Earlier this week, students from Year 9 and the Lower Sixth set off on a joint trip to the Beth Shalom Holocaust Museum in Newark. Both year groups are studying the Holocaust as part of their curriculum and as we hear in these two accounts, all were deeply affected by what they heard and saw:
“Today, we went on a trip to Beth Shalom, the Holocaust Museum. We set off at 8am, and soon we had arrived at our destination. During the morning, we visited the gardens and the main exhibition. The gardens were full of flowers and sculptures which expressed emotions from the Holocaust. For example, one of the pieces of art required us to place a stone on a pile of other pebbles, in memory of all the children affected by the Holocaust. We really enjoyed this because it made us feel closer to the children involved. Laura said it was, ‘An inventive way to create a memorial’. Walking through the gardens, and seeing what had been lost, really made us appreciate what we have in a greater depth.
“Next, we went to the main exhibition, which included a timeline of the events that happened, leading up to, during, and after the Holocaust. This was touching, and extremely thought provoking. There were photos, videos and models, all linked to the Holocaust.
“After lunch, we heard Agnes, a survivor, speak. Agnes survived a concentration camp, intense travelling and Stalinist Russia. We got the opportunity to hear her speak in depth about her life, and her experiences during the Holocaust. At the end of Agnes’ talk, we could ask questions. Dom asked, “How did you deal with the hunger?”, to which she explained that she had to save her food for the younger members of her family. She explained that she didn’t feel hungry for herself, she felt hungry for her family.
“Later, we got to try out ‘The Forever Project’ a 3D experience, where we got to ask questions to a video recording of a survivor. This was interesting, as it inspired us to think about the future of technology.
“Finally, we went to an exhibition which was made up of different rooms based on the story of a young boy, Leo. As we followed his diary entries, we entered different themed rooms (his dining room, a school classroom, a bunk where he would have hidden, and on Kindertransport). As we went into these rooms, there were videos of Leo writing his diary and expressing how he felt. We not only got to hear what he wrote, but feel what he felt as we lived his diary entries for ourselves. This really made us think about what children experienced during the Holocaust, and learn about the discrimination and sadness that they suffered.
“Overall, the trip was amazing! It allowed us to have a deeper understanding of what happened during the Holocaust, and how it affected people’s lives. Thank you for taking us!”
Emily and Emmie, Year 9
“Determination; the ability to continue trying to do something, although it is very difficult. This word echoed resonantly during our trip at the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre. We were first introduced to the importance of determination in the last room of the Holocaust Exhibition. An exhibition which aimed to tell a story of people and how their lives are affected by history. We went through rooms which explored pre-war Jewish life, the rise of Hitler, anti-Semitism, Kristallnacht, and the horrific Final Solution. The exhibition was both factual and very intimate. We came across many personal objects given to the centre by survivors or family of those who didn’t survive. They were emotional and difficult to look at and/or read about. This exhibition explored both the individual and the en masse, which emphasised further the amount of pain and terror that each individual, in the millions, was forced to experience. This is where the theme of determination was first made poignant. We had all read the stories of persecution but also dotted throughout the exhibition and made most clearly in the last room, were the stories of courage and being self-less. The stories of determination, of not being defeated and of not being forgotten. These personal objects were given to the centre so that people could be educated and so that the story of the holocaust will never be forgotten.
“We were then taken into the memorial gardens which provided a space for reflection and were very peaceful and respectful. The endless rows of plaques and roses were created to help humanise the survivors and victims and felt more dignified than for them to be remembered in a solemn exhibition.
“The most important example of determination was certainly through the testimony of Agnes. Her courage to talk to us of her experience, and her determination to express the importance of it never happening again was awe-inspiring. She empathised the importance of celebrating differences in people instead of condemning and discriminating against it. Agnes’ story of the anti-Semitism against her and her family in Hungary was shocking. One particular part, which stuck with me, was her determination to keep the two ‘babies’ alive. The age for being allowed to work at an agricultural camp was fourteen but Agnes, at eleven, worked tirelessly with the adults to ensure she would be given food which she could then give to the babies. Later, when asked why she never gave up, she said, with a strong (and again, determined voice), because she couldn’t give up on the babies. It was indeed very powerful to listen to, to see the importance of family.
“Finally, we visited another interesting exhibition which followed the life of Leo, from his family home, through to his journey to England on the Kindertransport. Overall, the importance of determination was made very clear and we left the centre with much more knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust and its effects.”
Isabelle, Lower Sixth