Glasgow return from Holocaust education trip to Poland
Twenty-one Glasgow teenagers have returned from a 5 day Holocaust education trip to Krakow, Poland, organised through the Jewish Agency and supported by UJIA.
The group, whose ages ranged between 15 and 17, learned about Jewish life in Poland both before, during and after the Holocaust, visited key sites, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, and reflected on how to go forward as Jews in their community back home.
After an introduction to Jewish life in Poland, by way of visiting synagogues and walking the streets of Krakow’s Jewish quarter, the group graduated on to the story of the Shoah, visiting the remains of the Krakow Ghetto, including the museum at the now famous Oskar Schindler factory. The trip also took the teenagers, led by Holocaust educator Mark Lazar, to the Plaszow Labour Camp, a place of mass killings during the war, now memorialised by an entrance sign and monument.
The group lit candles and said kaddish at a mass grave at Zbylitowska Góra, Tarnow, where approximately 10,000 people were executed in June 1942, including 6,000 Jews and 800 children. Israeli teenagers, who were also present at the site, sang Hatikvah.
On the last day the participants went to Auschwitz I, where they had an emotional visit at the museum, barracks and a newly opened exhibition from Yad Vashem. In the afternoon, they headed to Birkenau, where they viewed the vast scale of the camp from one of the watch towers, and saw the remnants of a pre existing gas chamber and crematorium.
Throughout the trip, the participants heard first-hand accounts of the war, including inspiring stories of survival against the odds, acts of extraordinary human kindness and renewed faith and Jewish identity. The Friday night Shabbat service with approximately 200 people at Kupa Synagogue in Krakow raised spirits, as did the time spent at the very vibrant Jewish Community Centre.
UJIA Scottish Programme Director Joanna Hyman, who facilitated the trip, said: “Whilst encountering difficult aspects of the past is essential on a trip like this, we also want to show that Jewish life can renew itself and that we have much to celebrate as a people.”
Sixteen year-old participant Daniel Cohen, from Glasgow, was moved by hearing from a survivor, and a descendent of a survivor, at the JCC: “It was moving to meet Jewish people who are proud of who they are again, and finding out about who they were. It’s strange that the JCC is so close to the place where over a million people died.”
Daniel, who wrote poetry at Zbylitowska Góra, also said that he and the group in general were very concerned about the Holocaust being forgotten. As such, he has already arranged to give a presentation to pupils at Mearns Castle High School, where he attends, about what he saw in Poland.
The programme was supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.