Nov 23 2011 By Joe McGuire
Auschwitz-Birkenau Image 2
The name alone is enough to evoke images of the unspeakable atrocities committed there.
A vital cog in the machinery of genocide created by the Nazis, the camps were the site of state-sponsored murder of more than a million people, the majority of whom were Jewish.
From the lethal labour of the concentration camp of Auschwitz 1, to the gas chambers of death-camp Birkenau it is estimated that between 1.1 and 1.5 million individuals fell victim to the Nazi death factory.
But the word victim is not one that sits easy with the Holocaust Educational Trust.
For the past 13 years they have organised school trips to the notorious sites in the hope of educating young people about where hatred can lead, and importantly to put a human face on the mind-numbing statistics.
Last week sixth year pupils from more than a score of Glasgow schools visited the camp and saw first hand the brutality that took place there and learned that those murdered were not just numbers.
Gary Kirkwood, 17, from St Margaret Mary's Secondary School said: "The whole thing was like nothing I'd ever experienced.
"The thing that hit me the hardest was the wall of photos of those in the camp with their date of arrival and date of death underneath."
Before the extermination process sped up in the later years of the camp, each arrival was processed, generating six copies of paperwork each for the bureaucracy of genocide and getting a headshot taken.
Paul said: "For most of the women it was a matter of one or two months between arrival and death.
"This is a taster of a brutality we can't really understand because you'd have to go through it yourself, but being here makes you think about it so much more than a documentary would.
"It makes you realise and appreciate how lucky you are."
The school groups are taken through the camp with a guide, seeing first hand the horrors the Nazis inflicted on Jews, Poles and gypsies.
Displays show the possessions that people carried from as far away as Greece, only to be casually discarded by the Nazis on arrival.
Tens of thousands of shoes, thousands of pairs of glasses, piles of suitcases and mounds of personal artefacts are shown to the pupils, and compared to the ipods, mobile phones and cameras many of them carry, to once again drive home the message these were real people.
But for Castlemilk resident Adele Morgan, 16, it was the display of baby clothing that drove the message home.
She said: "Seeing the little clothes was really hard.
"It doesn't seem possible that people could do that to other people.
"Seeing the squalor they had to live in first hand really brought home the dehumanisation that happened under the nazis.
"They were so young and had done nothing."
At the end of the tour the pupils are ushered into a building holding a display of family photographs of those at the camps.
The story of Fela Roze, in her early twenties when taken to the camp, caught Adele's attention.
She said: "Seeing the wall of family photographs was very powerful, it brought home that they were real normal people.
"Fela who was described as an outgoing person with lots of friends who liked holidays and getting her photo taken.
"It made me think the same description could be applied to me, they were just average teenagers.
"it really makes you appreciate what you've got and has made me more likely to act on discrimination if I see it."
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of HET, said: "The Lessons from Auschwitz Project is such a vital part of our work because it gives students the chance to understand the dangers and potential effects of prejudice and racism today."