In November 2018 two students from Worthing College visited the death camp of Auschwitz in Poland as part of an initiative run by the ‘lessons from Auschwitz’ charity. Kyla Mitchell and Oscar Pennels flew from London very early in the morning to Krakow in Poland and then on to Auschwitz by coach. Both students had already had a meeting in London to prepare for the visit and meet fellow travellers. Kyla said that the meeting was very useful to get some idea of what would be involved in the trip and to make some emotional preparation for what would be seen.
Both students found the visit extremely moving – Kyla reported that the images of the train tracks leading to the camp was her first emotional moment that really brought home what would be coming later on. A mountain of pots and pans and other personal items belonging to those who were murdered really hit hard and the true scale of the murders became very apparent. Oscar later described the numbers of those who died as ‘murder on an industrial scale’.
Kyla was also very moved by the visit to the gas chambers and the crematoria where the two and a half million victims were brought to be killed and then have their remains destroyed by fire. Both students admitted that seeing the tracks on the floor of the gas chamber that allowed wagons full of bodies to be transported to the crematoria were especially moving. Oscar also told of how the gas chambers had been disguised as showers with dummy shower pipes and heads to fool those victims into believing that they were merely being sent to work.
Overall both Kyla and Oscar have agreed that the visit really brought home the reality of genocide in a way that books never can and that identifying with individual victims overcame the sheer scale of the crimes against humanity. Kyla also believes that far more people of her age should be given the opportunity to visit the site to get their perceptions of this terrible set of events.