Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Lessons from the Holocaust: Visiting a Jewish Cemetery

Through the Holocaust Educational Trust, I had the opportunity to visit Poland and the WW2 Concentration Camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau.
It was an experience like no other and one that has taught me lessons that I cannot forget.
I have separated my experience into three different blogposts - Visiting a Jewish Cemetery, Auschwitz and Birkenau. I wanted to do this so you can fully experience how I felt and what I learnt during the day without feeling overwhelmed with information. Each part of the trip was extremely important and I want to express this as best as I can.

We arrived in Poland and began our journey to Oswiecim, which was later renamed by the Nazis as Auschwitz. We were travelling to a Jewish cemetery however were not told of the significance of it until we stood among the gravestones.
Now that I have reflected upon my experience, I have recognized this to be an extremely important segment of the entire trip. This cemetery was for Jews who had lived, worked and died within this town, before the Nazis emerged into power. It symbolises the complete destruction of communities during the Nazi rule; by 1939, 58% of the population in Oswiecim was Jewish.
We discovered that during the war, many anti-Semitic individuals completely destroyed this cemetery- they ruthlessly dug up the dead bodies and wrecked most of the gravestones, using the granite for money. Following the war, the remaining gravestones that had survived were placed back in this cemetery as a symbol of the Jewish community that had lived before. Many people, including myself, immediately align the Holocaust with the death of Jews, but the cemetery allowed me to acknowledge that the Holocaust was so much more than the deaths of individuals. The Holocaust was the death and struggle of communities across the world and the impact of this is still evident today. 
As we continued to walk around the cemetery, we noticed a small hut housing a gravestone. This gravestone was for the last ever Jewish person to have lived in Oswiecim; his name was Shimson Kluger and he survived the Holocaust and died in 2000.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Meeting a Holocaust Survivor

The Holocaust is an event in history that has always astounded me. But it is an atrocity that I could never truly comprehend. The facts and figures have never really 'said' anything to me because I cannot believe that those statistics are real - How can eleven million people be killed during the Holocaust? That number is incomprehensible.
There are only 10 Holocaust survivors left and I had the honour of meeting one - Ziggy Shipper.
This was through the Holocaust Educational Trust, where I was able to meet a Holocaust Survivor. They organised the Seminar to be held in Canary Wharf in order to ensure every participant has a good knowledge of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. All participants will eventually visit Poland and the Auschwitz Camp.

After some discussion of the Holocaust and the Nazi Regime during World War Two, Ziggy Shipper took to the stage and began to tell his story.
He emitted a warmth that immediately put everyone at ease as he began with a few funny remarks about his early childhood. But his story was one that was truly shocking and emotive; you could feel his pain and anguish through the words he spoke and this experience was completely different to reading a story out of a textbook. He spoke a story that was his. One that he lived and breathed through.

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