TWO students from Richard Taunton Sixth Form College in Southampton will be sharing their experiences of visiting Auschwitz on Holocaust Day after becoming ambassadors for an educational project aimed at helping young people understand the tragedy.
The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons From Auschwitz project, which has been running for 19 years, helps pupils to learn more about the history of the Jewish people, antisemitism and the Holocaust through workshops, seminars and a visit to the infamous Nazi death camp in Poland.
Second year students Alishba Waseem and Elouise Davies will be sharing their experiences of the trip with fellow students on Holocaust Day on January 27.
The students will be talking about how they visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and took part in a seminar where participants explored pre-war Jewish life and the Nazi campaign against the Jews.
After their visit last November they heard Holocaust survivor Manfred Goldberg share his story during a follow-up seminar.
Alishba, who is studying criminology, English language and history, said: “The trip to Auschwitz put a lot into perspective about the Holocaust. Seeing the actual camp and the belongings of the victims made it reality.”
She said the sheer scale of the camp had shocked her. “It was something that no one could imagine you couldn’t see where it ended and where it started,” she said.
“The re-creation of the sleeping quarters and the toilets gave you a brief idea of the conditions of the victims. The endless book of names, pictures, and belongings makes it hard to believe the number of lives taken at the hands of the Nazis.”
The trip to Auschwitz was intense and it was hard to comprehend the scale at which these events took place
Elouise, who is studying fine art, English literature and history, said taking part in the project has given a meaning to the harrowing numbers who were murdered. “The focus on rehumanising the statistics so that victims are remembered as real humans, not just numbers is what has stayed with me,” she said.
“The trip to Auschwitz was intense and it was hard to comprehend the scale at which these events took place.”
She said hearing Mr Goldberg’s story had also given the tragedy a more human dimension. “It was eye-opening as this gave us an insight into what he experienced, informing us of the realities of the Holocaust, and emphasising that statistics are impersonal and cannot tell us the full story of the real victims who were affected,” she said.
Added Alishba: “It’s important to remember and see these places so history doesn’t repeat itself.”
History and politics lecturer Chris Harrison said the college has been sending students on the trips since he joined 11 years ago. “As we sadly lose more survivors of the Holocaust, it is more important than ever that their stories continue to live on by sharing these experiences with young people,” he said.
“I am really happy to say that for the past decade, Richard Taunton’s students have been able to participate in the Lessons from Auschwitz Project. By participating, it allows them to have a unique learning experience, while continuing to develop as historians at the college, providing them with valuable lessons to take forward into later life.”