By Dr Morris Charlton, Voice Regional Officer (Yorkshire)
[Longer version of article written for the January 2016 issue of the members' magazine, Your Voice.]
The Holocaust Educational Trust was established in 1988 with the aim of educating young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. The Trust works in schools, universities and in the community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, providing teacher training, an outreach programme for schools, teaching aids and resource material. One of the earliest achievements of the Trust was ensuring that the Holocaust formed part of the National Curriculum for History. The Trust continues to play a leading role in training teachers on how best to teach the Holocaust.
The Holocaust Educational Trust makes a difference by:
- educating thousands of students across the UK – through the Lessons from Auschwitz programme;
- training and supporting hundreds of teachers every year;
- motivating future generations to speak out against intolerance;
- inspiring individuals to consider their responsibilities to their communities; and
- working with Parliament and the media to help develop and spread understanding of the Holocaust.
The Lessons from Auschwitz Project Since 1999, over 27,000 students and teachers have taken part in the Holocaust Educational Trust's ground breaking ‘Lessons from Auschwitz Project’. Based on the premise that 'hearing is not like seeing', this four-part course explores the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today. The LFA Project aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust for young people and to clearly highlight what can happen if prejudice and racism become acceptable. The visits to the former Nazi extermination and concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau are preceded and followed by half-day seminars in order to ensure an exceptional educational experience.
- Orientation: Hear a Holocaust survivor speak, learn about pre-war Jewish life and prepare for the visit.
- The Visit: Visit Poland for one day to tour authentic sites and museum exhibits.
- Follow-up: Reflect on the visit and explore the contemporary relevance of the lessons of the Holocaust.
- Next steps: Design and carry out a plan to spread the lessons and take action.
Comment and images from Tricia Pritchard:
"I was pleased to have the opportunity to make a visit with the Holocaust Educational Trust. I think, like most people, I believed I had a good understanding of the Holocaust, of Auschwitz and what happened there but, as it turned out, I’ve decided I knew very little. It certainly hadn’t registered with me before my visit that, of the six million who are thought to have perished during the Holocaust, of those, 1.5 million were children.
"I knew about the exhibit of shoes and of the suitcases, but I didn’t know about or expect to see the huge mound of human hair on display in one of the Museum buildings. Apparently, the Soviet Army found about 7,000 kilograms of human hair, packed in paper bags, when they liberated the camp. This was only a fraction of the hair cut from the heads of the victims at Auschwitz; the rest of the hair had been sent away to be made into various products. I think this image will stay with me the most, but I’m not at all sure why.
"I picked up this poem:
When all the women in the transport
Had their heads shaved
Four workmen with brooms made of birch twigs
And gathered the hair
Behind clean glass
The stiff hair lies
Of those suffocated in gas chambers
There are pins and slide combs In this hair
The hair is not shot through with light Is not parted by the breeze Is not touched by any hand
Or rain or lips
In huge chests
Clouds of dry hair
Of those suffocated
And a faded plait
A pigtail with a ribbon
Pulled at schools
By naughty boys.
Tadeusz Różewicz, The Museum, Auschwitz, 1948.