Krakow Memoirs

Posted at 2:25 pm on 26th February, 2019

Over thirty Flixton Girls School GCSE History and Philosophy students made a very early start to begin their Polish adventures with a flight to Krakow.

Soon after landing, the group headed out on a walking tour of the Jewish Ghetto with an amazing local tour guide. Wandering the streets, they learnt about the historical sites and the life of Jews in the Ghetto, with time to reflect on how the lives of the innocent Jews changed under the Nazi occupation. Polish citizens helped a significant number of Jews escape the cramped and squalid living conditions within the Ghetto; something which our students heard about first hand.

Schindlers’ factory tour enabled the students to bring their classroom lessons to life; as well as finding out how the whole area of Krakow changed through the Nazi regime. Learning more in-depth detail about those saved by Schindlers’ List - not only individuals but whole families - many students commented that these fascinating true stories were extremely moving and eye opening.

                         Schlinders.jpg 

After a welcome overnight rest, the students and staff braced themselves for a day of remembrance, and reflection with a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  An hour and a half outside of the city, the group had the chance to anticipate what lay ahead and prepare themselves physically and emotionally.

Their classroom studies could only partially prepare the students for this part of their trip, with many commenting how listening to the guided tour really made the experience more personal. Seeing the well-known entrance sign ‘arbeit macht frei’, ironically meaning ‘work sets you free’; made the whole group feel apprehensive about what lay within the walls of the camp. Students and staff both commented how the physical representations of lives at the camp truly made them understand the history of this country’s people, which isn’t something which can be grasped from a textbook.

Their visit to Birkenau brought the stark reality of this concentration camp home to our group; many commenting ‘How gargantuan and bleak everywhere is. With row upon row of ruined barracks, only the chimney stacks now visible.’  

Aushwitz2.jpg   Aushwitz Entrance.jpg

The third and final day of the trip provided further insight of how the Jewish synagogues, faith and people all suffered during this period. A visit to the Galicia Museum included meeting a Holocaust survivor, Rena Rach, born in 1941 inside the Kraków ghetto. Her mother smuggled her out, via the rat infested sewers, for a better life with a Catholic couple. She was raised by her adoptive family as a Christian, rarely seeing her biological mother. She was reunited with her biological family after the war and now lives happily with her own son and granddaughter.

               Holocaust Survivor.jpg 

Many of the group found this personal story very thought provoking, realising just how precious our lives really are.  That evening the students wrote poems to reflect on the whole trip and lessons they have personally learnt. Many comments included:

Mrs Trussell, ‘students privileged to have had the opportunity to hear her story – inspirational woman.’

Student comment: ‘I am so grateful that I had the experience to go and visit Auschwitz’ (Kate, yr10)

Miss Kelly, History teacher said; ‘students were able to understand the lasting impact of the Nazi actions, once the physical period of the Holocaust was over.’ 

This trip is always very popular with both students and staff alike; really filling the gap between in and outside of the classroom learning, bringing the history and psychology to life. Providing development to students social, moral, cultural and spiritual awareness.