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Aushwitz...Year to prepare?

(53 Posts)
GypsyMoth Wed 23-Sep-09 16:33:33

hi all

dd age 15 is going to Berlin with the school in a few weeks. as part of the trip a visit to Poland is planned,and a day will be spent visiting Auschwitz.

we have been told to prepare our dc for a visit.

wondering which is the best way? anyone been or know anyone who has?

she visited flanders and the somme back in june with the school,and was very moved. she has a massive interest in this area of history so she knows what its all about,but its going to be a hard day for her.

any ideas how to prepare? feel tearful just thinking about this.

differentID Wed 23-Sep-09 16:35:18

get her some rescue remedy.
One of my colleagues visited when she was in school and she said that you could hear birdsong as you were outside the gates, when she went in, she could no longer hear it.

MrsMerryHenry Wed 23-Sep-09 16:36:22

I don't think you can prepare. It's actually a pretty calm place - when you walk around it's fairly sedate but you just recognise all the buildings and landmarks. The exhibitions inside are not so much shocking, as full of dread. I was incredibly sad going there (age 21) but not uncontrollably so. As long as they know something of the history beforehand, and have seen some images, they will be upset, challenged, maybe shocked, but ultimately, fine.

Polish and German students all visit it as part of their curriculum, if it's any comfort.

cocolepew Wed 23-Sep-09 16:37:21

I went to Belsen and howled, nothing can prepare you. If they are covering it in school I don't know what else you are supposed to do.

MrsMerryHenry Wed 23-Sep-09 16:38:48

differentID - perhaps that's because there are no trees in the camp, as far as I recall. Sorry to sound harsh but it sounds like your colleague was looking for drama rather than taking the place as it presents itself.

The camp is right next to the town - you cross the road from some buildings and you're there.

Milliways Wed 23-Sep-09 16:39:39

There is a great holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum if you get a chance to visit there beforehand?

GypsyMoth Wed 23-Sep-09 16:40:18


am worried for her,she still talks and talks about the somme. and it doesn't help that part of their curriculum last year meant reading 'boy in striped pyjamas'...she of course wanted to see the film when it came out. so that will no doubt be in her mind

the school letter just said 'help prepare your child'

she is begging me to get a copy of 'schindlers list' too. book or film,she likes both.

differentID Wed 23-Sep-09 16:40:35

quite possibly the reason mrs th. but she isn't an emotional person and she said she came out of there feeling more disturbed than she thought possible.

GypsyMoth Wed 23-Sep-09 16:42:10

milliways.....thanks,we are closen to London,been there before when she was much younger. she would love to visit again,good idea

maybe a few of us could go.

cocolepew Wed 23-Sep-09 16:44:22

It was the exhibits that got to me, pictures and shoes/glasses etc But I am v emotional.

MrsMerryHenry Wed 23-Sep-09 16:47:43

Schindler's List/ Ark is a fantastic book. I read it at the same age as your daughter. Encourage her that if she finds it dull to start with, it will hot up from ch 15 onwards!

differentID - Perhaps I didn't explain myself well. It sounds more like suggestibility than over-emotionality. You know when you go somewhere and have a bad feeling about a place, and then your awareness is heightened so you start noticing all sorts of 'freakish' things which in any context wouldn't have you bat an eyelid? That's what your colleague's story sounds like to me. Of course I could be wrong, and I'm certainly not saying it's not a disturbing place.

Tiffany - the one exhibit that shocked me the most was the glass box with hundreds of hairbrushes. I think they also have a similar exhibit of people's shoes. Somehow, seeing something as personal as a brush with someone's hair still in it overwhelmed me with sadness.

I actually think the best 'preparation' is for your DD's teachers to have planned how to help the students deal with it afterwards. They need to have a good plan in place, as those students who are more emotional/ suggestible/ whatever might need extra support.

fluffles Wed 23-Sep-09 16:51:06

Imperial war museum is definately a good idea - the holocaust exhibition and the genocide one.

Also the churchill exhibition at the cabinet war rooms... again it's about the context and also the experience of being in an exhibition space with all those thoughts rattling around in your head.

GypsyMoth Wed 23-Sep-09 16:54:21

looks like a day in london is in order then!!

i was talking about cabinet war room the other day,i went years ago,but i think she would love them

do you know we live ten mins from Bletchley,and never blooming been!! i should take them. and i will. DD is mad about war and history.

hottiebear Wed 23-Sep-09 16:56:15

I went at 15 on a similar trip (and was/am a sensitive soul). It was horrific, I think because I wasn't prepared for a lot of it. We had been told about the gas chambers and the ovens but not about the enormous glass cases full of human hair, prosthetic limbs (from people who had fought in WW1) and baby clothes. The tour we got was very graphic in terms of the tortures and 'medical experiments' inflicted. I don't even want to type them up here because some of them were so appalling. I couldn't believe that humans did these things to other humans and it still makes me feel wobbly when I think about it, 14 years later.

Saying that, I am very glad I went and I am very glad I was so shocked because it has stayed with me and influences my thinking to this day.

There is no way to prepare, expect by investigating and talking about what she is likely to see. It is so shocking and disturbing, but IMO, its very important to be shocked and disturbed by it.

Katz Wed 23-Sep-09 16:56:56

DH went recently, i'll get him to post with his feelings, he took 2 year 12's with him when he went.

crumpet Wed 23-Sep-09 16:57:26

I remember seeing Escape from Sobibor at school, which is about a true escape from a concentration camp. Not that I think it is possible to diminish what happened in the concentration camps, but may help her if she knows that for some (albeit very few) people it was not the end? I don't remember enough about the film to remember if it would be age appropriate though.

MaryBS Wed 23-Sep-09 16:59:21

I went to Belsen, and the hardest things I found were firstly the big grass-covered mounds with notices of how many thousands of people were buried there, and secondly the wall where people had put pictures etc of their loved ones.

GypsyMoth Wed 23-Sep-09 17:01:25

oh Hottiebear. don't know what to say to your post.

she talks openly about this stuff to me in a 'mum,did you know...' kind of way. and she has mentioned Mengeles (sp?)

seeing the personal stuff will get her then,she saw similiar at the somme and flanders. and baby clothes! she has a baby brother....will perhaps mention that too, in fact she's eldest of 5,so anything to do with children will apall her further.

wonder if there is a website,might google.

ChopsTheDuck Wed 23-Sep-09 17:03:00

I think she will probably be fine.

I've not actually been to auschwitz, but I've been to Belsen-Bergen and to Neungamme. We did it a week after a visit to the Anne Frank house too.

My dd was a lot younger than yours (9), so may not have quite taken it all in, but she was very interested in the history and saddened by it all. We prepared by watching a dramatisation of the Anne Frank Diary, and the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and talking lots and lots.

Belsen Bergen upset me a bit when we saw Anne Frank's grave, especially after having only seen the attic a week before. And seeing the platform down the road they would have departed the train onto. I think we both found the stories of children, and seeing their pictures particularly hard. I agree with MrsMerryHenry too, seeing personal belongings makes the people so much more real and is terribly sad. dd was quiet and thoughtful, and left something on Anne Frank's grave, but she didn't cry or get upset.

I think it's also the sheer size of the places that horrifies, and neungamme there was a block of cememt with footprints to illustrate the tight packing of people being transported in trains. Things like that are harder to deal with I think. Visiting a camp does make it all so much more real rather than reading it in history books.

MrsMerryHenry Wed 23-Sep-09 17:03:22

Poor hottie. I didn't go on a tour - went in winter when there were fewer tourists, so I guess they didn't organise tours then.

A friend went in summer and said she saw loads of tourists posing and smiling for snaps. sad

GypsyMoth Wed 23-Sep-09 17:05:00

thanks Katz,that would be great! her teachers are lovely,will help them cope,i'm sure. bit of a responsibility for them though.

will get her some books,she's a bookworm,and they will be read from cover to cover in days. have to give them to her on a weekend as she'll be up all hours reading.

had no idea starting this thread would be so helpful

hottiebear Wed 23-Sep-09 17:12:11

I think the age I was made it affect me so deeply- old enough to understand properly and fully comprehend the horror, but young enough still to be a bit naive and inexperienced of all the horrible things that go on in the world so I wasn't in any way 'desensitised' to this sort of thing.

Didn't help that we watched 'Sophie's Choice' on the coach on the way there.

I think MrsMerry is right about afterwards, does she like the teachers that are going, and would she feel comfortable having a good cry in front of her friends?

GypsyMoth Wed 23-Sep-09 17:19:20

yes. loves her teacher,he is really good with them. and yes,her best friend will be with her,and the boys in the group are good lads too. and she can call me too. they get time to make calls.

she loves all the Anne Frank books and film,she would love to go there.

IdrisTheDragon Wed 23-Sep-09 17:24:48

My DH works for the Anne Frank Trust - they don't directly organise trips to Auschwitz but he has visited it.

Will ask him how he thinks a good way to prepare would be.

GypsyMoth Wed 23-Sep-09 20:00:57

does he? must be an interesting job.

would be great Idris,thankyou

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