20 November 2023
The realities of the Holocaust were brought home to GCSE students of History and Religious Studies on a three-day visit to Kraków, Poland, 8-10 November.
The first stop in a packed programme was the last remaining synagogue in Kraków in the Kazimierz District. The girls learnt about pre-war Jewish life and the Jewish Ghetto that existed under Nazi occupation. Next, the girls visited the Galicia Jewish Museum, which records the ruins of the Jewish culture in Poland through photographs. Here, the girls had the privilege of meeting a Holocaust survivor who gave her account and personal experiences of being born to Jewish parents in Kraków during the war, and how she later found out she was adopted by Polish Catholic parents.
Day two, the main purpose of the trip was for the students to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. The powerful displays of physical objects found at the site, such as rooms of personal belongings and photographs at Auschwitz I, and the sheer scale of Auschwitz II, known as Birkenau, left a lasting impression on the girls.
“No book or video can fully prepare you for the impact of this site” said Mr Benjamin Rassell, St Mary’s Subject Lead for History. “After a very challenging time being confronted with the worst of what humanity is capable, the students spent the evening at a restaurant listening and dancing to traditional Polish folk music to end the day on a more hopeful note”.
On day three, the girls visited the Wieliczka Salt Mines, a UNESCO world heritage site where they saw stunning carvings and uncovered several underground chapels and sculptures.