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Seeing inhumanity close up: what is gained by school students visiting Auschwitz?

Maitles, H. and Cowan, P. (2009) Seeing inhumanity close up: what is gained by school students visiting Auschwitz? In: European conference of education research, 2009-09-28 - 2009-09-30. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

For the last decade the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) has organized visits for English school students and their teachers to Auschwitz. The visit is part of a process of raising awareness of the Holocaust in particular and genocide in general. The project, called Lessons From Auschwitz (LFA) , comprises of three components: an orientation session, a visit to Poland which includes the visit to Auschwitz and a follow-up session. At the end of the project, student participants are required to organise an appropriate school and/or local community event as a means of passing their learning on. In 2007, HET organised the first LFA project for Scottish schools. Its participants were two plane-loads of Scottish school students and teachers from across Scotland- typically two students from a school aged 16-17 years accompanied by a teacher. Unlike countries such as England, France and Germany, Holocaust education is not statutory in Scotland and its teaching largely depends upon teachers who choose to teach it. This meant that it was possible that students had participated in the LFA project with little or no prior knowledge of the Holocaust. In examining the issues that provide the background of this research, this paper looks beyond the Scottish perspective and considers the value of this experiential programme on the wider UK, European and world contexts. The research questions we set ourselves were: • How were students chosen to participate in this project? • Had students learned of the Holocaust prior to the visit? • What were students' perceptions of the LFA project? • What impact did the visit have on the individuals, the schools and their local communities?