Each year on the 27th January, Holocaust Memorial Day is marked nationally. This signifies the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops in January 1945. As part of Etone’s commemoration, the History Department had arranged for 35 Year 9 pupils to attend a workshop on the 25th January 2023 at the National Archives in London. This allowed pupils to have an opportunity to take photographs and other sources from the archives and use them as part of their investigation into what life was like in Nazi-occupied Europe. Pupils were able to look at real photographs from events such as Reichkristallnacht in November 1938 and identify what they could learn about such events. Pupils were able to ask questions about what they thought was happening in the photos and demonstrate their knowledge of the Holocaust from having first studied it in the Autumn term.
On Thursday 26th January 2023, all Year 9 pupils and Sixth Form pupils had the opportunity to listen to live survivor testimony from Ruth Posner BEM as part of the Holocaust Memorial Week on behalf of the Holocaust Educational Trust. Pupils were able to listen to Ruth who outlined that following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, her family was thrown out of their home and she was then sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. By 1943, she was taken prisoner and sent to Germany where she eventually ended up in an industrial town called Essen, where the Allies carried out heavy bombing. She then hid on a local farm until the end of the war and moved to the UK at the age of 16. Pupils were given booklets to complete to reflect on Ruth’s experience and also to discuss why there should be Holocaust education in schools. This was an invaluable opportunity for our Sixth Form Historians to prepare them for their study of the Holocaust at the end of Year 13.
Both of these activities helped to broaden our pupil’s understanding of what life was really like during the Holocaust, and also to help them understand the theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day of ‘ordinary people’. Listening to survivor testimony and having access to primary sources really was and is an invaluable experience for our pupils.
Following this, Etone have selected their two Year 12 Holocaust Ambassadors for 2023. As part of their role, they will travel to Auschwitz before sharing their experiences with other pupils and the wider community.
Like many, we will stand to remember so that this terrible tragedy will not happen again.