Krakow 2010

"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."   Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:8 (37a)
 A joint Business-Studies and History field trip to Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau took place in the last weekend of January.  History at Kineton would like to thank Ben Cherry, Gemma Wright, Ghan Thanawet and Mr. Sammons for organising such an enjoyable and fulfilling visit.  One student kindly agreed to write about the experience and his report appears below. ...

Hello people of the web. Kineton High's number 1 year 12 History student here. You all know who I am.
The date was 30th January 2010 and the time Midnight! (I look forward to the day when our school starts a trip at a reasonable hour.)  A collection of 25 students headed for Gatwick, on the face of it not a very exciting task, but I can assure you when sat behind someone talking and gesturing in their sleep it's a hugely entertaining two hours.

cathedral scaffoldingBy mid afternoon by some way or another we were all in our beautifully furnished hotel. Many were sleeping, but a select band chose to watch ski jumping; why there isn't more of that on British TV I'll never know. Being dragged away from this brought our first proper site of Krakow. A georgous city I'm sure all that went will agree. This was our chance to catch some culture, or as we did, find the nearest McDonalds - of which there are three if anyone's interested (not all students opted for fast food that evening! Administrator). But in all seriousness the square was a picture, especially with the Christmas decorations still being out.
Katyn memorial wawel castleAfter many had returned to the hotel for what was to be an eventful evening there, a hardened few; Callum Graham, Leanne Ong, Katherine Shone, Ghan and myself, joined the teachers for a nightime stroll around the sites of the city. These being the beautiful Krakow Castle and a Cross to remember all those who had fallen in the massacre at Katyn. Thank you for the expert insight of Mrs. Priestley, we did indeed learn a lot,

After returning to the hotel for some much needed sleep it was soon time to wake yet again. The morning was full of mixed feelings, nobody really sure what effect the Auschwitz trip would have on us. After wrapping up warm we headed for the bus and in just over an hour we had arrived. The first shock that I was in for was the location of Auschwitz camp, directly in the centre of a town. Not one I'd be keen to live in. In Aushwitz there is no inbetween zone, you are either in the camp or you are not, the infamous sign signalling the entrance. That term Artbeit Macht Frei - Work Makes Free; the biggest lie in history. Our group was faced with rows and rows of barracks, all of which had a story to tell, a story of horror and strife. As we advanced between them we learnt more and more of the terror that the inmates would have faced and how even in death they were tortured. If the Nazi's could use it, they would; hair, shoes, anything.

arbeit macht frei Auschwitz 1 auschwitz fences gas chamber



In was then that the tour took an even more sombre turn, we were taken to 'the wall of death.' A wall where so many innocent lives were ended. Then the cells, hundreds of men and women cramped together for days on end, their names and messages engraved onto the wall. This was followed by the biggest terror of all, the only surviving gas chamber. Hundreds of thousands of lives ended and we were standing where they would have stood, a very sobering thought I can assure you. It was with this that the tour of Auschwitz 1 concluded.  We broke for lunch and a documentary about the liberation of the camp that made clear that even once free, those affected by the Nazis would never be the same again.

In the afternoon of our visit we left Auschwitz and headed to the second camp, Auschwitz Birkenau. It was here where the enormity of where we were really hit home. Hundreds and hundreds of chimneys row on row, signifying the huge scale of the camp, on the left side of these, multiple buildings that had been home to the women of the camp, and between them a railway track, a track on which hundreds of thousands were brought to their death. We were taken by our brilliant guide into one of the remaining sheds where the prisoners slept. She described the appalling conditions in which they were kept, sleeping on straw, maybe five or more to a bed, and with a worthless heating system. After this we walked by the tracks on the same route which the inmates would have taken on their way to death. Walking in silence, the realities of what we were doing struck me, really making me realise how lucky we are. Seeing the conditions in which the women were kept only added to this. Our visit concluded with a viewing of the monument built in memory of all those who were killed. The plaque at the site I'm sure sums up the feelings of many, 'this must never happen again.' It truly was a day that none of us who went will forget, and I must again thank our guide for her fascinating tour. 

JessAfter returning to base and attempting to combat the tiredness we headed out yet again for our Polish Night  in which we experienced Polish Culture in the form of food and dancing. The food maybe wasn't to everybody's taste, but I for one was a fan. The main course even managed to confuse the majority of us, many who thought we'd just been given a loaf of bread to eat! However the biggest talking point of the evening was definitely the dancing. The cringing when you realised that the man or woman in traditional Polish costume was about to tap you on the shoulder and drag you up to the floor, one of these people being our own Head Boy who nearly made an early exit from the floor before regaining his footing, not before laughter had broken out it has to be said. Eventually we all got to experience the dancing for ourselves all that will be said is that it resulted in many strange couplings and a lot of sweat! (A great deal of embarrassing film exists in SHARED/Krakow, if readers wish to observe our dancing exploits. Ad.)  But it must be said a great evening was had by all.

The next morning was our last in Krakow, and we made the most of it with a walk around the Jewish district of the city and a visit to Schindler's Factory. After some confusion as to where we were going, Rob Hatcher's iphone app. confirmed that we were in the right place. It was really interesting to see how the Jewish community lived and also gave us an insight into what it must have been like when the Nazis forcibly evicted them from their homes. After this we spent our last lunch time in the city gathering souveniers and grabbing a bite to eat, (for those of you interested they do good Asian food in Krakow).

And then it was time to leave the magic city behind, but not our great memories. As TakeThat once sang we'll 'Never Forget' our brilliant and moving weekend in the Poland. Thanks once again to Ben, Gemma and Ghan for organising such a brilliant weekend and also thanks must go to the teachers for keeping us informed with all the interesting historical information and allowing us the freedom to explore the city (IN THREES! Do NOT go off alone! Ad).

It really was a great weekend, same again next year anyone!?  
Rob Lilley 6jrs
(Berlin & Sachenhausen, actually.... Ad.  and my thanks to No.1Y12HS for the report - can someone please write up the Houses of Parliament trip for us now?)