Auschwitz trip

Senior School
10 Jan 20

On Thursday 12th December, Mrs Sunde and 60 Sutton Valence School pupils headed to Auschwitz, Poland for a 3-day trip that will stay with each participant for a lifetime. Read Mrs Sunde’s account of the trip below:

“When the letters went out outlining a trip to Auschwitz, I really did not expect a huge uptake but I was astounded by the response and our group soon grew to 60 pupils. I was not offering to take them to some exotic location to take selfies, I proposed a trip to a memorial, made up of little more than brick buildings and barbed wire in the depths of winter. They would get to experience what could happen if we do not stand up for each other and a ‘them and us’ mentality pervades society. They would be challenged, feel uncomfortable and see just how inhumane humanity can be.

To prepare for the trip to the camp, we embarked on a walking tour of Krakow. We walked the Jewish Quarter and visited a synagogue to get a sense of the Jewish community that would have lived in the city in the 1930s. We also visited a gallery full of photographs that tried to capture what was missing from the city since the Holocaust. The photographs documented derelict houses and villages that once would have been full of life and the gravestones from the Jewish cemetery that were being used as paving slabs. This city was changed forever and the scars are still present, if you know where to look. 

Many pupils were surprised to discover that the camp at Auschwitz is actually two camps. One smaller site that housed the guards, camp prison and gas chambers. The second, much larger camp, housed the victims who were selected for work rather than immediate execution. On our tour we saw the huge rooms filled with the belongings of the victims of the Nazi regime; artificial limbs, suitcases, spectacles and shoes. The most poignant was the display case filled with human hair, some still in plaits and tied with ribbon. At the larger camp, words cannot describe the conditions that the victims were kept in. Up to 800 people in a dormitory that looked very similar to a cattle barn, with no access to water or heating and a minuscule amount of food. Standing by the train track that had transported millions to this terrible place, we all had some quiet time to reflect on the events that happened here less than 80 years ago. 

However, this is just one side of Krakow. While we were there, we had an opportunity to see a much lighter side of the city. The beautiful city square was dripping with Christmas decorations and hosted a large Christmas market. We went bowling and visited the salt mines that contained some very impressive chambers that served as chapels and ball rooms. We also enjoyed an evening of Jewish music and a folklore show that had everyone up on their feet. Whilst it might not be accurate to say we ‘enjoyed’ the visit, everyone was very moved by what they saw and now have a much deeper understanding of this most infamous period of history and this stunning city.”

Ben Kyd kindly put together a photo album of the trip, you can see all the photos here -