Last week I escorted 150 students on a visit to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Poland. It was a brutalising but important visit and a complete honour to be there with local students who were, like me, learning so much about the worst of humanity and considering the lessons for our generation.
It was a long day, we left at 5am and returned at midnight. The visit was organised by the Holocaust Education Trust and the students undertookseminars and learning about the past, trying to understand the circumstances that led to the Holocaust. After the visit, students continue their work but this time its about the future and how the lessons we all learned during the trip can be applied to our lives and our nation’s politics. The Trust did a superb job or preparing and guiding everyone through this tough experience.
Freddy and Joe were two students from Cardinal Newman College in Hove. They were so thoughtful, so engaged, and so sensitive to the place they were at and the importance of taking in every element of the visit. Both students from Hove and all of the other students I met from across Sussex did us proud.
Having toured all of the sites at Auschwitz with a director of the museum as our guide, night had descended and all of the other visitors had left.
At a site between two of the main gas chambers and crematoria, we stood in silence as students read poetry aloud. A Rabi then sang prayers beautifully which echoed around the site, the symbolism and solemnity of such an act was not lost on anyone.
We were each then given a candle to light and lay on the tracks which brought 1.3 million people, the vast majority jews, to their deaths. As we walked away in the bitter cold the candlelit tracks left a hanging but beautiful ray of light where such terrible darkness still lingers. It was a day that will stay with me, and all of us, forever. Yours, Peter