As we approach Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday the 27th January St. Benedict’s College reflect on a visit made to the concentration camp at Auschwitz a few years ago. The piece written below is a thought provoking piece written by Head of History, Mrs Armstrong.
A thick grey sky weighed heavily above us as we approached the entrance gates that fashioned the cold and cynical message “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work brings Freedom).
Rain cascaded upon each of us, drenching our group in the sobering reality of what actually happened in this place they called Auschwitz.
As I observed the broken pathway paved with fragmented stone, I reflected on the thousands of broken spirits forced to pass under the cast iron ‘Gate to Hell’ with hopeless hearts and a shrouding fear no human should ever have to feel.
Upon entering the first red bricked building the cruelty of Auschwitz revealed itself like a blast of ice cold water to the heart: the children’s shoes, the bottle of tattoo ink, the ladies’ plaited hair, the thin striped uniform. Behind each door and around every corner a fresh horror emerged.
I watched as each pupil from both sides of our community trudged silently, side by side, sharing glances of disbelief, shaking their heads in unison, pointing out to each other one chilling observation after another, sharing together a recognition of the ruthless crimes committed. Block after block an overwhelming sense of tragedy grew.
Yet, amid this misery I felt a growing sense of hope. In this ‘Residence of Death’ there were flickers of light in the stories of courage, tales of resolve and the power of imagination. These little miracles whispered from every crack of the tear stained walls that hope was not completely lost. Lessons, tragic and harsh though they may have been, have been carved in the suffering of countless victims; to live a life of love and compassion, celebrate diversity, respect religion, protect the innocent and above all embrace your humanity.
To the pupils of Parkhall Integrated College and Saint Benedict’s College – thank you for the inspired friendships you built. In the face of all adversity you have changed your thinking and begun work in removing the thick grey cloud of fear and division that has hung noose-like over our own society for far too long.
May we never forget the harrowing lessons of the Holocaust and may we continue to join together in our journey of hope.