British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg joined with 200 students from England Thursday in visiting the grounds of former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, to mark the 100th tour of the camp by outreach organisation the Holocaust Educational Trust.
The landmark one day visit followed an Orientation seminar by Holocaust survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon, who offered the post-16 students first-person insight into life at the camp, before the students were taken to Oswiecil, home to the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, as well as being shown the living quarters of the camp’s inmates and a tour of the Birkenau death camp and the remnants of the gas chambers where inmates were sent to their death.
Speaking of his involvement with the Holocaust Educational Trust, which this year is commemorating its 14th year and 100th tour of Auschwitz, during which period it has organised visits for 18,000 young students to Poland, coalition partner and Liberal Democrat party leader Clegg said he was “honoured” to participate in the “’Lessons from Auschwitz’ project, which he heralded for providing “young people (with) an invaluable opportunity to see first-hand, the horror of where prejudice can lead”.
Praising the follow-up workshops the charity conducts with its participants, which involves the students discussing the present-day relevance of the Holocaust, as well as how its message can be best conveyed to society-at-large, Clegg added: “The key to the project’s success is the emphasis given to supporting students to take the lessons home and become ambassadors against racism, hatred and prejudice in all its forms in their own communities.”
This emphasis on making participants future ambassadors of the Holocaust’s legacy has seen previous attendees go on to organise anti-racism conferences, create public exhibitions, write articles for local media and lead school assemblies on the topic.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s attendance marks an upgrade in the British government’s support of Holocaust education, since dedicating £1.5 million (€1.8 million, $2.4 million) in funding since 2005 to enable the charity to invite two students from every school and college in the UK to participate in the Auschwitz programme. The Holocaust Educational Trust has also succeeded in making the Holocaust a compulsory element of British school education.
Some 1.3 million people, including 1.1 million Jews from across Nazi-occupied Europe, died in Auschwitz between 1940 and its liberation by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945.
Auschwitz was set up in a former Polish army base by the Nazis shortly after they invaded Poland in 1939 and was initially used to detain and kill Poles seen as a pool of resistance to their occupation. Auschwitz I was largely used for slave labour, but was also the site where notorious SS doctor Josef Mengele carried out barbaric experiments on inmates. It was gradually expanded to Birkenau and became the hub for the Holocaust.
The site was turned into a Polish state-funded memorial and museum after the war.