Mike Thornton MP and students from Eastleigh returned from the Holocaust Educational Trust’s visit to the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau on Tuesday 12th November vowing to act on the lessons learned from the experience.
Mike joined more than 200 post-16 students from across the South-East on the Project. It was a unique opportunity to learn what happened at Auschwitz-Birkenau, to pay respect to those murdered by the Nazis, and to explore the lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today. The students will now use the experience to commemorate and educate others about the Holocaust within their schools and local communities.
Now in its fourteenth year, the Government funded project is based on the premise that "hearing is not like seeing". Students first visited Oświęcim, the town where the Nazi concentration and death camp was located and where, before the war, 58% of the population was Jewish. Students then visited Auschwitz I to see the former camp’s barracks and crematoria and witnessed the piles of belongings that were seized by the Nazis. Finally they spent time at the main killing centre of Birkenau where the day concluded with candle lighting and a period of reflection to remember the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the other victims of Nazi persecution.
The visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau was preceded by a seminar in the UK where participants were introduced to Jewish life in Europe before the Second World War. Following the visit, the students will attend a seminar to reflect on the visit and discuss their personal responses to it. The fourth part of the project requires all students to pass on the Lessons from Auschwitz to their schools and wider community. In this way, as many people as possible benefit from the Lessons from Auschwitz Project.
Government funding has enabled the Trust to facilitate regional visits to Auschwitz, as part of its Lessons from Auschwitz Project for thousands of students each year.
Mike Thornton MP said:
"Before I went on this visit I had learnt about the Holocaust, my father had fought during the Second World War, and my mother was in the American Red Cross during the war. I also knew Jewish Holocaust survivors, and I thought I understood the tragedy and wickedness of the Holocaust.
"However, nothing prepared me for the feelings that this trip engendered. I’m still struggling to come to terms with this experience and I want to make sure that we never forget, that this never happens again, and that our children, and our children’s children, will never forget.
"I want to thank the Holocaust Educational Trust for bringing me face to face with this most awful of events."
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said:
"We are delighted that Mike joined us on the visit with students from his constituency. The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project is such a vital part of our work because it allows young people to learn about the Holocaust in a way they cannot in the classroom. The Holocaust was a defining episode in history, and this visit enables young people to see for themselves where racism, prejudice and antisemitism can ultimately lead."
For further information about the Holocaust Educational Trust, please visit their website www.het.org.uk