This November, Year 13 Religious Studies student Hayley Maunder was selected to represent the College at the annual Lessons From Auschwitz Project in Poland.
Hayley’s first task was to attend a seminar where she met up with other 16-18 year old students participating in the project, before listening to the testimony of Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper. Hayley said, “It was a moving experience which made me realise how difficult it would be to see first hand the places he spoke about.”
The visit to Poland itself took place over one eventful day that began with an early flight then the students were straight onto a coach to visit the site of pre-war Jewish town Oświęcim, where 60% of the population were wiped out during the Holocaust. This part of the visit gives students an insight into life before and after the tragedy.
Next was a tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, led by an expert guide and a Lessons From Auschwitz representative. Hayley recalled, “The worst part for me was seeing the different personalities through their shoes, and the names on the suitcases made it all the more real.”
The day culminated in a memorial service held at the railway line, the main entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Rabbi Barry Marcus sang a Hebrew prayer and Hayley read a poem, before the students lit candles and took a moment of silent reflection.
Hayley’s next task on the project is to attend a follow-up seminar where the participating students will reflect on their experiences and the impact that the visit had on them. They will also plan how they can educate others in their respective local communities, such as by holding assemblies in schools to raise awareness about the project and passing on what they have learned from their profound experience.