Earlier in the Spring Term, two of our Post-16 students and a member of staff (Lucy P, Isabelle S and Mrs Littler) had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz as part of a Holocaust Educational Programme. Having recently visited Auschwitz myself, I can attest to how important it is to see what happened with your own eyes – no documentary, picture or book can prepare you for the experience – it was a very moving and emotional experience. Lucy upon her return has written a personal reflection on her experience that she would like to share. These are her words…
“Although it was quite challenging to comprehend the events that had taken place there, the trip gave us a new insight into the way we should perceive the Holocaust, and inspired us to share the stories of the victims that are unable to do so themselves. Please be warned that some of the following written content is highly shocking but must be regarded as a serious matter.
The trip consisted of three main parts; visit to the Auschwitz Jewish Centre in Oświęcim, a tour of Auschwitz 1, and a tour of Auschwitz Birkenau. These sites have been turned into museums to educate the public on the Holocaust, and ensure that we never forget what actually happened there, less than 100 years ago.
Some points that particularly stood out to us in Auschwitz 1 were the room of prosthetics, because although these limbs are made of wood and metal, they actually would have been part of a real person’s body, which allowed you to visualise their height, age and build. Another would be the room of luggage, which consisted of a sea of suitcases, each with the owners name and address carefully handwritten on the front as a means of identification and being able to return them in the event of them getting lost. This display was incredibly hard hitting, as the owners of the bags clearly believed the lies they were being told – that they were just being relocated or even that it was to be a short term situation, like a holiday, and never realised that they were just being tricked into their own deaths. It also showed us the individuality of each person, and made apparent how similar they were to any person nowadays who labels their luggage on trips away, which highlighted how these were just ordinary people before the Holocaust.
At Birkenau, one of the key things that we weren’t quite expecting was that it was not the sheer size of the 420 acres that was the most overwhelming, it was the fact that it was specifically built with the sole intention to be a death camp. The thought of this alone was sickening and devastating enough, but when we learned about the deprived conditions that the forced labour workers had to live in, it was certainly too much to fully comprehend. Their daily meals consisted of a small cup of broth water and bread; there was no way of washing themselves or their clothes as there was no soap or clean water; even in -20°C weather the only clothes they had were the notorious striped pyjamas, a hat, wooden clogs and a belt to hold up their trousers after severe weight loss. These are just some of the horrendous conditions prisoners had to live under, and unsurprisingly they alone caused a multitude of deaths.
The problems we face today
Although some people believe that the Holocaust is an issue of the past, similar warning signs still occur to this day, and yet in many cases the public is either unaware or ill-informed of what is happening. A horrific example of extreme discrimination against a certain religion would be how hundreds of thousands of Muslims are currently being detained in detention camps against their own will in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. There are claims that these are ‘work camps’, providing good pay and serving as a deterrent from radicalisation, however substantial evidence has been collected to suggest that the work is forced, and acts as punishment and ‘re-ediucation’ for supporting particular religions.
There are also less drastic cases of discrimination occurring in today’s world, however all of them are still important and unacceptable. Anti-Semitism is far from abolished, as many Jews in modern day society are discriminated against by being physically and verbally abused, for example, some Jewish cemeteries in France have recently been defaced with Swastikas painted over multiple tombstones.
What you can do to help
We must realise that everyone involved in the Holocaust were human beings. The victims are not just vast numbers; they are all individual people who had their own personal lives and stories to tell. It is not simply a numerical figure that represents them, because by doing this we erase their reality, their suffering, and their true identity.
It is also vital that we view the perpetrators and collaborators as human beings too. None of them were monsters, or mentally insane – they were real people who made conscious decisions which ultimately enabled the largest genocide in recent history.
However, one of the most crucial things we must realise is that the bystanders’ role was almost as important as the perpetrators’. People must understand that by tolerating hate and discrimination of others, you are passively supporting it and accepting the potentially very harmful fate of innocent lives.
This is a lesson that is very relevant in current society. Any form of racist, homophobic, sexist or offensive behaviour should be condemned and not just taken as “a joke”. Call your friends out on their mistakes, because not everyone realises the severe effects it has, but it is easy to learn how to be respectful and a decent person.
We hope that you will take this message and continue to educate yourself and others on the events of the Holocaust, as well as the relevance it has in today’s society. Remember that hate is a powerful force that ruins lives, but collectively we have the ability to stop it by standing with those being targeted and defending their right to live as they please”.
Just before Easter, 75 of our Year 8 students visited the National Marine Aquarium for Art. They had a great time, took lots of stunning photos and produced some beautiful paintings and drawings. They students are learning about the importance of colour and pattern in nature, and looking at artists who have also been inspired by the patterns that they see in natures, such as Bridget Riley and William Morris. A huge thank you goes to the staff that supported the trip.
Also, in the run up to Easter, a group of students were given the opportunity to experience life in the Premier League. Here is Mr Bellamy’s account…
“It was a long day 03:00am on Saturday morning until 01:00am on Sunday, but the whole group were in great spirits and were a credit to the school. Our first stop was the Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City. We were treated to a behind the scenes glimpse of the players’ match day experience and also how the other half live in hospitality. Along with sitting in the dugouts and the changing rooms we also sat in heated seats that cost the supporters £18000 for a season ticket! We then made our way to Old Trafford to take in the pre-match atmosphere. Our seats were great and some of our group even held up the Ole banner prior to kick off. The game started well for Watford but they didn’t take their chances and were caught on the break by Marcus Rashford. The game finished 2-1 to Manchester United, much to the delight of the other staff on the trip Mr Chick, Mr Walker and Miss Churchward, a huge thanks to them for their support. I was amazed at how excited the students were to stop at service stations and spend their money on irrelevant things (bouncy balls and cuddly pigs) and also how the fashion for not smiling for photographs has come back around from the start of the 20th century!”
Our GCSE Drama students have recently had the opportunity to watch Blood Brothers at the Princess Theatre in Torquay. This was great preparation for their upcoming examinations when they will have to answer questions about the play. They were joined by some enthusiastic Year 9 students who are hoping to follow the course for GCSE. A huge thanks to all involved – Mr Chick, Mrs Lowe, Miss Evans and Mr Bellamy. A great evening was had by all.
In Science, class 7xBerra had a STEM Easter themed challenge. Students were told they had to construct the highest tower possible that was suitable for holding a Crème Egg at the top using only straws, scissors and tape. At the start of the lesson students were shown examples of various towers and their infrastructure. They then had 50 minutes to design and create their towers. After a rigorous judging process based on: height; ability to hold the egg; quantity of resources used and appearance we ended up with our final winners. On the girls’ winning team was Eva, Rhiannon and Jess. Whilst the boys’ winning team consisted of Jacob, Spike, Jack and Matthew.
On Bank Holiday Monday, Jacob in Year 11, represented Plymouth in the South West Alpine Ski Championships in Exeter. He came fifth in the Under 18 category and then lead his Dual Slalom Team to a second place finish. Well done Jacob.
Here’s a Bikeability round-up from Mrs Campbell…
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the 55 Year 7 and 8 students who have successfully completed their Level 3 Bikeability Award. The purpose of the course was to give students the confidence and skills to be able to ride safely on the road. We have a number of students who cycle to school, enjoy riding in their own time and even have some who are members of the Pilgrim Flyers who ride off road in Cann Woods. Well done to everyone involved – Sacha S, Kennadie W, Hudson S, Rocco M, Tate T, Jacob R, Pheobe V, Callum K, Jawad A, William B, Toby P, Reece M, Danny W, Olivia F, Alicja O, Esme S, Kellen C, Alex W, Austin B, Skyla D, Louis C, Cyrena W, Jackson F, Jamie H, Yasmine M, Thomas A, Jessica W, Eray K, Max R, James M, Matthew B, Zach B, Lucy J, Poppy C, Sam R, Oliver F, Jayden T, Louis H, Brendan W, Jess G, Cameron W, Erin S, Lucy H, Ryan M, Jacob C, Isabella C, Alfie M, Kate L, Jack B, Ella B, Thomas C, Rowena M, Katie P, Dino R, Jack W”.
Last, but by no means least, is our amazing students of the week. I am pleased to announce this week’s winners are:
- Leala and Marley – who have been working brilliantly with school leaders to raise awareness and educate others on BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) issues. Both students are an absolute credit to the school.
- Molly and Hannah – for showing the most amazing resilience, determination and grit whilst facing challenge. Both students always have a cheerful smile and a really positive attitude.
- Harry – who has been giving up his free time to take part in a soup run to support homeless people in the city.
- Lauren – who has also been giving up her free time to distribute food to homeless people in Plymouth.
- Tom – for being an incredibly hard working student who tries his best all of the time both in school and at home. He is also very kind and considerate to others.