STUDENTS were rendered silent as they took a sombre tour of a concentration camp where 1.2million people were killed.
The Dorset students journeyed to Auschwitz as part of an educational programme designed to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.
Sixth formers from The Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, Beaminster School, Sir John Colfox School in Bridport, The Purbeck School in Wareham and Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis, took the one-day trip to Poland with the Holocaust Educational Trust.
They were taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial after flying from Exeter Airport to Krakow.
Nearly 200 youngsters from schools across the South West were shown around the concentration camp, where 1.2million people, mainly Jews, were killed during the Second World War.
The students walked alongside the train tracks at Birkenau where thousands of ill-fated prisoners arrived.
They passed through displays at Auschwitz containing floor to ceiling piles of shorn hair, spectacles and shoes belonging to those who were killed.
Two students from each school took part in the Lessons from Auschwitz project, which is sponsored by a government grant and heavily subsidised by the trust. Students are asked to complete a ‘Next Steps’ project on their return from Poland.
Ned Mumford, a Year 12 student at Hardye’s, said: “We went to a seminar to prepare for our visit but I don’t think anything could have really prepared us for how it would be seeing Auschwitz for ourselves.
“We’re going to do an assembly for all the years in our school. We want to tell everyone about what we saw and how it made us feel and we need to convey that to everyone else.”
His classmate Chloe Elcock said: “The sheer size of the extermination camp is completely overwhelming.
“Even through seeing it you cannot fully understand it.
“I want to try and educate others about what I have seen and am going to present back to our headteacher Mr Foley.”
The day ended with a memorial service at the ruins of Crematoria II, Birkenau, led by Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue in London.
Students lit candles in memory of victims of genocide after taking part in and hearing readings from Holocaust survivors along with ceremony prayers. See het.org.uk