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13 November 2014

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You are in: Tyne > History > Local History > Lessons from Auschwitz


Through the barbed wire to Auschwitz

Lessons from Auschwitz

BBC Radio Newcastle's Gilly Hope left her home one chilly morning and headed for a different world that would leave uncomfortable thoughts swirling around her head for days.

Gilly Hope has been on a school trip with a difference. No sparkling sun glinting off an alpine ski slope; no array of impressive cathedrals and art galleries.

She's been to the concentration camp at Auschwitz with 200 students from across the north-east of England on a visit organised by The Holocaust Educational Trust.

Students at Auschwitz

Students at Auschwitz

Established in 1988, the Trust aims to educate young people about the Holocaust with the hope they'll pass on what they've learnt.

Trude Levi lost nearly all of her family during the Holocaust.

In March 1944 the Germans arrived in Budapest. Trude came home one day to find their small flat turned upside down, her mother distraught and her father missing.

Trude and her mother were taken into the ghetto: two streets surrounded by barbed wire. They were then taken to Auschwitz in a cattle truck. Trude's description of the conditions is very frank.

Gilly's and the students' visit was split into three parts. They began the day in Oswiecim, as Auschwitz is known in Polish.

Gravestone at Oswiecim

Gravestone at Oswiecim

In the late 1930s there was a large Jewish population living in that part of Poland; now there isn't one at all.

The group visited the Jewish cemetery which, though now refurbished, had been desecrated by the Nazis who took down the gravestones and used them as paving slabs.

Gilly, the students and their Polish guide Beatrice then visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, which held more than 90,000 prisoners and where there are remains of the gas chambers.

The railtrack leading into Auschwitz-Birkenau

The railtrack into Auschwitz-Birkenau

As well as Beatrice, in the following link you will also hear from a man who survived Auschwitz and shared his story with the Shoah Foundation Institute.

His words might help you to visualise his battle to survive though you may find some of what they both say distressing.

The Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, which is now based at The University of Southern California, has an archive of more than 50,000 stories from people who survived the Holocaust and other witnesses.

Established by Steven Spielberg in 1994 it has gathered testimonies from not only Jewish survivors, but also those who are homosexual, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma and Gypsies and liberators, among others.

Student next to a display case full of Holocaust victims' shoes

The museum display of victims' shoes

Lessons for the future

The Holocaust Education Trust have secured government funding for the next three years. They say the issues of racial and religious tolerance are as relevant today as they've ever been.

They're keen to allow students the opportunity to see what happens when, as Nicole Salisbury, from the The Holocaust Educational Trust's Lessons from Auschwitz Project puts it, "good people do nothing".

Although their organised visit only lasted a day it appears some of the group of North East students found the experience profoundly moving. This may be of some comfort to their guide, Beatrice.

last updated: 07/11/2008 at 10:06
created: 06/11/2008

You are in: Tyne > History > Local History > Lessons from Auschwitz

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