Below is an account written by Lynne Sharples of Crossley Heath School about their recent school trip to Krakow in November 2015-
Crossley Heath's Amnesty Youth Group is an influential group which raises awareness of human rights across the school and last year we decided to arrange a school trip to Auschwitz. A party of 41 Year 10-13 students and 5 staff visited the beautiful city of Krakow in November. On arrival, we went to Schindler's Factory, the location of some of the scenes from the famous film, Schindler's List. The factory is now a museum which explains how civilian life changed in Krakow under the Nazi regime, especially for the Jewish population who were forced into the Jewish ghetto.
After our evening meal, we settled down to watch the very emotional film, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, to prepare us for the trip to Auschwitz and Birkenau Camps in the morning. We got up early, apprehensive about the day ahead. We have all read about the holocaust and seen photographs of the camps but nothing prepared us for the reality of what we experienced.
As we entered through the gate at Auschwitz with the infamous sign Arbeit Macht Frei, we all fell silent. The barbed wire, electrified fences and watch towers made us realise the impossibility of escape for those imprisoned here. We went into the barracks and saw sights that we will never forget. Tons of human hair shaved from prisoner's heads, thousands of shoes taken from the new arrivals, suitcases with labels still attached and even false limbs. We saw the blue and white striped clothing worn by the prisoners and realised how little these would keep out the cold. The gas chambers still exist. All our group were upset as we entered and thought about the millions of innocent people that had been killed there.
In sombre mood, we then went to Birkenau extermination camp. We experienced the barracks where the prisoners lived and saw the wooden bunks where they slept huddling together for warmth. Walking along the railway track, we thought about the millions of prisoners arriving from all over Europe, forcibly separated from their families, some sent immediately to their deaths. Entering the shower block where prisoners were stripped, shaved and given camp clothes, we felt chilled and scared. Walking in the footsteps of the prisoners, we all felt moved by what we were experiencing. Dusk started to fall and Birkenau felt even more bleak, cold and frightening. In commemoration of the millions who died, we all lit a candle which we placed on the railway track.
The morning after, we were able to enjoy some free time in Krakow before flying home. We are all agreed that this experience was life-changing and we would encourage everyone to go at least once in their lifetime. We all agreed that, although the trip was emotional and harrowing, it was an experience we would never forget.
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