My St John's
Skip Navigation Links

More > News

Bringing History to Life

During the February half term, 25 Sixth Form pupils travelled to Poland on a four-day trip organised by the History Department. On the first day, after arriving in Kraków where they would be based, they lost no time in exploring the city’s medieval and early modern centre.

The following day, the group made the one-and-a-half-hour drive to visit the site of the former concentration camp at Auschwitz. At Auschwitz I, pupils were struck by the evidence of the camp’s victims: plundered suitcases still bearing their names; the prosthetic limbs of those disabled inmates whose fate was sealed by their inability to work; the shoes of thousands, including a beautiful red pair that a young girl would once have delighted in; and, hair shaven from the bodies of thousands of women, ready to be woven into cloth for German industry. Then, at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the group saw the four huge crematoria and gas chambers, where industrialised murder took place on a vast scale. The group listened in silence as the guide explained the camp’s routines and rituals intended to undermine human dignity. The pupils rightly regarded the camp as a place of horror, but affirmed the value of visiting it, to bring the past alive and emphasise the importance of not forgetting.

Aside from providing a snapshot of the horrors of the Holocaust, the trip also served to give pupils greater insight into the Jewish experience in Europe before the Second World War, as well as a wider awareness of European culture. With this in mind, the third day included visits to the city’s Jewish quarter, the Schindler Factory Museum and the salt mines at Wieliczka. The sixth formers were engaged throughout and returned with a richer appreciation of history and culture – a real education.

‘The trip was an experience that I’ll always remember, because it was such an interesting and terrible period of history and because I shared it with wonderful friends’ (Barnaby Lowe, Upper Sixth, Churchill House).

Published on 21/02/2014

St John's on Twitter