Thursday 23 November 2017

Reflections from Sophia on the UAF educational trip to Krakow and Auschwitz

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Over the next week we are going to run reflections from some of those who took part in UAF’s trip to Krakow and Auschwitz. For everyone on the trip, it was full of experiences and moments that will live with all of us forever.  The group was large in number and comprised trades unionists, students, Jewish socialists and those who had been raised by Holocaust survivors. It was a fantastic mix of people and UAF were proud to have been able to organise the days with such an inspiring range of people. UAF has held this trip for several years and this year’s was one of the moving and powerful we have ever held.

 

 

The trip started well, with the opening night’s meeting starting with a message of support from Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, ” My greetings and admiration to anti fascists everywhere.
Auschwitz is a poignant reminder of where racism and fascism leads to with an industrial killing machine practising genocide against Jewish people, all other minorities, and the political left.
It also reminds us of the importance of challenging racism in every form and never allowing migrants, refugees and minorities to be attacked as scapegoats for an economic system that increases inequality and poverty.
Well done all of you for making the journey to Krakow and opposing the far right everywhere”.

Sophia, a first year student from Bristol, writes below on her thoughts on what we experienced, for which, thanks.

 

 

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It is difficult to convey the scale of the horrors we witnessed and the intensity of
emotion we felt on the UAF trip in a limited number of words. There was a consensus amongst
the group that this year’s trip felt even more poignant, as whilst we were mourning the millions of lives lost we were well aware of the fact that a large, nationalist march, including many far-right and fascist groups, took place in Warsaw, only a week ago.

 

 
Whilst walking around the Jewish quarter, visiting the site of the Krakow ghetto, Auschwitz KL1 and the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau all of us were shocked and devastated at the crimes that were committed in the very streets that we walked. However I presume, like me, they do not regret making this harrowing trip and the lessons that we learnt together will remain with us – for this I would like to thank everyone who came on the trip, for being so supportive but also for giving me a new understanding of the atrocities that occurred under the Nazi regime of terror.

 

It was my second time visiting Auschwitz and although the emotions of distress and upset were just as present as the first, this time they were accompanied with a strong sense of anger. Anger at how this could have happened on the scale that it did and anger at the prospect that it could happen again. The group offered a political analysis that I hadn’t wanted to accept or even consider before -the idea that ‘never again’ is not a phrase we should put our hopes in; it can happen again without our resistance to racism, drawing parallels with the rise of the far-right across Europe and the increase in racist and islamophobic attacks.

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Donny Gluckstein’s talk on ‘Understanding the Holocaust’ clearly explained how this wasn’t some freak of nature, something unexplainable – it could have been stopped. The trip forced me to confront the ghastly reality that this could happen again but it also educated me about aspects that have been written out of mainstream historical analysis. David Rosenburg, along with others, spoke of the large resistance in Poland, not just in the Warsaw ghetto but also in the camps (a fact rarely spoken of), something which I was reminded of when the group joined in song at the memorial in Aushwitz, singing the Jewish resistance song ‘Zog nit Keyn mol’ (Never Say).  (This was a memorable moment, and one which many trip attendees wil never forget, link here, https://www.facebook.com/UAFpage/videos/10155073251775814/).

 

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I would like to thank the organizers of the trip and group for giving me the knowledge that although, in the current system, there may always be fascists and the risks of fascism there will also always be anti-fascists; who, if we remain united, will never be defeated. I would never have learnt the lessons I have had it not been for the environment the trip provided. I would advise anyone who wishes to know more about the Holocaust and importance of resistance to go next year, especially as the lessons are, terrifyingly, become increasingly pertinent.

 

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