On Tuesday, representatives from students’ unions across the country and the National Union of Students went on a day-trip to Poland where they joined the Holocaust Educational Trust's Lessons From Auschwitz project.
The group learnt about Jewish communities that existed across Europe prior to the Holocaust, beginning their day trip with a visit to the town of Oswiecim where one such community was destroyed. Following this, they visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they had the opportunity to see first-hand one of the sites where the atrocities of the Holocaust took place over 70 years ago.
The group discussed the importance of visiting such sites, stressing the need to learn from the Holocaust and work together in fighting the ugly rise in racism and fascism that has recently been seen across Europe.
The trip ended with a service honouring the memories of all the victims of the Holocaust.
This week's visit was the second part of the Lessons from Auschwitz projects, with officers coming together last Thursday for a pre-trip seminar to prepare them for the visit to Auschwitz and hearing the testimony of Holocaust survivor Steven Frank. The programme culminates in a final seminar next week which will be led by the Union of Jewish Students and the Holocaust Educational Trust, where participants will discuss what they have seen, how they can relay the messages to the student bodies on their campuses and how they can appropriately organise commemorative events around Holocaust Memorial Day in January. In the face of rising antisemitism on campus, they will also discuss the contemporary relevance of what they have learned and how they can stand up against antisemitism and hate speech.
2016 is the third year of this programme, launched by UJS and supported by the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said:
'With rising antisemitism on campus, it is more important than ever that student leaders understand where hatred can ultimately lead, and feel empowered to stand up against it. We are proud to have taken this group on this important visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and to support the UJS in their vital work.'
Participant Vonnie Sandlan, NUS Scotland President said:
'I was incredibly grateful for the invite to join the Holocaust Educational Trust on a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, alongside student officers and school pupils from across the North West.
'It’s vital we never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, or any of the genocides that have caused irreparable destruction and devastation of lives and communities around the world. Just having an understanding of the cause, effect, and consequence of the Holocaust felt like insufficient preparation for the trip, and it’s hard to put into words the impact that visiting the sites of such suffering can have. Standing on the site of such unimaginable inhumanity and horror, and trying to understand how individuals could have perpetrated such atrocity, is something which will stay with me for the rest of my life.
'In our modern society, it is unfathomable that we fail to learn from our history. To see antisemitism still rearing its head, the duty and onus to tackle it is one which falls to every single one of us.'