History KS3 / GCSE: Arek’s Story - Survival in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Arek Hersh recounts his experience as a prisoner, at the age of only 14, in the notorious death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

When he arrived at the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, 14 year old Arek describes how men and women were separated - men on one side and women with children on the other - known as ‘selection’. Arek quickly ran to the line with the men, recognising early that he had a better chance of survival.

The women and children were sent straight to the gas chambers and murdered on arrival. Tattooed with the number B7608, Arek had his only photographs of his family ripped away from him and he relates the constant battle against disease and lice experienced by the prisoners.

Arek discusses the cramped and squalid sleeping barracks where upwards of 1000 men were kept together in virtual starvation and how the constant hunger kept him thinking about food.

The war and the Holocaust destroyed 81 members of his immediate family and only his sister survived.

PLEASE NOTE: This short film contains disturbing scenes. Teacher review is recommended prior to use in class.

Teacher Notes

After watching this short film, pupils could discuss how people were dehumanized in camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.

You could discuss how Auschwitz has become a symbol of the Holocaust

Curriculum Notes

This topic appears in history and PSHE / modern studies at KS3 and KS4 / GCSE in AQA, OCR A, OCR B, EDEXCEL, EDUQAS and WJEC GCSE in England and Wales, and CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

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