Alex Cunningham joined more than 200 post-16 students from Stockton North and the wider Tees Valley on a visit to the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust as part of the Lessons from Auschwitz Project.
The Member of Parliament for Stockton North took the unique opportunity to learn more about what happened at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and to pay his respect to those murdered by the Nazis while exploring the lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today.
Now in its fourteenth year, the Project is based on the premise that “hearing is not like seeing”. The group first visited Oświęcim (Auschwitz), the town where the Nazi concentration and death camp was located and where, before the war, 58% of the population was Jewish. The group then visited Auschwitz One to see the former camp’s barracks and crematoria, and witnessed the piles of belongings that were seized by the Nazis.
Finally, they spent time at Birkenau, where most of the people were killed, prior to a period of reflection to remember the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust and the other victims of Nazi persecution.
Having attended seminars before and after the visit, students will pass on the Lessons from Auschwitz to their schools and wider communities, ensuring as many people as possible benefit from the Project.
“I cannot overstate the impact of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau and of recognising the full extent of the industrialised nature of the Holocaust. These events may have taken place 70 years ago, but as our society bears witness, we need to continue to teach the lessons of the Holocaust to the younger generations in order to fight bigotry and hatred today. This much is clear from the harrowing sights I saw.
“I look forward to learning how the students communicate their experience and am encouraged that many more students will have the opportunity to participate in the course in future years. I hope that this will ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten and that its lessons are truly learnt.”
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are delighted that Alex joined us on the visit with students from Stockton North. The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project is such a vital part of our work because it allows young people to learn about the Holocaust in a way they cannot in the classroom. The Holocaust was a defining episode in history, and this visit enables young people to see for themselves where racism, prejudice and anti-semitism can ultimately lead.”