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Poignant Auschwitz visit for Walsham pupils

PUBLISHED: 10:31 29 January 2010 | UPDATED: 10:18 13 July 2010

HOLOCAUST Memorial Day this week was especially poignant for a party of schoolchildren who arrived back in north Norfolk on Monday from a harrowing tour of the largest Nazi concentration camp.

HOLOCAUST Memorial Day this week was especially poignant for a party of schoolchildren who arrived back in north Norfolk on Monday from a harrowing tour of the largest Nazi concentration camp.

The 45 North Walsham High School students and staff spent four days in Poland, visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau where an estimated 1.2m Jews, prisoners of war, Poles, Roma and others were murdered between 1942 and 1944.

The sombre atmosphere of the death camp was made even more chilling by temperatures which plummeted to -20 deg C during the visit by 15 and 16-year-old history, geography and language students.

They were struck by the acres of land, dotted with standing chimneys - all that remained of huts which once each housed 700 people.

“It was horrible to think that each hut represented roughly the same number of people as there are pupils at our school,” said Matt Neave, who said he was still haunted by scratches left by the fingernails of victims on a gas-chamber wall.

A mountain of human hair from victims' heads also upset the high school group.

Matt said: “You hear about it, but when

you actually see it - some of it still

plaited - it's much more distressing.”

George Worrall said he would never forget the faces in a photograph of two sets of shaven-haired twin girls who had been subjected to inhuman experiments by Nazi physician Josef Mengele.

Becky Atyeo said her thoughts kept returning to the horrors she had learned about during the visit. She added: “The hardest part was thinking about all the children. There were photos of them. They were killed straight away if they were under 12-14 because they couldn't work.”

The group, which included head teacher Caroline Brooker, also met a Polish survivor of the 1944 failed Warsaw uprising. He had been sent by the Nazis, aged 15, to the Mauthausen labour camp where he was starved and beaten, and never saw any of his family again.

Teacher Karen Reynolds said responses from children and adults had included tears, anger and feelings of nausea at the unprecedented scale of the crimes perpetrated at the camps.

Mrs Brooker was due to lead an assembly on Wednesday marking Holocaust Memorial Day, and an evening is being planned to share the children's experiences and show a film about the Mauthausen camp.

January 27 was chosen as an international day to remember victims of all holocausts as it was the date, 65 years ago, when the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz.


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