Why a visit to Auschwitz left an indelible mark on Stourbridge students

Stourbridge News: Stourbridge students Harry Jenkins and Blake Lewis at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Photo by Blake Ezra Photography. Stourbridge students Harry Jenkins and Blake Lewis at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Photo by Blake Ezra Photography.

The Holocaust Educational Trust took a group of local students to Auschwitz this month and News reporter Adam Smith joined them.

 

 

THE Auschwitz concentration and death camp complex dwarfs the size of Stourbridge.

And the death camp the Nazis built killed the equivalent of the town's population on a weekly basis.

So even if you imagine everyone you have ever known being killed it still does not come close to the amount the Nazi's murdered every day in one corner of Poland when they were implementing their evil Final Solution.

Seeing a giant glass cabinet filled with the hair of 140,000 victims at the Auschwitz museum is jolting.

And peering at the jewellery, suitcases, shoes and other belongings of victims which are just yards away from a pile of poison gas canisters used to kill over a million Jews is an overwhelming experience.

An emotional and harrowing experience which will stay with Stourbridge sixth-formers who visited the death camp for the rest of their lives.

Earlier this month the Holocaust Educational Trust flew 200 students to Auschwitz to see for themselves the worst crime scene in human history.

Now the sixteen and seventeen year-olds who stood in the gas chambers where men, women and children were killed will be ambassadors of the trust in a bid to ensure the Holocaust is never forgotten.

Old Swinford Hospital School student Harry Jenkins, aged 17, stood solemnly on the train tracks which transported Jews, Gypsies, political prisoners and other enemies of the twisted Nazi ideology to their death and reflected on the mass slaughter.

He said: "The astonishing part of this trip is that as you approach Auschwitz on modern day transport the camp stands out like a football stadium in any major city.

"Once inside, the true extent of just how the Nazis regarded Auschwitz as its crown jewel of the Final Solution is there to see. With its row upon row of neat brick blocks, I realised it was inescapable."

He added: "With watch towers every 100 metres, three rows of barbed wire fences and a forest surrounding it, hundreds of thousands of prisoners were trapped. In three years, only 140 people escaped."

Harry, who hopes to become a journalist, added: "I came home with one detail of that day; a memory which left me more moved than anything else. In Block 5, behind a glass wall, holds thousands of front door keys.

"The people who perished had done what we all do before leaving home except for them they had no idea they were never going back."

Fellow Old Swinfonian Blake Lewis, aged 17, was also deeply affected by the trip.

He said: "The most upsetting experience was seeing the possessions the Nazis had confiscated from victims. Shoes, each pair taken from a prisoner of the Nazis and suitcases, each taken from someone who had packed under false hope.

"Even human hair, from the shaving upon arrival, the beginning of their dehumanisation.

"Each individual was upsetting, but it was the fact that there were enormous piles of these items that really affected me."

He added: "The thought of all of these ordinary people being robbed of the right to a normal life was sickening."

The Auschwitz complex sprawls across 40 square kilometres comprising of three main camps and 45 sub-camps. The students first visited the town of Oswiecim which started WW2 which 7,000 jews and now has none. The group then toured the original Auschwitz concentration camp which the Nazis used to house then kill Polish political prisoners before heading to Auschwitz-Birkenau where the extermination of over a million people was carried out with military precision.

The day ended with a candle-light service at the end of the train tracks where so many people met their own end to remember those who perished. The visit helped the students realise their generation will have to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive after everyone who survived World War Two dies.

Blake said: "Ending the day with a memorial service, the lighting of candles was a symbol for hope in a establishment filled with such darkness.

"This experience has made me determined to pass on my education to others, so that future generations are not subject to the same atrocities those who came before have suffered and we can preserve tolerance in our multi-cultural society."

Comments (10)

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12:51am Sat 15 Mar 14

jimpres says...

The term 'Polish death camp' is incorrect. The German Nazis established the death camps on occupied Polish soil. The camps were not Polish as implied by the comment. Please correct the error.
The term 'Polish death camp' is incorrect. The German Nazis established the death camps on occupied Polish soil. The camps were not Polish as implied by the comment. Please correct the error. jimpres
  • Score: 28

2:52am Sat 15 Mar 14

Iwonka says...

There were no "Polish death camps"! Reputable publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and Los Angeles Times have changed their style guides to expunge the use of such history distorting terminology. Just recently, the Association of German Historians have condemned the use of such language precisely because it is false. It is curious that the article makes no mention of the country which actually perpetrated the Holocaust: Germany! "Nazis" were neither a country nor a nationality, so please refrain from misleading your readers as to who was responsible for World War Two war crimes! Furthermore, non-Jewish Poles comprised the second largest group of victims in the GERMAN camps, and by naming the camps "Polish" you shift the blame from the perpetrators to the victims.
There were no "Polish death camps"! Reputable publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and Los Angeles Times have changed their style guides to expunge the use of such history distorting terminology. Just recently, the Association of German Historians have condemned the use of such language precisely because it is false. It is curious that the article makes no mention of the country which actually perpetrated the Holocaust: Germany! "Nazis" were neither a country nor a nationality, so please refrain from misleading your readers as to who was responsible for World War Two war crimes! Furthermore, non-Jewish Poles comprised the second largest group of victims in the GERMAN camps, and by naming the camps "Polish" you shift the blame from the perpetrators to the victims. Iwonka
  • Score: 27

5:54pm Sun 16 Mar 14

Stop LIES! says...

There were no "Polish death camps"!
The only POLISH in Auschwitz- were PRISONS!!!!
maybe you need a lowsuit to end such insults!!!!
There were no "Polish death camps"! The only POLISH in Auschwitz- were PRISONS!!!! maybe you need a lowsuit to end such insults!!!! Stop LIES!
  • Score: 9

5:57pm Sun 16 Mar 14

Stop LIES! says...

https://www.facebook
.com/photo.php?fbid=
637573726282971&set=
a.623253634381647.10
73741828.55160896821
2781&type=1&theater
https://www.facebook .com/photo.php?fbid= 637573726282971&set= a.623253634381647.10 73741828.55160896821 2781&type=1&theater Stop LIES!
  • Score: -1

9:46am Mon 17 Mar 14

AnnaPia says...

Stop LIES! wrote:
There were no "Polish death camps"!
The only POLISH in Auschwitz- were PRISONS!!!!
maybe you need a lowsuit to end such insults!!!!
PRISONERS.
[quote][p][bold]Stop LIES![/bold] wrote: There were no "Polish death camps"! The only POLISH in Auschwitz- were PRISONS!!!! maybe you need a lowsuit to end such insults!!!![/p][/quote]PRISONERS. AnnaPia
  • Score: 5

9:58am Mon 17 Mar 14

AnnaPia says...

Well, Polish people transported to and killed in Auschwitz were just Polish, it was enough for Germans (you write "Nazis" as if they had come from the Middle-Earth). Germans organised regularly in Poland so-called round-ups just to catch people to transport them to concentration camps. And Jews in Auschwitz were at first Polish Jews, Poland's citizens.
Moreover, why do you write "Nazis"? There were Germans, Hitler won normal, democratic votes in Germany in 1933. Normal German people voted for him and became beasts while entering in NSDAP, SS or Wehrmacht.
Last but not least - people of conquest West European countries were treated by Germans like humans (Mensch), but Polish were treated as under-humans (Untermensch), like Jews. So, we were killed together.
Well, Polish people transported to and killed in Auschwitz were just Polish, it was enough for Germans (you write "Nazis" as if they had come from the Middle-Earth). Germans organised regularly in Poland so-called round-ups just to catch people to transport them to concentration camps. And Jews in Auschwitz were at first Polish Jews, Poland's citizens. Moreover, why do you write "Nazis"? There were Germans, Hitler won normal, democratic votes in Germany in 1933. Normal German people voted for him and became beasts while entering in NSDAP, SS or Wehrmacht. Last but not least - people of conquest West European countries were treated by Germans like humans (Mensch), but Polish were treated as under-humans (Untermensch), like Jews. So, we were killed together. AnnaPia
  • Score: 7

11:55am Wed 19 Mar 14

BrianBeddowes says...

Why you pedantic so n' so's. "You should say..." "I think you'll find it's...." "Why did you say...."

Bet you lot watch Eggheads and that Chase program with Bradley "wonder where we went?" Walsh.

Well all know what he means, well done sir, very good article.
Why you pedantic so n' so's. "You should say..." "I think you'll find it's...." "Why did you say...." Bet you lot watch Eggheads and that Chase program with Bradley "wonder where we went?" Walsh. Well all know what he means, well done sir, very good article. BrianBeddowes
  • Score: 1

5:51am Thu 20 Mar 14

ozpat says...

A disturbing and painful lesson for everyone and a black mark against humanity as a whole. What matters here is the holocaust, the unimaginable loss of life, the inflicted horror. What have we become if 70 years later we are reduced to pedantry remarks in the face of this article and what it is meant to mean. Some people have clearly lost "their way" if this is what matters most to them.
A disturbing and painful lesson for everyone and a black mark against humanity as a whole. What matters here is the holocaust, the unimaginable loss of life, the inflicted horror. What have we become if 70 years later we are reduced to pedantry remarks in the face of this article and what it is meant to mean. Some people have clearly lost "their way" if this is what matters most to them. ozpat
  • Score: 1

1:38pm Thu 20 Mar 14

Sam Vimes says...

It does seem a bit of an overreaction to the wording of the article. It's hard to imagine there's many folk who don't have a working knowledge of origins of the holocaust and nazis.
It does seem a bit of an overreaction to the wording of the article. It's hard to imagine there's many folk who don't have a working knowledge of origins of the holocaust and nazis. Sam Vimes
  • Score: 1

3:06pm Fri 21 Mar 14

Russell Eden says...

It was obviously posted on some forum somewhere. I have sympathy with them seeking to have this put right.

Without wishing to take this off topic, it is very annoying when the press makes blatant mistakes. As a cyclist and driver I'm always infuriated when to hear/read/see people banging on about 'road tax', as in, 'why don't you cyclists pay road tax?' There's been no such tax since 1937, but you wouldn't think so when you see how ignorant people are of so many facts.
It was obviously posted on some forum somewhere. I have sympathy with them seeking to have this put right. Without wishing to take this off topic, it is very annoying when the press makes blatant mistakes. As a cyclist and driver I'm always infuriated when to hear/read/see people banging on about 'road tax', as in, 'why don't you cyclists pay road tax?' There's been no such tax since 1937, but you wouldn't think so when you see how ignorant people are of so many facts. Russell Eden
  • Score: 0

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