Steven McCormick: Hope from Holocaust: help a modern victim of discrimination

TOWARDS the end of my fifth year at St Aidan`s High School, I was privileged to receive the news that my classmate, Julie McLean, and I would represent our school in the Holocaust Educational Trust's Lessons from Auschwitz Project, which would include a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

It was a great honour to be given this opportunity, and after the visit I would take up the role as an ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust and hence be responsible for passing on the lessons I had learned from my own experience to those in my local community.

Before embarking upon my journey I had mixed emotions. This was hardly a trip that had you counting down the days with excitement, and as the day of the visit to such a notorious landmark approached, I found my apprehension growing. Would the revelations of the horrors move me to tears and would the true extents of the torture torment me? Surprisingly it was neither; instead, as the horrors of Auschwitz became apparent to me, I was disheartened.

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For the first time in my life, the information that had been dictated to me from history books became a reality and the numbers and death toll became humanised. It was a haunting experience to see pictures of innocent people set apart for their religion or their race and it made me realise that what happened in this period of history was hatred like never seen before. Nazism sent the world spiralling back to bestial levels unknown to the modern world.

However, amid deprivation and persecution there is always a glimmer of hope, and I find myself humbled to have been in the presence of one of those shining lights. This human light was Holocaust survivor Kitty Hart-Moxon.

Hearing her talk about what happened during the most testing times in her life , instances of which we cannot begin to imagine, and recalling so openly and frankly of the horrors she faced left me overwhelmed. To survive such a traumatic experience required monumental bravery and courage, towering strength of body and mind, and most importantly unparalleled levels of faith. She is living proof of the limitless defiance and spirit of people. No matter how far Nazism threw the world back into barbarity, the faith of these prisoners sentenced to death enabled them to rise above this evil to win the war of morality, a feat of supernatural ability when one considers the surroundings and nature of the prisoners' everyday life.

As I returned from my life-changing experience, I felt motivated to pass on the lessons of the Holocaust to my local community and in particular, to communicate the message that when faced with adversity , you must put faith in yourself, and most importantly put in faith in those around you.

I am firmly of the view that we can learn something from the Holocaust and make it relevant to our everyday lives, whether that be helping a child who is facing torment at school or even an adult facing discrimination at work.

With today being Holocaust Memorial Day and the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we can each take responsibility for making a difference. By helping an innocent victim, known or unknown you too can become part of "The Legacy of Hope" and help prevent the horrors of Auschwitz from becoming just another page in a history book.

• Steven McCormick is a sixth year pupil at St Aidan's High School in Wishaw