the actions of perpetrators in the Holocaust, so how could ordinary German people transform into mass murderers?

Amelia Louth and Nancy Bibby

De Aston School, Market Rasen