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Students selected for prestigious History project become Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors

BySven Wardle

Apr 21, 2023
Annabel Gorman and Maciej Nuprejczyk Letters from Auschwitz

Two young historians visited Auschwitz after being selected to take part in a prestigious History project. Annabel Gorman and Maciej Nuprejczyk, Year 12 students at Richmond Sixth Form College, joined other students from across the UK in the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project which offers post-16 students the opportunity to learn about the Holocaust and consider its relevance for today. Through a bespoke interactive online platform, two online seminars and a one-day visit to Poland, the 17-year-old students have embarked on an educational journey to learn about the history of the Holocaust and the role of camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.

After taking part in a 2 ½ hour zoom call to meet fellow participants and educational leaders, Annabel and Maciej, who has Polish heritage, gained a better understanding of the history of the Holocaust and of anti-Semitism. They learnt that one of the main priorities of this project is to educate people about how despite Auschwitz being a famous part of the Holocaust, it only played a small part in this catastrophic period of history.

During their visit to Poland the students visited the Jewish museum in Oswiecim where they read about both victims and survivors of the Holocaust and they were able to develop a more human connection to the tragedy. On visiting Auschwitz 1 Annabel and Maciej said: “One of the most shocking sites at Auschwitz was of nearly two tons of hair on display. This reminded us of just how horrendous the treatment of prisoners was. Then ending our visit at Auschwitz 1, we entered the gas chamber which allowed us to reflect on the many lives lost and to remind ourselves on the importance of preserving this traumatic period of history.

They went on to visit Auschwitz Birkenau where they were met with the infamous railway line. Annabel and Maciej added: “At Auschwitz Birkenau we were able to get a better understanding of the day-to-day lives of prisoners in the camp. In comparison to Auschwitz 1, the gas chambers at Auschwitz Birkenau had been destroyed by the Nazis who were trying to hide the extent of their despicable crimes. The most moving part of the day was the memorial service when we heard a Jewish prayer ‘For Martyrs of the Holocaust’ delivered by a Rabbi which provided a strong message that despite the atrocity of the Holocaust, the Jewish religion lives on, reminding society that evil never wins.

“After the trip, we took part in a consolidation zoom call and heard from a survivor of the Holocaust, Janine Webber, who although wasn’t sent to a concentration camp described just how dangerous life was for Jewish people in society. Janine was able to survive the Holocaust by being sent to a convent in Krakow. Hearing from a survivor allowed us to realise that the Holocaust was only a relatively recent event and we as a society therefore have to be careful to prevent it from occurring again.”

Over the next few weeks, Annabel and Maciej will be working on a project to share their knowledge of the Holocaust with the school and the wider community. After this is complete, they will both have become Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors.

Stacey Ridley, History teacher, said: “Both students are fantastic representatives of our school and college and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Hats off to them for going on the trip without a member of staff too, this can sometimes be quite daunting. Within their application letters they displayed maturity and empathy and they clearly understood and conveyed their understanding of the importance of teaching others about the Holocaust; that this is something that should never be forgotten.

“Maciej’s application letter stood out because of its originality. Maciej explained that he would like to learn more about the Holocaust as he has Polish heritage. He wanted to look at it from the perspective of the Polish and to find out more about their involvement. I had no doubt whatsoever that they would be up for the task and that they would take away lots of insightful ideas from this programme. I can’t wait to work with them on their ‘next steps’ projects.

The Holocaust was the murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazis and their collaborators – it was an episode which changed the shape of Europe, and the world, forever. You can find out more about the Letters from Auschwitz programme at https://www.het.org.uk/lessons-from-auschwitz-online