Of course for some of the Extremists it's all a Jewish / American / Western plot and untrue NOT!
Face to Face with Auschwitz
By Sinead Carroll
I thought I was prepared for my trip to Auschwitz.
I'm a journalist, we report on deaths nearly every day, and I've become almost immune to the emotions associated with death. I was wrong.
I've read the history books and seen the television documentaries that record the horrific facts.
However, walking through the factory of death brought me face to face with the reality of the Holocaust, in a way I could never have predicted.
If we were to observe a 1 minute silence - 1 minute for each victim that died every year in Auschwitz - then we'd have to be silent for 4 years
60 years have passed since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where 1.4 million people are thought to have died during the Holocaust. Now the Holocaust Educational Trust is running day trips to Auschwitz for sixth formers and their teachers. Last week I was privileged to join more than 200 students from the Thames Valley region on their trip to Poland.
We began our journey in the Polish town of Oswiecim, the quaint town in the middle of Poland where the Nazis built their biggest extermination camp. They renamed the area Auschwitz in 1940. 12 thousand people lived in Oswiecim before the war, 8 thousand of those were Jewish. Now there's only 5 thousand Jews in the whole of Poland.
We went to the place where a huge synagogue stood, before it was destroyed by the Nazis. The synagogue site was positioned within metres of the Catholic Church and it became clear from the photographs in the local museum that pre-war this was a very happy, tolerant, multi faith community.
From the happy scenes of Oswiecim we drove the short trip to Auschwitz. This was where the real horrors began. In what can only be described as a snowstorm we stood at the often photographed gate with the slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (Work makes you free), welcoming us to the camp.
Our tour guided us through museum rooms with glass cabinets filled with tonnes of human hair, suitcases, shoes and prosthetic limbs, the only remains of the thousands of people who were murdered and cremated in this Nazi death camp.
It wasn't so much the quantity of these objects that was so distressing, although the corridor with shoe filled cabinets along both walls was frightening.
It was the personal touches that made my throat go dry; the makeup tins and hair brushes prisoners had packed to make themselves look respectable, the tiny red sandals or the names and dates of birth written on the suitcases, proving many of the Holocaust victims were not just young, they were babies and toddlers.
It was truly horrific walking along the infamous train tracks at Auschwitz Birkeau knowing that this was where thousands of Jewish people arrived, thinking they were going to start a new life.
Pictures from the museum showed the point at which we were standing, where families were divided as Nazi officers and Dr Mengele selected which prisoners would be 'saved' and which would be fed directly into the gas chambers disguised as showers.
The trip ended with a poignant memorial service, overlooking the remains of the gas chambers. After psalms and poems, Rabi Barry Marcus sang a haunting Hebrew prayer as we lit candles and placed them under the rail tracks.
If we were to observe a minute silence - one minute for each of the victims that died every year in Auschwitz Birkenau - then we'd have to be silent for four years. As we stood in the darkening light the only sound we could hear was the snow flurries that continued to fall around us.
Freezing and tired, after an already 15 hour day, few of us were complaining on the walk back along the railway to the coaches. After all we could go home, for millions this had been a one way track.
The organisers hope that the young adults on the trip will learn lessons from Auschwitz and speak out against the injustices and prejudice they see today. They organise pre and post trip seminars too so that students have the opportunity to discuss their thoughts with each other and prepare presentations for the rest of their school.
Karen Pollock, The Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said "the lessons from Auschwitz Project gives students the chance to understand the dangers and potential effects of prejudice and racism today."
Last year the Government pledged funding to ensure two sixth formers from every school in England can take part in the visit. The students are encouraged to relate details of their trip to other pupils. The aim is to ensure that, even when there are no Holocaust survivors left, the lessons of the Nazi genocide will live on.
As we walked out of Auschwitz some of the Oxfordshire students that gave me their reaction to the trip…
Declan Macardle from St Gregory the Great School in Oxford: "I found it pretty amazing. I've heard all the numbers of the people who have died but visiting it was something different, the thing that shocked me the most was seeing all the hair, that was pretty gruesome and the little girls' shoes.
"I'll remember them… It's such a huge place, I'm pretty shocked. I was pretty upset. I don't think I'll be able to sleep straight away tonight. I feel like I should do something to stop it happening again."
Hannah Penny from Abingdon and Witney College in Abingdon: "The thing that stuck with me most was the amount of hair there was in the glass cabinets. Some of them were still plaited and that's the sort of thing you do yourself so it made it really personal."
Frances Long from St Helen and St Katherine in Abingdon: "I had relatives who were supposedly killed here. They must have been in Krakow ghetto and I had never imagined what it could have been like at all. It could have been my grandma, she got out on the kinder-transport, and it could have been me if I'd lived 60 years earlier.
"I'm actually terrified of being here and I don't have a full comprehension of what they must have gone through. I feel it's my duty to come here, it's more duty than bravery."
Charlotte Porter from Abingdon and Witney College in Abingdon: "Seeing the contrast of where men and women had to stay was horrific. Women had to sleep on bricks and hay. It was disgusting, like an animal shelter. You could die next to someone. Plus they didn't have enough prisoner clothes and they'd have to put them in dead people's clothes. It was harrowing."
Mary Hartley from St Gregory the Great in Oxford: "When we were in Auschwitz it was like being on a film set, because we've heard the stories and seen all the movies and the pictures. Seeing it was the weirdest most surreal thing in the world.
"When you see the pictures you don't realise how huge it is, how bleak it is. It was horrific, really scary and eerie. How could we let such a thing happen when it was so obvious?"
Sarah Fabes from Our Lady's Abingdon: "It's sort of hard to describe in words, the grand scale of Auschwitz. To see all the possessions was horrific, the Nazis changed human beings so that they thought they were just animals with instincts.
"It's demoralising and horrific, shocking to stand in a place where people actually died. They thought they were going to have showers and then realised that this was the end. It's terrible."
SJ Rowland from Cheney School in Oxford: "It a bit overwhelming, the vastness of it. The suitcases with all the names on them… there was one that said M. Frank on it. I thought it could have been Margo Frank - it wasn't because the date was wrong. But just thinking if it could have been someone you've heard about, then thinking all of them were people. It's hard to deal with."
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