Teen Olivia’s Auschwitz visit inspires message of hope

Two Gants Hill students went on an eye-opening visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps after being chosen by the Holocaust Education Trust.

Olivia Sales and Humza Ahmed, both 16 and from Valentines High School, Cranbrook Road, were put forward by one of their teachers.

Since returning from the death camps visit, Olivia, who lives in Coventry Road, Ilford, has been inspired to write a piece called Remembering the Holocaust, including her own message of hope.

Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, the student, who is taking A-levels in history, English, maths and French, told the Recorder: “It was really nice to be chosen.

“I think our teacher chose students who are interested in history.

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“We studied the subject [the Holocaust] in a previous year.”

The Redbridge pair were joined by students from across the UK in visiting two of Auschwitz’s three camps.

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Around 1.3 million Jews were murdered there by the Nazis during the Second World War.

The pupils met with the Trust, which aims to educate young people about the Holocaust, on their return and wrote statements on what they thought of the experience.

Olivia said: “It was a good experience and I’m grateful that I went.

“It was very emotional and quite disturbing and it makes you think about your own life and the things you take for granted.”

She added: “You can walk through some of the places where the prisoners stayed and there are glass panels in which you can see their suitcases and glasses and other items.”

She now hopes her article will be publicised as widely as possible. It calls on people to use their democratic rights and education to build a more tolerant society.

Read an editied extract of Olivia’s article below:

Towards the end of last year I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau.

I was selected through the Holocaust Educational Trust to act as both a witness and an ambassador for an organisation whose focus doesn’t start and finish with a religious perspective, but has a far wider and further reaching challenge, that of awareness, and specifically awareness and action by all.

Society makes mistakes, of that we are only all too aware. In the Second World War we allowed these mistakes to grow and the result was the catastrophic campaign of hate and genocide aimed at the Jewish religion, society and faith.

Perhaps if we all took a little action it would help us live in a better, more understanding and tolerant society.

It is through education that we can share ideas and promote tolerance and acceptance in society. We should all strive for a world where gender, race and creed play no part in the decisions we make.

So, on January 27, let us all remember the Holocaust, and remember our part in society. Let us learn from our mistakes and take responsibility to ensure we do what we know is right.

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