St. John’s students visited Auschwitz and Birkenau on a recent High School History trip to Poland. Students were given a guided tour of both camps which allowed them to see at first hand exactly what happened there. Students also took in the sights of Krakow, where we had a guided tour and explored the Jewish quarter.
The purpose of the trip was to enable students to see a first-hand the remains of Auschwitz and Birkenau. They also serve as a lesson from the past to both the present and the future regarding how we should react to acts of genocide. We can learn that if power is unchecked and not properly exercised what may happen. Students may well think about Darfur and Rwanda as recent examples, however, we can only hope that our future international statesmen/women, after seeing and understanding the systematic murder of millions of people at Auschwitz, will be able to lead both righteously and justly.
To maximise their learning experience at both camps, we took the services of professional guides. The State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The former camp of Auschwitz houses exhibitions relating to the history of the camp, including personal belongings of the victims. The actual sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau provide students with a glimpse of the perpetrators’ methods of murder.
St John’s students who went on the trip had a unique learning experience, realising too the value of field trips which allow students to learn things in a different way and approach their learning in a way that they could never experience from book or a film. The students reflections of the trip showed how the trip made an impact on the way they thought about the holocaust.
A great learning experience was had by all.
By Ewan Macdonald, HS History teacher