Myself and a schoolmate recently took part in the charitable organisation’s Lesson From Auschwitz project, which aims to educate school children on the reality of the Holocaust. Below is what I have taken from it.
Hearing about Auschwitz-Birkenau in school is nothing like seeing it first-hand. It is easy to dismiss or become desensitised to figures like ‘one million Jews died in Auschwitz-Birkenau’ and forget that each of those numbers was a human life, who had friends and a family and wishes just like every one of us. Lessons from Auschwitz to us was something which transformed the clinical numbers into a realisation of exactly what the Holocaust meant to those affected by it, and to the world. The Holocaust meant over six million human lives and human potential being lost to our world- six million lives lost which could have been lived.
Hearing from an actual survivor of the Holocaust puts into perspective the destruction and true impact it had. This man was one of millions who didn’t survive- what he has done in his life represents how many experiences so many did not have the chance to enjoy. It’s crucial that we listen and learn from these stories whilst we still have the opportunity, because the sad reality is that our generation is the last who will be able to hear from survivors first-hand.
Birkenau was truly a terrifying thing for us to see. The vastness and emptiness create a hopeless feeling inside you and looking around, it was almost impossible to imagine how humans could orchestrate and facilitate such cruelty to each other. But it was the biting cold, even through our dozens of layers and soft, fur-lined coats which gave us even a tiny sliver of an idea of how horrendous life at Auschwitz-Birkenau could have been. We can never hope to truly understand what happened at this death camp, or those like it, but we can take away a shadow of a nightmare of what took place, and use this to ensure it never happens again.
Many will only ever think of the Holocaust as a historical event, which we can never change and will always remain frozen in the 1900s and in the pages of our textbooks. But what Lessons from Auschwitz has made us realise is that this is fundamentally not true. We have the ability to remedy the Holocaust, not by bringing back what was lost, but making sure nothing of the sort happens again. Genocide on the grounds of race and religion are ubiquitously common amongst our History. Even today, when we think nothing like the Holocaust could ever take place again, Muslims are being hunted and killed in Myanmar. It’s easy to think that you’re just one human with little significance or ability to help. But it’s not the case. We are the generation who will shape the next, who can and must change the world for the better. A quotation we learnt from Lessons from Auschwitz was “We learn from history that we do not learn from history” – don’t let this shameful trend of humanity continue. Be the change we need to see.