STUDENTS from across West Dorset were rendered silent as they took a sombre tour of a concentration camp where 1.2million people were killed.
The Dorset students journeyed to Auschwitz as part of an educational programme des-igned to keep the lessons of the Holocaust alive.
Sixth formers from Woodroffe School in Lyme Regis, Beaminster School, The Sir John Colfox School, The Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester and The Purbeck School in Wareham took the one-day trip to Poland with the Holocaust Educational Trust.
Nearly 200 youngsters were taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Mem-orial from schools across the South West and were shown around the concentration camp where 1.2million people, mainly Jews, were murdered during the Second World War.
The students walked alongside the train tracks at Birkenau where thousands of ill-fated prisoners arrived.
They passed through displays at Auschwitz containing floor to ceiling piles of shorn hair, spectacles and shoes belonging to those who were killed.
Two students from each school took part in the Lessons from Auschwitz project, which is sponsored by a government grant and heavily subsidised by the trust.
Woodroffe School students Harry Robson and Rachel Clarke both went on the trip to Auschwitz.
Harry, who has just been appointed the school’s head boy, said: “The trip was really emotive.
“I am not sure what I expected but it wasn’t what I had in mind.
“At times it was really touching and really upsetting, and it was very shocking.
“The whole point was to humanise the numbers and the statistics.
“We always get told about the six million people who died, but before we went we heard from a survivor, so it was interesting to put their story into context.
“When we went inside the gas chambers, everyone felt really panicky and I think that’s because you know you are walking in the footsteps of people who didn’t realise they were walking in to die.”
The day ended with a memorial service at the ruins of Crematoria II, Birkenau, led by Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue in London.
Students lit candles in memory of victims of genocide after taking part in and hearing readings from Holocaust survivors along with ceremony prayers.