Ripley pupils’ emotional trip to Auschwitz

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Two sixth formers from Ripley Academy who made an emotional trip to Auschwitz are preparing to share their experience with fellow students.

Gemma Strange and Ben Bradley, both 16, visited the former Nazi extermination camp in a trip organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust as part of its Lessons From Auschwitz project.

The project is a four-part course which explores the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance to today and is based on the premise that ‘hearing is not like seeing.’

Students started their visit to Poland by seeing a pre-war Jewish site in the Polish town of Oswiecim, where they learnt more about the victims’ lives.

Sites that were visited include several barracks at Auschwitz 1 before going to Birkenau, where the vast majority of victims were murdered.

Ben and Gemma, who are students at Amber Valley Sixth Form at Ripley Academy, said they felt that every student should be given the opportunity to visit Auschwitz.

Be said: “When we were there it all felt a bit surreal but now we are back and we’ve been talking about it, it feels more real.

“There aren’t really any words that can describe the emotions you feel when you are there. It was very poignant and you feel a bit of everything, you feel sad, angry and sympathetic.

“Birkenau was just huge, it was over 400 acres and you couldn’t see where it ended. It’s horrific to think about what happened there. So many people went there and didn’t know what they were getting into and they never went home.

“You just can’t really appreciate what happened until you go there and I think it’s something that every student should be given the opportunity to see. It’s a big experience and really brings it home to you.”

Gemma said one of the aims of the trip was to promote tolerance and understanding in the world today.

She said: “When we were there I just couldn’t believe how big Birkenau was. We also saw the cattle cars that between 60 and 100 people were transported in at a time and they were tiny.

“We heard a survivor’s testimony and he said how he would be in the cattle cars and he wished people would die so he could sit down. I think if you are in those conditions you must become desensitised to normal living.”

Both students will now be working on delivering assemblies about their trip to fellow students at Ripley Academy.

Steve Richardson, sixth form director at Ripley Academy, said: “The school is extremely proud of Ben and Gemma.”