A day out at the Nazis' biggest death camp (UK to fund student visits to Auschwitz)





Can young people learn anything new by visiting Auschwitz in a world where TV is full of documentaries about history's definitive atrocity, where Holocaust literature is everywhere, and where the curriculum groans under the weight of Nazi Germany and its crimes?

Gordon Brown and the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) certainly think so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer recently received an award from the trust for his personal commitment to Holocaust education in the UK. >From February 2007, with the help of £1.5m in Treasury funding, the trust is hoping to take two sixth-formers from each school in the UK - more than 6,000 students - to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau within three years.

But not everyone agrees with the idea, arguing that it is an odd use of taxpayers' money - albeit a relatively small amount - and that there are other ways to teach children about atrocities. The critics also complain that it keeps Britain locked in an old-fashioned 60-year-old mindset about Germany and about British relationships with that country when, in reality, they have changed beyond all recognition.

Walking around the camp on a bitter November day with a large group of remarkably composed 16- and 17-year-olds, Kay Andrews, head of education for HET, explains the value of showing students something of the scale of the Holocaust. "Coming to Auschwitz brings home the mechanics of the Nazi death machine, which is what made the Holocaust such a unique event," she says. "Often the students don't become emotional about their experiences while they're here, but by the time of our post-trip seminar, after reflecting on what they've seen and trying to express it to their family and friends, they're more affected."


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