Read the trip report written by Sixth Form students Chloe Hewitt and Taylor Turner about their trip to Auschwitz in November of last year.

One of the most striking things I found whilst visiting Auschwitz was the way in which the place tried to express the individuals that were taken there and the people that had lives before the holocaust and their lives that were taken from them. These victims had their own names, interests, likes, dislikes, their own homes and families yet each and every one of them was reduced to nothing but a number and a target for Nazi prison guards. So many people perished in Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz – Birkenau and many just assume that it was only the Jews that were the victims however there were so many more: political prisoners, roma and sinti gypsies, homosexuals, polish prisoners, jehovah’s witnesses and the list would go on to any individuals who were against what the Nazi regime thought to be part of them. Each prisoner could have been someone like your mother, father or your brothers and sisters; they must not be forgotten.

Walking up to one of the most iconic images of the death camp was a strange feeling, it had an eerie atmosphere to the place as seeing the actual building in front of me seemed the same as how you view it on the pictures.

Despite visiting Auschwitz being an unbelievable experience, it was incredibly shocking and distressing to be walking around the site where horrendous mass genocide had taken place, where so many prisoners worked to survive and many just to await their death.

We visited Auschwitz I, where I first caught site of the infamous gate ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ translating as ‘Work sets you free.’ My first thoughts, I was unnerved. Primarily because I didn’t know how I was going to react throughout the day, which was unsettling for me. The blocks of buildings were set up like I imagined they would be, however I wasn’t prepared for the guide taking us through the museum and seeing the belongings that so many had brought to Auschwitz with them, like the keys they brought because they believed one day they were going home. I wasn’t prepared for the tonnes of hair and shoes, that the Nazis found uses for their own benefit. I wasn’t prepared to stand in front of the shooting wall, where men, women and children were shot and to stand where prisoners were forced to play music when they would march out to work for the day. This was so Nazis could count the exact number, and so the same exact number would return, dead or alive.

Only a 5 minute bus drive away from Auschwitz I and the town, was Auschwitz-Birkenau. My first thought this time… This was huge. The scale of the camp was unimaginable until you actually go through the main gate and see the railway and blocks of wooden barracks surrounding you, stretching back which almost seemed never-ending. Then I found out why this death camp was the size, as this was created for the Final Solution, essentially, the mass murder of all Jews and minorities. At the end of the railway was one of the major gas chambers- that could hold approximately 2,000 people each- which was destroyed by the Nazis in an effort to conceal what they had done. However, you could still see the 180゜view of the sections of the chamber, where each process occurred, where they entered, the section where they would have to remove their clothes, and then walk into the section of the chamber where they would be killed.

At the end of the day we all gathered to join in prayer and reflect on our thoughts of the day, placing a candle on the railway to remember the millions of lives lost throughout the Holocaust. Visiting Auschwitz was a remarkable and emotional experience for all of us and reminds us how we must remember the individuals who lost their lives to prevent anything like this happening again.