Alsop High School students visit Auschwitz

This week four students from Alsop High School joined 200 students from schools across Liverpool and the North West on a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.

Mrs October Wright, Assistant Head and a member of the Liverpool Jewish community accompanied the students on a visit to the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The visit was part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project.

Mrs Wright comments: 

Recent anti-semitic vandalism in Liverpool highlights just how important the work of Holocaust Educational Trust is.

Peter Bull, Co-ordinator of Alsop Hope 2016 initiative said: 

Before travelling to Auschwitz the students participated in workshops facilitated by HET. They also heard the testimony of a Holocaust Survivor who was detained in Auschwitz and present when the camp was liberated in 1945.

Mrs Wright comments that  "Alsop student’s commitment to learning lessons from Auschwitz is a real testimony to their desire to foster social cohesion and harmony in their own communities."

Alsop sixth-former Mark Reynolds met Auschwitz survivor Zigi Shipper when he visited the school as part of the HOPE 2016 initiative. Mark said,

Only when the depths of depravity are revealed, can the value of human decency be truly appreciated .


His fellow student Gemma Cook stated that 

"the visit provided an insightful and important experience that I will never forget.” Gemma believes that “it is important that people are educated about the Holocaust and we never forget what happened to 6 million innocent people.”

On the visit, students first visited Oświęcim, the town where the Nazi concentration and death camp was located and where, before the war, 58% of the population was Jewish. Students then visited Auschwitz I to see the former camp’s barracks and crematoria and witnessed the piles of belongings that were seized by the Nazis.

At the end of the visit over 200 students stood at the end of the railway track which is yards from the crumbling remnants of a gas chamber and a Rabbi recited a funeral prayer to remember the millions of Jews slaughtered during the Holocaust.

The Rabbi explained that when you come here you are not just learning facts, you are bearing witness to what happened here and what must never happen again. He encouraged all the students to leave Auschwitz with hope and that good will always triumph. Students were also reminded that they should leave with pride because Jewish people survived and continue to survive. There was a silence as people reflected, but the enormity of what went on here means that it would take 11-and-a-half years to remember each individual person with a single minute’s silence.

Mrs Wright commented that "To walk the tracks that 1.1 million Jews came in on and met their deaths, to see first-hand the evidence of the crimes of the Nazis is to realise the enormity of the tragedy that took place here, it can’t not have an effect on those present.”

“As we reflected upon the word HOPE we lit our candles and placed them in two lines on the track. These flickering lights of HOPE signposted us back to the main entrance and to our futures. At this moment the tears finally came. Many sobbed. I was reminded of a simple inscription in one of the barracks – “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.”

“We walked back along the railway tracks “With Hope in Our Hearts” Many chose to walk alone and in silence. Most thought about those who perished. At Auschwitz I saw HOPE in the eyes of the young people who accompanied me on this memorable and emotional day.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said:

“The Lessons from Auschwitz Project is a vital part of our work, allowing young people to learn about the Holocaust in a way they cannot in the classroom. The visit enables young people to see for themselves where racism, prejudice and antisemitism can ultimately lead and its importance is demonstrated by the inspiring work students go on to do in their local communities.”




Jewish Telegraph - Pupils 'haunted and harrowed' by Auschwitz



SCENE OF DEPRAVITY:
Alsop High School assistant headteacher October Wright, centre, with, from left:
head boy Harry Ellis, Mark Reynolds, Gemma Cook and head girl Eve McArdle outside Auschwitz

STUDENTS from Alsop High School have been left "haunted and harrowed" after visiting Auschwitz as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust's Lessons from Auschwitz Project on Tuesday.

The four students - head boy Harry Ellis, head girl Eve McArdle, Mark Reynolds and Gemma Cook - were joined by assistant headteacher October Wright, who is Jewish.

Before the trip, Mark met Auschwitz survivor Zigi Shipper when he visited the school as part of the HOPE 2016 initiative.

Mark said: "Only when the depths of depravity are revealed, can the value of human decency be truly appreciated."

Mrs Wright was particularly hit by Owiecim market place in the town close to the concentration camp.

"I found this spot particularly poignant as a Jew, as this was also where the Jewish people would gather and dance during Simchat Torah," she said.

"Horrifically, this exact same spot was where the Nazis gathered the Jewish people together prior to taking them to their deaths at Auschwitz."

She explained that pupils of the Walton-based school had been learning about Jewish life pre-Auschwitz.


MEMORIAL: Marc Levy, of the Jewish Leadership Council, looks at one of Alsop High School's Holocaust memorial

"The pupils and I are determined to take lessons of hope, meaning and faith away from our trip," Mrs Wright added.

"Perhaps this will come with time - for now we feel haunted and harrowed by the sights we saw, the testimonies we heard and, above all else, the depraved and evil consequences of hate.

"As we reflected upon the word HOPE, we lit our candles and placed them in two lines on the railway track. These flickering lights of HOPE signposted us back to the main entrance and to our futures.

"At this moment the tears finally came."

The Jewish Leadership Council's north-west external affairs manager Marc Levy visited the school this week.

He saw the two specially commissioned Holocaust memorials situated in the Jamieson Building.

He held discussions with Peter Bull, co-ordinator of HOPE 2016, about how the school engaged with local residents and faith communities.

"The work Alsop is doing is truly inspiring and on behalf of the Jewish community I wanted to pass on my thanks," Mr Levy said.