Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon visits Auschwitz with Scottish students

Nicola Sturgeon with students in Auschwitz Image copyright PA
Image caption First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined 200 students on a trip to Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz where they heard the camps history

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged people not to stand by "in the face of hate", while on a visit to the former Auschwitz concentration camp.

The first minister joined 200 students from schools across Scotland for the trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

During World War Two, one million Jews were murdered at the Nazi concentration and death camp.

Six million Jewish men, women and children were killed in the Holocaust.

While visiting the former Nazi concentration camp in Poland, Ms Sturgeon said: "What happened here (at Auschwitz-Birkenau) was one of the darkest periods in human history and it's really important that we remember all those who suffered and were murdered but it is equally important that we don't just see this as a history lesson."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The first minister called the events that took place during the Holocaust a "mass murder of people simply for who they were"

Anti-Semitism

The first minister said that the Holocaust did not start at the camp, it started with the "dehumanising of Jews" in everyday discrimination and anti-Semitism.

She also said that the attack on a synagogue in the US on Saturday where 11 people died showed anti-Semitism was not confined to history.

"Although it was perpetrated by the Nazis, it was facilitated by hundreds of thousands of people who went along with it or turned a blind eye to it," she added.

"Today as anti-Semitism, as intolerance and prejudice more generally starts to rear its head again in the world that we live in.

"I think it's all the more important that we learn the lesson of this for our own lives and our own time and for all of us to resolve never to be bystanders in the face of hate."

She said that seeing what had happened at the camp gave an insight into the individuals who lives were cut short, calling it "mass murder of people simply for who they were".

The trust's Lessons from Auschwitz programme gives pupils the chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau and pass on the what they have learned there at home.

'It's real life'

Scottish pupils heard the camp's history and viewed the belongings and Book of Names listing victims at Auschwitz, set up by the Nazis in 1940.

They saw the camp's gas chamber and crematorium and the first minister signed the camp's visitors' book.

They also travelled to Birkenau, where they saw the remains of the four huge chambers which victims were told were showers before being gassed to death.

Candles were placed at the end of the camp's notorious railway track while Rabbi Daniel Epstein held a service in memory of the dead.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Sturgeon visited the camps gas chamber and crematorium before signing the visitor book

Gas chambers

One of the pupils, Mollie Graham, 17, from Baldragon Academy in Dundee said: "When we walked into the gas chambers, all you saw was this big empty space and the size of the furnaces.

"Seeing that there were capsules to put people into, that was pretty moving and a pretty horrible thing to see."

Navkiran Kooner, 17, of Craigholme School, Glasgow, said: "It's made me a lot more appreciative of my life.

"To be able to see what people went through is so important because it's more than just reading out a textbook, it's real life."

Holocaust Education Trust chief executive Karen Pollock thanked the first minister for taking part in the visit.

She said: "Seeing this place and hearing some of the stories, it's something you carry with you for their rest of your life."

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