Kylie Gregory and Jamie McClory, both students and learning mentors at the College of North East London (CONEL), were among 200 London students who travelled to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp, outside the southern Polish city of Oswiecim. The visit was featured on BBC London News.
The Holocaust Educational Trust receives funding of £1.5 million to promote understanding among 16 to 18 year olds, through its Lessons from Auschwitz project. The Trust approached the College, which agreed to fund places for two students to make the trip and the group of students flew to Krakow on October 8th and returned late that night.
Over one million people were murdered in Auschwitz between 1940 and 1944. The first inmates were Polish political prisoners, soon to be joined by Gypsies and Soviet prisoners of war. In 1942, the gruesome site was the first Nazi camp to witness the systematic mass murder of European Jews.
Kylie Gregory studies public services and plans a career in the criminal justice system. She attended a seminar to prepare for the trip and considers that before this, she had little knowledge of the Holocaust. Hearing a survivor tell his story changed that. At Auschwitz-Berkenau, Kylie saw stark reminders of the depths of the cruelty inflicted by the Nazis. "Knowing that they killed babies - seeing little babies' shoes was really upsetting" she says. "The suitcases with the names of addresses of the family members - people brought photographs with them, thinking that they were moving on to a better life."
"If I hadn't seen this, I wouldn't have thought about the Holocaust" Kylie adds, "You can try to put yourself in their position, imagine the experience that people went through, which you can't do from looking at a book. There were people on our trip who had family members who had died in these camps."
For Kylie, the memorial service lead by the rabbi was a moving experience. "He told us that if we held a minute's silence for everyone who died, we would be silent for at least four years. Nowadays, people can stand up for other races - it might escalate and end in a war but people will resist racism. In those days, no-one stood up for them. They were fighting a losing battle."
Jamie McClory of St Albans is 18 and studies A-Levels in Politics, History and English at CONEL. In GCSE History, he studied a module on the Holocaust and last year, Jamie also visited Berlin on a CONEL trip, where students saw the places where the Nazis planned the Holocaust and the invasion of other countries, including Britain. "You can tell people that you've been to Auschwitz but not how you felt - it's indescribable" he said. Jamie found that seeing the gas chamber was the most emotional part of the visit, being in the place where so many people had met such a terrible fate. "The rabbi told us that to imagine the scale of the murder, it would be like having another 9/11 - but every single day for the next two years."
- Last Updated: 16 November 2007