History students plant tree in remembrance of Holocaust victims

Over the past few months, A Level History students Georgia, Gemma, Kayleigh and Izzy have been involved in the Holocaust Educational Trust (UK)'s ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ project which aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust for young people and its relevance today.

Usually, this would include a harrowing trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp. This year, the students have been taking part in the project's immersive 'Lessons from Auschwitz Online', which takes post-16 students across the country on a journey of learning and reflection; offering them the opportunity to explore the Holocaust through an interactive, digital platform.

Students attended live online seminars guided by experts in the field of Holocaust education where they heard the first-hand testimony of a Holocaust survivor. Students then reflected on their learnings in a reflective diary and also had the opportunity to take part in a virtual site-visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum as it is today.

A Level History student Georgia Stevens, shared how she found the experience: “Overall, I have found it really eye-opening, as one of the key features of the project is understanding how there was an individual person behind every life that was lost.

“Learning about how the Holocaust impacted each individual life has been really interesting, but also an incredibly overwhelming experience. The virtual reality tour of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was an amazing and incredibly powerful experience - looking around the camp gave me a better understanding of how people were treated here, and it also felt incredibly real.

"A lot of our learning of the Holocaust comes through the accounts of holocaust survivors and witnesses, however these are unfortunately now few in number and soon there will be no survivors left to teach others the events of the Holocaust. We are the last generation of people who will be able to learn about the Holocaust from people who experienced it, so it is our responsibility to ensure their legacy remains.”

Following the sessions, students were required to complete a ‘Next Steps Project’ through sharing their learning to a wider community. This year, students chose to do this by planting a tree at the College.

Joined by the other History students involved in the project along with student leaver Maddy-Rose, who visited Bergen-Belsen concentration camp last year, Georgia addressed the crowd of staff and students gathering to witness the tree-planting: “We are planting this tree today in remembrance to those who perished during the Holocaust. We have chosen a tree as it holds symbolism to the Jewish faith belief – a new tree to Jewish people is like a new person.

"The new fruit on the tree almost resembles a new life – by planting this tree it ensures the victims will never be forgotten and allows their legacy to live on. As this tree grows, the legacy and the memory of those will continue to grow and we hope this remains for future students and staff who attend the College.”

A Level History Lecturer Louise said: “Offering our students the opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust is paramount given the extent of Holocaust denial and lack of understanding of the atrocities amongst the general public. The fact that the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau took place on the 27th January 1945 means the survivors and their testaments are now few and far between thus further reinforcing the need to continue to talk about the Holocaust.

“I am very proud of the work completed by all our students past and present who have been involved in the Lesson from Auschwitz Project and subsequent projects such as Belsen 75 and we will continue to work with the Holocaust Educational Trust in their future projects.”

All students participating in the project will become Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors, inspiring them to continue to share their knowledge further.