On Wednesday 23rd October 2019, the RE department took 15 A Level students on a three-day trip to Krakow, with the intention of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and leaning more about Jewish life in Poland under Nazi occupation.
We arrived in Krakow on Wednesday afternoon to glorious sunshine and an unexpected October heatwave. No sooner had we arrived at the hotel and dropped our cases, we were pounding the historic streets of Krakow, visiting location scenes from the 1993 Steven Spielberg film Schindler’s List, the once Jewish occupied quarter of Krakow and the famous Wawel Cathedral. We returned wearily, on foot to the hotel for our evening meal and an early night.
Day 2 was another action-packed day, we left Krakow at 8am in order to visit the Polish town of Oswiecim, otherwise known as Auschwitz. Upon our arrival at Auschwitz One, we entered through the infamous gates signposted “Arbeit macht frie”, ironically translated as “work make your free”. Here we discovered how inmates were horrifically treated, from starvation and disease to human experimentation and finally the implementation of the Nazi master plan of the Final Solution for the Jewish race. We walked through the only remaining Gas chamber, this was an eerie, yet sobering experience.
From Auschwitz one we made the short coach journey to Birkenau. The majority of Birkenau was destroyed by the Nazi’s, in order to cover up the atrocities that took place here. Nevertheless, we witnessed the ruins of the industrial gas chambers and crematoriums and we experienced the harsh and basic conditions that the inmates of the camp had to endure.
From Birkenau, we made our way back to Krakow, for some much-needed light relief and retail therapy! However, our day did not end there! We then made the 20-minute walk across Krakow to visit the factory occupied by Oscar Schindler, a man famous for saving the lives of over 1000 Jews by keeping them safe from Nazi persecution in his factory, which was considered a safe haven for the Jews.
The trip was a huge success and that is mainly due to the students who accompanied the RE department on this visit. They exhibited the upmost respect and were absolutely delightful company. They were true ambassadors for the school, and I for one could not be prouder of them. Well done and thank you.