"Our visit was beyond anything we could imagine," students from Old Swinford Hospital School said of their trip to the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Sixth form students Daniel Aliwell and Callum White and their teacher Laura Hunt flew to Poland last Thursday (March 15) as delegates of the Holocaust Educational Trust programme which aims to educate young people about the horrors of the Holocaust.

Before heading off on the trip the students attended an orientation seminar with Holocaust survivor Rudi Oppenheimer who told how his life transformed from that of an ordinary child to something truly awful and how he lost both of his parents at the Bergen-Belsen death camp.

The seminar was followed up with a haunting trip to the equally horrifying camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

After arriving in Krakow - the students, part of a 281-strong delegation from the region, visited Oswiecim - the Polish town closest to Auschwitz-Birkenau where 60 per cent of the population was Jewish - before arriving at the Auschwitz I camp where they walked under the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign.

The students described how "nothing can truly prepare one to pass beneath it almost to enter an entirely different world" - and they told how the camp itself, comprised largely of brick-built former Polish army barracks, carried with it "a feeling of uneasiness" and how they noticed that the only sounds were created by footsteps treading over the rough cobbled ground.

As they toured the barracks, which are now part of the museum, they were surrounded by poignant exhibits - one in particular featuring two tonnes of human hair which they said left a "harrowing impact" on them, bringing home the sheer scale and industrial nature of the Holocaust.

In Block 27, the students were invited by the educators from the Holocaust Educational Trust to look through the ‘Sterbebücher’ (death record) where page upon page listed names alphabetically of the 1.2 million known victims of the Auschwitz camps.

The final stage of the visit saw them travel the short distance to Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau) where they saw the infamous guard tower and rows of wooden barracks in a bleak, barren landscape - before visiting the memorial site and destroyed crematorium where educators read out testimonies of the ‘Sonderkommando’ (prisoners forced to aid the disposal of gas chamber victims).

Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue London then led a short memorial ceremony after which delegates were invited to light candles before making their way home, something millions who passed through Auschwitz never had chance to do.

OSH students Callum and Daniel said the trip had opened their eyes "to the horrors of what the human race is capable of" and they added: "Our visit was beyond anything we could imagine. We would urge others to do the same - visit a concentration camp, research what the Holocaust actually was and in doing so raise awareness of the Holocaust to ensure such an event doesn’t happen again.”

The students were due to attend a final seminar led by the Trust this week before undertaking project work of their own to further their own learning and raise awareness of the Holocaust and its victims.