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Lessons from Auschwitz
07/04/2011 07:46:00


Yesterday, I joined two pupils from Old Palace School, Lucia Curran and Zoe Driver, and a couple of hundred other pupils from schools across London on a visit to Auschwitz organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.

We started in the Polish town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz is the German name for Oswiecim). Before the war, Oswiecim had a population of about 12,000, about 60% of whom were Jews. There are no Jews left there today.

We then went on to the camps. There were three main camps at Auschwitz - Auschwitz 1 and 3 were concentration camps and Auschwitz 2, known as Birkenau, was an extermination camp. Although no-one knows for sure, it is believed that around 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz, 90% of them Jews. To put that in context, imagine the 7th July London bombings happening every hour for two and a half years.

At Auschwitz 1, the original buildings are still standing and there are exhibits to give you some idea of what prisoners went through, the most shocking of which was a huge pile of human hair (new arrivals had all their body hair shaved which was then used to make cloth). But nearly all of the buildings at Birkenau were destroyed. All that is left is the gate, a handful of buildings and the railway line that ends just before where the gas chambers used to be.

It goes without saying that it was an extremely moving day. We will soon reach a point where there are no more Holocaust survivors. It is vitally important that we do not forget what human beings did to other human beings in these camps and redouble our efforts to make sure it never happens again.

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