Senior students reflect on genocides during a visit to The National Holocaust Centre And Museum.
On a sunny March morning, we arrived at Beth Shalom (House of Peace), The National Holocaust Centre and Museum, which is in the village of Laxton, near Newark in Nottinghamshire.
A very powerful DVD set the day’s agenda and asked us to reflect on some very important questions, not just about the Holocaust but about more recent genocides and about lessons to be learned for life in Britain today, where discrimination against minority groups and ‘foreigners’ is often part of everyday society. How much have we really learned from the past?
After the DVD and some questions, we visited the memorial gardens, the on-site bookshop and the underground exhibition, where we viewed artefacts and personal stories. We viewed with equal amounts of interest and horror the details of the Nazi experimentations and their racial typing programme.
In the gardens we were invited to add a stone to the ever-growing pile in the memorial gardens, to represent the one and a half million children who were murdered in the Holocaust.
We learned that the memorial is still only one fifth of what it will eventually be and the Holocaust Centre has been open since 1995. Many of us took time to read the plaques in the garden and discovered one man’s memorial to 87 members of his family who had been killed.
After lunch, we listened to our speaker for the day, Hedi Argent, who was born in Vienna in 1929. She told us how, as a young school girl, she experienced the increasingly tightening grip of Nazi restrictions on herself, as the only Jewish child in her class, and on her family. We listened as she spoke of the family's escape and of those who did not manage to get out. Conscious that Holocaust survivors are becoming fewer by the day, we felt privileged to listen to this first-hand account of how the Holocaust had impacted on Hedi’s life and the life of her family.
Opportunities for questions enabled us to reflect on our own attitudes and to delve deeper into the lessons of that period in our not-so-distant history. All in all, this was an inspiring and challenging visit to a very unique place. It was a fitting preface to the Year 10’s forthcoming visit to Auschwitz in July.
Report by Mrs Holmes