The idea was first raised following Solvejg and Liam’s trip to Poland last year to visit the Birkenau concentration camp. They chose a birch tree because Birkenau means birch tree and the camp was named because of the birch trees around it. Sion and fellow Class 11 pupil Lilly are currently preparing for a visit to the camp in February.
After her visit Solvejg wrote the following piece:
“I learnt many lessons during both the seminars and the visit to Poland yet the main lesson I learnt is everyone should be equal whether they’re a factory worker or a politician, black or white, disabled or classed as normal. Everyone is a human being and deserves to be treated and respected as one!
I realised everyone who survived the holocaust has a really positive outlook at life. Though they’ve witnessed atrocious things the message they give across while telling their story is forgiveness and joy. Be happy, embrace every challenge in life with determination and love. You have a chance at life- LIVE IT!!
For our Next Steps Projects our school asked us (Liam Rice and myself) to give an assembly to classes 8-10. We presented them with a slide show and commented on each picture. We also told them how we felt in the days coming up to the visit, on the day and our feeling now we’d had time to reflect on what we witnessed.
As we felt the assembly went well and we got a lot of positive feed back from both teachers and pupils, we decided to look at more ways to share our experience.
We then repeated a slightly lighter version of the assembly for class 7. They hadn’t leant about the holocaust yet so we were a little concerned it would be a bad introduction but in spite our fears they were very attentive and responded well by asking lots of questions.
With class 8 we had a reflection session on the assembly. We went into the classroom and immediately shouted to get them to line up outside their classroom in silence and to remove their shoes, dumping them onto a pile. One at a time we called out their surnames and gave them a sticker with a number then immediately sent them back into the classroom for them to find Liam who simply pointed to where they where to go and that’s where they waited in silence for our next command. By doing this we wanted to give them a sense of what it was like as a Jewish family arriving into Auschwitz.
Once in their groups we asked them to choose one question about the assembly, leading to a discussion and more questions. Slowly a need to understand how one can treat another in such a cruel fashion became the biggest question, one of which we could not answer for as it is still incomprehensible.
At the end of the lesson we asked how they felt when we lined them up and stripped them of their identity and shoes, the response was confusion and a little fear.
In all of our sessions, although many of the pupils were stunned into silence with their mouths slightly opened. I believe we got our message across – We mustn’t dwell on the past but learn from it and educate others so that it may never happen again!”