On the 14th Of October, I embarked on a journey to Poland. To Krakow, a historic town made infamous by the brutality that was the Holocaust. During World War II, Germany invaded Poland, and under the Nazi regime they sentenced millions of Jews, Gypsies and Polish civilians to death.
I had originally seen the advert for the Northern TUC’s study visit a few months prior. My branch secretary from the CWU pushed me to apply, and to be honest, I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for. At 30 years old, I'd heard of Auschwitz, I'd seen The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, and I'd also heard words like Holocaust, genocide and fascism. But I didn’t truly know what these words meant or how they fit into today's society and the struggles we face in 2019.
What I learnt before and during the trip was that the Holocaust was a cruel act of mass murder, a racist act that should never have happened. What scared me most was that this wasn’t something that happened centuries ago. It was committed 80 years ago and practically on our own doorstep. I hear the term ‘far-right’ every day within my trade union, and until I actually sat down and researched the true meaning of those words, I couldn't really comprehend them. The far-right or alt-right as they are also known, promote the concept of white nationalism and are associated with white supremacy, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and anti-feminism. These people believe in nothing but hatred and discrimination.
During our visit we were shown around Krakow’s old Jewish quarter. Jews were taken from their homes and herded like animals into an overcrowded, infested ghetto. After a short while, the Jews were lined up, selected and transported to a concentration camp to be gassed alive in their masses. We spent two days walking around the eerie camps of Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The whole experience felt surreal. Auschwitz looked so new, almost like something from a creepy film set. We walked solemnly and silently around the camp, through the dorms these poor people starved in.
We saw the only remaining gas chamber, where thousands of people walked unknowingly to a painful death. Our amazing tour guide explained in detail the harrowing conditions these people faced, how towards the end many committed suicide by jumping onto the electric fence that surrounded the camp because they couldn’t take any more cruelty and punishment. Birkenau, although not as well-known as Auschwitz, was actually 25 times bigger. It was more raw and on a phenomenal scale. It was a place purely intended for torture and mass slaughter.
Young Workers Month starts on 1 November and runs until the end of the month. It provides a dedicated, annual space for the movement to work together to give voice to young workers. #youngworkersmonth
So how does all this fit into today’s world? Every day on the news we are faced with acts of violence, from vicious homophobic attacks to racial slurs and chants on football pitches. We are brainwashed by tabloid newspapers into believing that all immigration is bad for the country, that immigrants are stealing our jobs, when in fact they are escaping life-threatening conditions in hope of a better life for themselves and their families. Fascism should never be tolerated. Acts of genocide should not be happening anywhere in this world. We are all members of the same human race, a race that should be protected, no matter what skin colour, religious belief or sexual preference.
The trip opened my eyes to how cruel the world has been to so many. By continually spreading knowledge and remembering those that were lost, we can help shape a better and more peaceful future for all.
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