Hello.This is a blog post about the experiences I have learnt from participating on the Lessons From Auschwitz Orientation seminar and the trip to Poland which I went on the 21st -22nd March 2012.I am writing this post to raise awareness and hopefully to inform people who read my blog about some of the knowledge I have gained from the Lesson From Auschwitz as a student ambassador for the South West Midlands.
This is what I wrote in my Lessons From Auschwitz reflective diary before I attended the Orientation Seminar – Here's what I thought: “My aims for participating in the Lessons from Auschwitz project are to deepen my knowledge about the History of the Holocaust but also increase my knowledge about the faith of Judaism. Also, I hope that by participating in the project I will have a tolerance for everyone and respect other people's beliefs, even if they are different from my own. I would also like to use my knowledge that I gain to help other people have a more informed understanding about the Holocaust.”
From hearing the personal testimony of Renee, I heard the emotional pain which she felt but also she lost the opportunity to have her full childhood and do the every day things that I have done when I was little like playing outside with friends, going to school and
the cinema because in September 1939, Renee was 10 years old when the war was declared and the Germans marched into Germany. I feel that it has been a very overwhelming experience to have had the opportunity to hear a holocaust survivor speak about their journey, even by hearing talk with such courage about the terrifying nature of the ordeal it is still hard to comprehend the scale of the destruction and the amount of suffering experienced by the people lost through the persecution. It is significant for all of us to remember that all of those involved were individual human beings and by hearing the story of Renee, we are faced with seeing the people behind the statistics of the holocaust as they are impersonal. It really touched me that she had the optimism and hope that one day wars will be over and we can live peacefully alongside each other. The message which I heard from Renee, I will forever keep in my thoughts and heart because she actually experienced the Holocaust first hand, I heard a first hand account from a Holocaust experience which is becoming increasingly rare.
Firstly, we travelled to the town of Oświęcim and stood on an empty patch of wasteland with a few trees, the ground was rough grass which was a former Great Synagogue which would have been a place which was at the heart of a community and religious worship for a Jewish population in 1939 which made up 58% percent of the population in the town of Oświęcim. The fact that a town which had a majority population of Jews not only had its population decimated, but also its culture utterly destroyed, is a real tragedy of the Holocaust. Since the war the people of the town have had to deal with the economic problems and the stigma which is attached to living in a place which is so closely linked to the genocide.
That is why visiting the restored synagogue which has for an educational resource centre in the town, focuses on a memorial aspect, now than a place of worship, was a significant symbol of defiance. The final member of the pre-war community to live in
Oświęcim was Szymon Kluger who having survived the Holocaust, returned to his home town, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in 2000 and is buried in the Jewish cemetery in the town. It is worth mentioning that there are no Jews living in the town today.This really emphasises the loss of a significant part of the Oświęcim community which has not been regained,and we are now in 2012.
This is a collage window outside the educational Jewish centre which shows the people.
|Seeing this really touched me on a deeply personal level.|
I wear shoes everyday, I walk in them and I have a variety of different styles and colours. So did the people, who were at Auschwitz 1 and all the concentration camps, the people were unaware that the shoes that they packed, they would never see. Now, it is enormous to comprehend the magnitude of the loss of life. By having something in common with the people who died, you gain a greater appreciation of the scale. However, it is not only the shoes which you can see but the two tones of human hair, which is the amount that the Nazis failed to destroy at the end of the war. It is a very strange concept to see that the hair which you have seen was previously attached to someone’s head. The hair is part of a person’s identity and now there is a great emphasis on hairstyles and fashions to do with hair, the people who were in the camps may have also had this connection with their appearance as well.