At the start of the Christmas holidays, 13 of our Lower and Upper Sixth students travelled to Krakow in Poland.
The primary focus of the visit was to consider the problem of evil and suffering by visiting key sites of the Holocaust and German occupation of Poland in World War Two.
We began our trip with a visit to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Wieliczka Salt Mines. We travelled 180 metres underground to view the incredible mine including a church built entirely from salt, including a salt sculpture of da Vinci’s last supper. After this we had an evening in the former Jewish district of Kazimierz.
The next day we travelled to Auschwitz-Birkenau to visit the site of the former Nazi death and concentration camps. Our guide told us of the horrors awaiting those who walked through the famous gate that falsely declares Abeit Macht Frei (‘work sets you free’) to all who entered. Although this visit was hugely shocking, it allowed the group to consider the holocaust in a detail many never get to hear of and to confront the problem of evil head on. We ended what had been an emotional day by seeing the restored vibrancy of Krakow in the city’s Christmas markets and enjoying an evening of traditional Jewish music in one of the restaurants that thrived when there was a Jewish population in Krakow.
On our final day, we took a (very cold) walking tour around the former Jewish district, including seeing some of the locations where Schindler’s List was filmed. We walked across the bridge over the river Vistula, mirroring the journey taken by the Jews in Nazi occupied Poland to the site of the former Jewish ghetto. After this we went to the Schindler Museum that commemorates the work of Oskar Schindler and tells the story of what it.
The students enjoyed themselves but concluded the trip in a mood of contemplation. Their reactions showed just what a thought-provoking and necessary visit this was.
Trinity Ramsden-Board commented, “Krakow provided a unique opportunity to witness the ongoing consequences of warfare and occupation in Poland. It was a potent reminder of the importance of culture and tradition, even in the face of hardship. I found it to be informative and necessary as a piece of historical education to visit the place of death of millions of victims of war.”
Whilst Safeera Ahmed was left thinking about the impact on her view of her own life, “During the trip I felt like I truly walked in the shoes of the Jews from the Second World War and was engulfed by their experiences and how they lived. I left Krakow in deep thought, imagining the pain and suffering so many people went through. This proved the strength of the human spirit and made me deeply appreciative of the life I live today.”
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