Lessons from Auschwitz Reflective by Grace Martin & Eva Price - posted 21st Jul
Holocaust Education Trust, Lessons from Auschwitz
Reflective by Grace Martin & Eva Price
I am incredibly grateful for the experience that the ‘Learning From Auschwitz’ project was able to provide me. I, myself, have familial connections to the Jewish experience of the holocaust, having come from a German Jewish family. Thus, before beginning my journey on the course I initially felt drawn to it to further educate myself on the ordeal of my ancestors. However, I had failed to wholly realise, until completing the course, the extent to which, in my education and my own understandings, I had become desensitised. For instance, we are constantly told ‘6 million’ and I never failed to acknowledge how great this number was, yet a number that large is almost impossible to comprehend on an individual scale. To me, this is a key reason why this course was so significant, it forces you to humanise the Holocaust as well as consider key, often overlooked questions such as:’ how do we qualify collaborators?’. Throughout the course this was a big and incredibly interesting question for me. Especially so after hearing a Janine’s incredibly shocking and moving testimony, I really took time in and out of our sessions to ponder this question as where do we draw the line and how do we forgive these people? I remember she told us about the Polish children who threatened to report her and her brother if they didn’t give up their winter coats, I wondered whether these children should be held accountable or if they are also victims. I also learnt things that I’d never been taught before. For instance, I learnt how Auschwitz-Birkenau wasn’t originally intended for Jews but polish POWs and also that there were two Auschwitz camps; ‘1’ and ‘2’. Geographically contextualising the camp was also very influential on my understanding of the Holocaust. I learnt about its importance as being in a very accessible or centralised position to the whole of Europe and about Oświęcim, a hugely significant town that I had never heard of before. But, it is also important to mention that I was able to better understand that we shouldn’t focus our discussions of the Holocaust just around Auschwitz. To me, as well, contemporary anti-Semitism is a big and growing issue. It often seems inherent in society but incredibly overlooked. Therefore, I greatly valued the course’s opportunity to centre Jewish voices and be able to hear directly not only the effects of anti-Semitism but how we might approach it now, in our own lives. I believe this is an immensely important discussion that should always be addressed – especially in relation to the holocaust. Anti-Semitism is, and has always been, incredibly reliant on conspiracies, rhetoric and covert prejudice. Therefore, I found it very powerful to hear from Janine, Kitty hart-Moxon and others about their lives prior to the ‘official’ commencement of the ‘final solution’ and how the discrimination seeped in. This is not only applicable to contemporary anti-Semitism but also Islamophobia and many other prejudices, for instance how Muslims have so often been demonised in our British tabloids. Being able to notice this now, based on survivor’s testimonies will hopefully ignite awareness and alertness within our society so that we can keep our promise for this to happen ‘Never Again’. I can’t express how valuable I found this whole experience and I feel that it is a crucial learning opportunity that everyone should try to partake in.