Two students from a Fleetwood school are helping their fellow pupils learn about the importance of overcoming racism and prejudice following a visit to a former Nazi concentration camp.
Oliver Hockings and Hayley Hughes, both students at Rossall School, visited the former camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland as part of the Lessons From Auschwitz scheme, a programme set up by the Holocaust Education Trust to help young people learn about and understand the Holocaust and its relevance to modern life.
The pair, who are both studying for A Level History, attended seminars about Jewish life and a talk with a camp survivor as part of their visit, which also took in a tour of the concentration camp and museum.
Oliver, 16, and Hayley, 18, also participated in seminars exploring the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust and worked on putting together presentations which they’ve used to educate others at Rossall about the importance of combatting racial and religious intolerance.
Talking of their experiences at Auschwitz, Oliver, of Little Thornton said: “Seeing the camp and learning about the stories of those who suffered and survived there was hugely poignant.
“Perhaps one of the most harrowing things Hayley and I saw was one of the cattle trucks which took so many Hungarians to their deaths at Birkenau.
“The visit made a huge impression on us, and the task of trying to translate that experience into a presentation whilst doing it justice is nigh on impossible. This really is something you have to see, touch and hear for yourselves.”
Hayley, of Fleetwood added: “I think the most important thing we took from the experience, and what we really wanted to pass on to other students at Rossall, was the need to promote tolerance of others and to challenge acts of prejudice even if this makes us unpopular.”
Since returning from Poland Oliver and Hayley have led a presentation to fellow students about their visit and the need to combat racism and prejudice. The pair have used the example of the death of Rossendale teenager Sophie Lancaster, who was attacked for dressing in a ‘gothic’ style, to bring home the importance of tolerance in today’s society.
Elaine Purves, Head of Rossall School said: “We’re extremely proud of Hayley and Oliver. They’ve shown great maturity and sensitivity in the way they handled the visit to Auschwitz. By including the story of Sophie Lancaster in their presentation they brought the message of the need for tolerance up to date, really helping our students and staff to understand that the battle against prejudice continues and that we all have a part to playing in fighting it.”