On Wednesday the 23 of January, year 9 went on a trip to the Jewish Museum in Camden. We walked there and when we arrived we were told a little about what we were going to do during the day, then split off into 4 groups. Each group would then go to take part in one of 4 activities.
In the first room there were real passports and Jewish stars that were used. We learnt how Jews were supposed to wear these stars and how their religion was mocked and we also learned how all Jewish passports were stamped with a J to stop them from leaving the country. Not only this but Jewish people also had to have the middle name Sara or Israel.
In the next room we were shown the story of a man called Leon Greenman who survived Auschwitz. He was originally sent to Westerbork but then he was deported to Auschwitz and he managed to survive but unfortunately his wife and child didn't.
In the third room we learnt about the Kindertransport and we were shown a Havdalah(spice box) that was used before the war. A Jewish mother knew that she was going to be deported and kindly asked her neighbour if she could store a few of her belongings. Years later, her sons, who were taken to England on the Kindertransport, went back to their childhood house to find their mother's belongings.
In the final room there were lots of artefacts, including shoes and a letter, that were used during the holocaust, and we filled out a booklet. We learned that the Nazis forced the Jews to write letters to their family telling them that they were okay so no one would be suspicious.
After lunch we were given the opportunity to do activities and to listen to the story of Bob and Ann Kirk. They were only children during the Holocaust and their parents decided to put them onto the Kindertransport. Sadly their parents did not survive the Holocaust. Years later, in Britain, they met and shortly after were married.
To finish the day off, we read a prayer and Bob and Ann lit a candle as that weekend was Holocaust memorial day. Overall, the day was very interesting and we learned a lot, especially through the questions asked by our peers.
Recently in history, Year 9 have been studying World War II, the rise in power of Hitler, and the Holocaust. The Jewish Museum trip was insightful and expanded our knowledge of the persecution and mass-slaughter of Jews during the 1930s to 1945. In particular we looked at the Nuremberg laws that were enacted by the Reichstag in 1935, which then provoked the development of the Kindertransport. The Nuremberg laws were anti-semitic laws which oppressed and segregated Jews; there was the prohibition of intermarriage, Jews were not able to leave their homes after 8pm and their German citizenship was taken away in order to “protect German blood.” We also looked closely at Kristallnacht which means “the night of broken glass,” and was a pogrom against Jews in 1938, between the 9-10th of November, carried out by civilians and the military. Synagogues were burnt down and destroyed, Jewish property was smashed (hence the name ‘night of broken glass’.)
The new anti-semitic laws were known all across Europe and just two weeks after Kristallnacht the British government changed their immigration laws. Together Jewish and non Jewish charitable organisations managed to persuade the British government to allow the immigrants from Germany in and set up the Kindertransport.
Whilst the Kindertransport prevented further persecution for children, many families had to separate and some never saw their parents or loved ones again. It must have been a difficult experience, having to pack everything up in only a short time and entering an unfamiliar country.
The museum provided a Q&A with Ann and Bob Kirk, who gave their testimonies; they talked about how both their parents had put them on the Kindertransport and that they met at St John’s synagogue. The talk was both moving and poignant, I thoroughly sympathised with their experience. At the museum we got a real sense of what life was like for a Jewish victim, particularly in one of the exhibitions where we saw the blue striped clothes from the concentration camps, and some other objects that the survivors had managed to keep after being liberated from the concentration camps. Overall, the trip really helped improve our understanding of the Holocaust and how it affected the Jews. It’s one of the most horrific historical events, and I personally believe that it’s really important that we study this topic in our curriculum, and that we do so before we make our GCSE choices, so everyone gets to learn about the Holocaust.