There’s a small town thirty 37 miles west of Krakow in Poland where, they say, birds don’t sing. The name of this town is Auschwitz, and the place is one of the most notorious concentration camps from the Second World War where terrible atrocities took place, where thousands of Jews were killed.
On 27 January this year millions of people around the world gathered to remember the 67th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the lives of the six million Jews that were lost.
And whilst the term Holocaust generally refers to Jews, millions of other individuals considered inferior, dangerous or just undesirable were also persecuted and murdered. People like gypsies, vagrants, homosexuals, political opponents and even church leaders.
At the end of February, along with four pupils from Tupton Hall and Dronfield Henry Fanshawe I will be visiting the death camp at Auschwitz. We will be travelling with the Holocaust Education Trust which was set up in 1988, working with schools, colleges, universities and the wider communities to bring an understanding to new generations of the impact of racial prejudice.
People I have spoken to who have been there have told me that it is a very personal experience. Some view it from a historical perspective whilst others will have an emotional reaction.
And however much I would rather not think too much about it, I know how important it is that we face up to what human beings are capable of – the extreme evil we can commit. The Holocaust may have happened nearly 70 years ago, but genocide has happened in the Balkans, in Rwanda and many other countries besides.
We still have Holocaust survivors alive today. It is vital that the younger generations hear their stories and see for themselves the horrors they endured. It is our only hope of stopping a Holocaust of the future.
This article originally appeared in School Matters magazine.