Norfolk students visit Auschwitz as part of education project
- Credit: Archant
'Hearing is not like seeing'.
That's the premise behind an ongoing project run by the Holocaust Educational Trust which annually gives thousands of students the chance to visit the most infamous Nazi death camp - Auschwitz.
I had the chance to join a group of students from across the East of England - including some from Attleborough Academy - on a visit, 72 years on from the end of the Second World War and Hitler's systematic extermination of Europe's Jews and other 'undesirables'.
The idea is that only so much can be taught in a classroom - to get a real insight into the scale of the tragedy you have to tread the same path as the 1.1m victims who were sent to Auschwitz to die in its gas chambers.
Our group was first shown the town square in nearby Oswiecim, where a Jewish community flourished before the war.
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Then it was onto Auschwitz I, the area's original concentration camp, fronted by a gate with the infamous slogan 'Arbeit macht frei' - Work sets you free.
We then visited Auschwitz II Birkenau, where thousands of victims were unloaded every day from railway wagons and sorted into those marked for immediate extermination and others who could be worked to death.
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To conclude, Rabbi Raphy Garson, who accompanied the group, led a service of remembrance, reminding the students of the value of tolerance, love and hope.
The site offers much to take in but for each visitor there must be something that sticks out in their mind the most.
For some that might be the display of mountains of human hair shorn from new arrivals to be used, among other things, for rope and cloth.
Others must be awed by the sheer scale of the Birkenau camp with its hundreds of barracks, each of which housed up to 700 prisoners in cramped triple bunks.
Or the strongest memory may be a wall filled with faded pre-war victims' photos of weddings, newborns and summer picnics, happier times from a world about to be torn apart.
Karen Pollock, trust chief executive, said the visits were a vital way of ensuring the Holocaust was not forgotten.
She said: 'The visit enables young people to see for themselves where racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism can ultimately lead.'