Woodkirk Academy pupils remember horrors of Auschwitz

Ed Balls talking to pupils Declan O'Donovan and Celine Bickerdike from Woodkirk Academy, about their experiences of visiting Auschwitz
Ed Balls talking to pupils Declan O'Donovan and Celine Bickerdike from Woodkirk Academy, about their experiences of visiting Auschwitz

Students from Woodkirk Academy remembered the millions that lost their lives in the many concentration camps as part of a

government-funded scheme run by the Holocaust 
Educational Trust.

Sixth formers Celine Bicke rdike and Declan O’Donovan, both 16, joined other students from across Yorkshire and the Humber on the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau as part of the Lessons from Auschwitz Project based on the premise that “Hearing is not like seeing.”

Celine and Declan visited the town of Osweicim, closest to where the Auschwitz death and concentration camps were situated and were shown the barracks and crematoria of Auschwitz, witnessing the piles of belongings that were seized by the Nazis before spending time in the main killing centre of Birkenau.

For Celine it was an personal experience as her grandmother was born and spent two years in the camp.She said: “They were Polish, but it was believed they were Jewish. It was thought that when she was born she would have been sent straight to the gas chamber, but she survived her time in the camp.

“While there, I remember thinking that my feet were really cold and ached, so it’s unbearable to think what it was like for those people who had no shoes.”

Declan said he has always had an interest in World War Two.

He said: “I have been to Normandy, but wanted to see the other side of the war.”

As part of the tour, students were shown pictures of Rudolph Hoss, a commandant of Auschwitz.

Celine said: “The photo wwas of him and his family, all smiling. His children said that he was the best dad in the world. What makes somebody like that into those people who ran the camps? Declan said: “It really made you think, walking through the gates that all those people went through, but didn’t leave.

“In the exhibitions there were rooms full of hair that was cut from people before they were sent to the gas chamber, photographs taken of them while they were in the camp – some of which only survived for a few months before being sent to their deaths.”

Celine said: “Hitler had so many followers and supporters. It’s hard to believe that society let that happen.”

Morley and Outwood MP Ed Balls, who sits on the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission, visited Celine and Declan to speak to them about their visit.

He said: “The Holocaust Educational Trust does great work ensuring that the horrors of Auschwitz and the Second World War are not forgotten. It’s great that young people from across my Morley and Outwood constituency have had the opportunity to see the reality of the concentration camps for themselves.

“For Celine and Declan this has been an amazing experience.

“They are both planning to talk to others about their experiences so that the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten.

“I will do whatever I can to help them with that, both here in Morley and also nationally through the Prime Ministers Holocaust Commission.”