News and Events

Holocaust Memorial Day- Torn from Home


Last week, to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, students at SRWA heard about pre-war Jewish life in Europe and the ensuing genocide from two fellow students- sixth formers who recently visited Auschwitz.

Year 12 students Archie Fletcher and Bethany Steer, who are both studying A-Level History at W6, took part in the ground breaking ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’, project run by the Holocaust Educational Trust. The project is designed to help young people understand the realities of the Holocaust by experiencing Auschwitz first hand, after which they are encouraged to share their personal responses with others in their school and community.

During the visit, students were first taken to Oświęcim, the town where the Auschwitz concentration and death camps were located and where the local Jewish community lived prior to the start of the Second World War. They were then shown several barracks at Auschwitz I – registration documents of inmates, piles of hair, shoes, clothes and other items seized from the prisoners as they entered the camps. After that they were taken the short distance to Birkenau. This is the site that most people associate with the word “Auschwitz” and where the vast majority of victims were murdered. The remnants of barracks, crematoria and gas chambers are in stark contrast to Auschwitz I. The tour of Birkenau culminates in a memorable ceremony held next to the destroyed crematoria. The ceremony includes readings, a moment of reflection and ends with all participants lighting memorial candles.

Archie and Bethany, who are now Ambassadors for the Holocaust Education Trust said the trip was a “life changing experience”. Bethany said “Nothing could have prepared me for the size and scale of the camps and the killing that took place there.” Archie said “The visit to Auschwitz made me comprehend the reality of the Holocaust. Much more powerful than learning about it in the classroom.”

On their return the pair spoke about their experience in assemblies based on this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme - Torn from Home. They linked Auschwitz to genocides going on in the present day and explained why it is important to take individual responsibility and stand up against prejudice in any form.

On Friday 25th January 20 visitors including the Mayor and Mayoress, Coucillors, Rabbis, a vicar and members of the District Council came into school. They attended the student assembly and a subsequent presentation by SRWA history teacher Marie Vivier who is an expert on the Holocaust and was the organiser behind the Auschwitz trip and our Holocaust Memorial Day events. She now plans to expand the ambassador programme to other schools in the area.

Marie said: "A poll carried out by the Guardian last week showed that 1 in 20 people in the UK do not believe that the Holocaust happened. If these figures are to be believed it is essential that young people learn fact based information about what happened during the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides.Holocaust memorial day is important for remembering all of the victims of the Holocaust and for reflecting upon why it is important to take social responsibility for standing up to prejudice and discrimination in whatever form it takes today."