News - History visit to Krakow

Auschwitch 1In July, 44 Year 10 students visited Krakow in Poland. They were accompanied by Mr Morgan, Mr Wallinger, Mr McClellan, Miss Hay and Mrs McFadden.  The tour itinerary was directly relevant to their GCSE History course and the unit on Nazi Germany 1933-1945. During the tour students, were given an insight into the terrible impact of Nazism on Poland following the invasion of September 1939 and the policies leading to the Final Solution.

As part of the visit, students met with an Auschwitz survivor. She had been taken to Auschwitz from Belorussia with her mother at the age of three and is regarded as one of the youngest survivors of the camp.  Her testimony was incredibly moving and powerful and meeting a survivor face to face is something that will always live with those who were present.

Auschwitch 4The group also had a whole day guided tour of Auschwitz. They were shown both parts of the camp, which included the death camp at Birkenau. The visit was obviously very harrowing and it was very difficult to see the piles of everyday objects left by the Jewish families when they arrived – suitcases, spectacles, shaving brushes, combs and perhaps most poignantly of all, the childrens’ shoes and toys. Over one million Jewish people and other persecuted groups like gypsies and Jehovah Witnesses were murdered at Auschwitz between 1942 and 1945.

Whilst this element of the tour was obviously very serious and moving, there were lighter moments. The city of Krakow is beautiful and the group really enjoyed a walking tour which took in the largest piazza in Europe. This was despite a tremendous thunder and rain storm which drenched the whole group! Students and staff also enjoyed travelling by tram around the city which they all felt gave them a much better insight into daily life than travelling by coach.

It is impossible to put a quantifiable value on this type of visit. Of course, the visit will enhance students’ understanding of issues relevant to their GCSE History studies but the value of this visit goes way beyond that. In terms of life experience, a visit to Auschwitz to witness first hand the terrifying results of prejudice and discrimination is incredibly important and perhaps something that everyone should attempt to undertake in their lifetime. And, of course, everyone felt privileged to have met an actual survivor from Auschwitz. The group returned to the UK with memories that will stay with them way beyond their time at Westwood College. Thank you to all those staff involved for organising the visit and ensuring it ran so smoothly.

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