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'Hearing Is Not Like Seeing' - Lessons from Auschwitz Project

Since 1999, over 41,000 students and teachers have taken part in the Holocaust Educational Trust's groundbreaking Lessons from Auschwitz Project.

Based on the premise that 'hearing is not like seeing', this four-part course explores the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today. The LFA Project aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust for young people and to clearly highlight what can happen if prejudice and racism become acceptable.  Year 12 students Imogen and Rosie tell us more about their trip...

We were recently afforded the opportunity to take part in the ‘Lessons From Auschwitz Project’, in which groups of sixth form students are taken on a one day trip to visit the concentration camps of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. As a part of the project, we were also able to participate in the two preliminary and reflective seminars hosted by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

The first stage was an orientation seminar, in which we explored pre-war Jewish life and culture in Europe as well as the various discriminatory and antisemitic policies that were implemented during the war. We were incredibly privileged to hear the account of a Polish Holocaust survivor, Hannah Lewis MBE, whose father and cousin joined the partisans and whose mother had been killed by the Sonderkommando while trying to protect her. Hearing about what Hannah had been through was an enormously powerful and insightful experience and it was an honour to witness a first-hand testimony of what Jewish life was like, both under Nazi rule and within the Adampol labour camp. 

We then travelled to Poland for a one-day trip on Wednesday 5th February, starting in the town of Oświęcim, where the Auschwitz concentration and death camps were located and where the local Jewish community lived prior to the start of the Second World War. In the town there had once stood the ‘Great Synagogue’, which was burned down by the Nazis after their occupation of Oświęcim. At the memorial site of the synagogue we heard from a  Rabbi who accompanied our group, who outlined a brief history of Jewish life in the town before Nazi occupation.

Afterwards, we went to the concentration camps Auschwitz-I and Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was a profoundly emotional experience for both of us and we learnt so much. Exactly what we saw and learnt cannot really be put into words, from the original grounds of the camps themselves to the vast collections of personal items displayed.  The visit was truly confounding and so hard to fully comprehend. To end the day, everyone on the trip took part in a candlelit memorial service, where the Rabbi gave a sermon and a few members of the group read poetry that had been written by survivors. 

At the follow-up seminar one week later we were able to discuss and reflect upon our experience. We found it invaluable that we were able to share our personal responses and the impact it had on us - especially since the day in itself was quite overwhelming. We also spent time thinking about the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust and how we would go about sharing what we had learnt and experienced on to others in our wider communities through the 'Next Steps Project’.

We are currently in the process of planning and carrying out our project. Our plans include creating a presentation outlining our experience and sharing what we have learnt with our peers in the form of an assembly and an SMSC session. We would also like to involve the creative clubs and departments in producing pieces focusing on the ‘rehumanisation’ of victims, in the hopes of creating a display.

We are both really appreciative of the opportunity we were given and neither of us will ever forget it, nor the impact it has had on us.

Rosie Winder and Imogen Barnes, Year 12.