Pupils pack East End Jewish cemetery to remember Auschwitz
PUBLISHED: 16:07 27 January 2015 | UPDATED: 16:07 27 January 2015
School pupils packed a disused Jewish cemetery in London’s East End today to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Nazi death camp in the Second World War.
The history students from Bethnal Green’s Morpeth Secondary were given permission to hold a memorial service among the gravestones of Britain’s oldest Ashkanazi cemetery.
They arrived at the Union of Synagogues burial grounds in Alderney Road, Stepney Green, for the Holocaust memorial service where they lit candles, heard readings of survivor testimonies and the history of Auschwitz.
It was arranged by the school’s head of history, Tom Smith, who regularly organises trips to the battlefields of Europe for his A-level and GCSE students.
“We wanted to highlight the individual experiences of suffering to bring the magnitude of the event home to students,” he said. “We were lucky to be granted access to the cemetery, so that the commemorations were rooted in some of our local Jewish history.”
Two sixth-form students who went on a trip to Auschwitz last term with the Holocaust Education Trust gave talks about their experiences touring the camp barracks where slave labourers and inmates waiting to be killed were housed, and the remains of the gas chambers which were destroyed as the Nazis retreated before the Soviet Russian liberation in 1945.
Other schools have also been marking the Holocaust. Pupils at Stepney’s Bishop Challoner secondary are staging an exhibition this week of photographs taken on a recent school trip to Auschwitz by Sixth-form student Hafsah Jalloh.
History’s biggest genocide
- 1.1 million murdered at Auschwitz
- 6 million Jews murdered across Occupied Europe
- 1 million Jewish children killed in gas chambers
- Two-thirds of Europe’s Jews murdered on an industrial scale
- 5 million non-Jews murdered included Gypsies, Poles, communists, homosexuals, Soviet POWs and the disabled
Hafsah said: “What I saw at Auschwitz had such a profound effect on me, that I wanted to share the experience with the rest of the school.”
Her exhibition opened at the school last Friday and attracted pupils of all ages who visited during lunchtime.
“My photographs are in black and white,” she explained. “I felt this would reflect the contrast between the horrifying world depicted in the images and the world in the present day that many brave people fought to win.”
A million Jews and 100,000 others — men, women and children, including babies — were murdered at Auschwitz in what was German-occupied Poland. Auschwitz was one of 17 camps in which six-million Jews died across Occupied Europe during the Second World War.
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