Auschwitz trip March 2023

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Auschwitz trip March 2023
Last week we finally got to go on our trip to Auschwitz, which had been delayed since 2020 due to the pandemic. We secured 15 heavily subsidised student places with Holocaust Awareness, accompanied by the RE team, Rebecca Shortland and Jamie Ward, and Deacon Tony. These trips are organised and led by Chuni, an older Jewish gentleman with a dry sense of humour and many tales to tell!

As we set off for Gatwick the students were understandably excited about going to Poland for an overnight stay in a hotel, but a trip to Auschwitz is obviously not a ‘fun’ trip and we discussed this – finally deciding that it was ok to be looking forward to the experience, as it is such a privilege to be able to make this trip.

As soon as we landed in Poland we were off on a full on 24 hours of walking and learning – starting first with an evening tour of the Jewish Quarter of Krakow. We learned about the history of the Jewish community and the Krakow ghetto, and we had a meal together in a traditional Kosher restaurant attached to a synagogue.

Then it was onto the coach for our journey to Oświęcim, which is the Polish name for the town that was renamed Auschwitz by the Nazis. We arrived at 11pm and it was straight off to bed – we had an early start in the morning!

Everyone was up, breakfasted and on the coach by 8am (7am UK time!).
The tour of the Auschwitz museum and camp takes all day. It is a tour across two of the original sites and is guided throughout by a local, very knowledgeable guide. Standing in the place where such horrors were perpetrated by ordinary people on their fellow humans is a powerful experience, and our students made us so proud with their engagement, thoughtful questions and mature attitude throughout. Our tour was nearly six hours in total and we walked well over 5 miles, without any complaints.

As we made the long walk back towards the gate, across the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp we reflected on how 1.1 million souls who arrived on the train tracks to the left never got to leave this place, and their ashes are still present in the soil we were walking on.