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Krakow Case Study

Auschwitz Birkenau Death Gates

Destination:   Krakow
Key Stage:      A-Level History (Post-16)

About the organisation:

WST School Travel is a tour operator that specialises in educational tours to the UK, Europe and the USA.

About the school:

Uxbridge High School is an outstanding Converter Academy for 11-18 year old students. We are fortunate to have a Greenfield site and the school’s location has created significant links with universities nearby, including Brunel and Bucks New. It is a mixed and culturally diverse school with 68 languages being spoken between 1200 students. The school places high value on providing a wide range of activities, including extended visits to France, Spain, Poland, Russia and America, as well as outbound courses and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

Background to the activity:

The trip is organised on a biannual basis by the History Department of the School. It is for A-Level students who study Nazi Germany and the Holocaust during Year 12 and Eastern and Central Europe in Year 13 as part of the AQA History curriculum – although this trip is also popular with students who aren’t studying History as an A-Level.

Aims and Objectives:

There are two main objectives of the History visit. The first is to further the students knowledge of the topics they study by taking them to the historical sites. Studying the horrors of the holocaust is difficult to comprehend without witnessing it first hand, but by taking students to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination camps the students can take in the scale and the nature of the Holocaust. The second objective of the visit is to encourage students to develop their love of travel – Krakow provides students with the perfect opportunity to explore a safe and beautiful city.

Planning a Visit:

All planning for this trip is done between the teacher and the Tour Operator from WST. The initial stage starts with building the tour around your requirements including cost and the needs of your pupils. The WST Tour Operator will discuss:

Transport: (flights and coaches)

Our Tour Operator will discuss your preferred airports as well as guidance on available coaches and other public transport options.

Accommodation:

WST helped us make a decision on board, basis and location as well as room types and any additional facilities you may need – such as meeting rooms and recreational areas. The WST Tour Operator will discuss all these options and create a plan that coincides with your budget.

Visits:

WST will discuss which educational visits will best fit with the curriculum you are studying as well as suggest any events or museums that may be of interest to you and your students.

Safety:

All the accommodation and transport that WST has been audited in line with STF recommendations.

What does the trip involve?

The students go on a four-day tour of Krakow – visiting places that are relevant to Jewish life in Europe before, during and after the Holocaust and the impact of communism on central and eastern Europe between 1945 and 1989. The itinerary is as follows:

Day One:

The tour begins with an early morning flight to Krakow. A coach transfer from the airport then takes you to the hotel where the group will check-in and then go straight out on a guided walk of Krakow.

The guided walk covers the former Jewish district of Kazimierz to demonstrate what life was like for Krakow Jews at the beginning of the 20th Century – prior to the Nazi Occupation. The tour then goes on to Podgorze – known as the Wartime Ghetto. Experienced guides from the Galicia Museum in Krakow lead the tours – and every tour guide is a graduate of Holocaust Studies or Jewish Studies. The tour finishes at the Schindler Museum where the group visit an exhibition that focuses on the Jews in Nazi Occupied Europe.

The group then return back to the hotel for an evening meal and chance to explore the city on their own.  

Day Two:

Day two begins with a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau which is a 90-minute coach journey from central Krakow. It is compulsory on the tour to have an Auschwitz guide as well as watch a short video at the beginning of your trip that will set the scene for the rest of your visit. The guided tour lasts around three hours and is split across the two sites. The guide will allow 90 minutes at the Auschwitz I site before taking a five-minute coach trip to the Auschwitz II-Birkenau for a further 90-minute tour.

After the tour the group will take the coach back to central Krakow where they will visit the Galicia Museum. Here they will have a guided tour of the museum that is home to the Traces of Memory exhibition. This exhibition covers Jewish life in Poland in the past, present and future. The students then have the opportunity to meet a Concentration Camp Survivor or a Member of the Righteous Among the Nations. Through a translator they will hear their recollection of the event as well as have the chance to ask questions.

Day two then ends on the students returning back to the hotel for an evening meal and chance to explore the city on their own.   

Day Three:

Day three begins with a visit to the Salt Mines in Wieliczka which is a UNESCO site. In the afternoon the students will return to central Krakow and have the opportunity to explore the city on their own. Tour leaders have the chance to arrange any other activities during this time.

Day Four:

On day four the students will take a coach transfer back to the airport and return to the UK.

The itinerary gives pupils the opportunity to explore the full story of the Holocaust – with visits covering Jewish life before the occupation, how it changed when the Nazis arrived and the realities of the treatment received in the Concentration Camps. The unique chance to meet a Holocaust survivor allows students to reflect on what has been learnt through the Holocaust events. The tour also covers post war life in Central and Eastern Europe and the impact of Communism – providing students with real life experiences to coincide with their learning in the classroom.

How can you follow up the trip in school?

Most students participating in the trip are A-Level History students that visit Krakow as an integral part of their course. When the students return to school a feedback assembly is held. There is also the chance for a Holocaust survivor to come into school and assist students with their learning.

Curriculum Links

The trip fits into the AQA A-Level History curriculum. In Year 12 it assists with the Life in Nazi Germany module and in Year 13 it is part of the Political change in Eastern and Central Europe module.