Preparing to Visit Auschwitz Birkenau

Core features of the practice

  • Organisation:

    Institution name: Holocaust Education Trust Ireland
    Institution type: Remembrance & Education
    Institution URL:
  • Format:

  • Target population:

  • Cost (per practice):

    101-200 euros
  • Setting:

  • Themes:

    Remembrance education and/or history education, The Holocaust and/or other genocides
  • Core activities:

    Group work, Group discussion, Image analysis, Slide presentation

Additional information about the practice

    Target population

  • Number of participants:

    Up to 34
  • Age of target population:

  • Additional specifics:

    National/local specifities (e.g. activity targeted to Swedish school students)
  • Components of the practice

  • Topics and objectives:

    The purpose of this 90-minute workshop is to prepare students for their visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. They receive background information on Auschwitz-Birekanua and the symbol that it has become for the Holocaust. Discuss what they can expect to see when they visit and the potential emotional reactions they will have and how to cope with them. It is a balance of teacher and student-centred approaches to learning, with instruction from the facilitator and group work, including pair-share-discuss. We use a mix of primary and secondary sources through video, photographs and personal testimonies which the students analyze and interpret in order to help them prepare for their visit. We encourage students to keep a field diary during their visit to Auschwitz and Krakow to help them reflect upon their emotions and reactions to the site which can be discussed on their return.
  • Materials used:

    Written or other published material, Audiovisual material, Online material
    Link to the material:
  • Material produced:

    Written material
  • Sequence of activities - methodology:

    1. Introduction to HETI and our programmes. Reasons why we visit Auschwitz Birkenau and things to consider when visiting there. 2. An overview of what the Holocaust was, where it took place, who was involved and who were the victims. We include some information about Jewish life in Poland before the Holocaust and about Oswiecim, the town beside which Auschwitz was established. 3. Video from USHMM ‘Encountering Auschwitz’ paired with a description of the three different camps that were part of the Auschwitz complex. 4. Group exercise: (Pair – share – discuss) Use personal testimonies from young people who were deported to Auschwitz. Ask students to reflect on what they have read and to remember the name of this person, so they can think of them when they visit Auschwitz. 5. Photographs from Yad Vashem: Show the Auschwitz album to highlight the sequence of events from arrival at the camp, through selection for death or forced labour, up to the deaths of the victims. Tell the story of Lili Jacobs and how she found the album after liberation. 6. Group exercise: In groups, make a list of any fears or apprehensions they have about visiting, any questions they have but feel they cannot ask. 7. Group discussion: Talk about appropriate behaviour when visiting Auschwitz. Highlight that they are not just visiting a museum or a memorial, Auschwitz is also a graveyard and many of the victims’ families will visit to remember their loved ones. 8. Reflection and Conclusion: Life after liberation.
  • Length of activity:

    Up to 5 hours
  • Is the activity digital?:

  • Accessibility and replicability

  • Language(s) in which activity can be delivered:

  • Is specialist knowledge or professional training required?:

  • If yes, which type?:

    Remembrance, history, or museum education

Qualitative Details

  • Has this practice been evaluated?

  • How many times?:

  • By whom?:

    Participants, Instructor delivering the practice
  • By what means?:

    Informal verbal feedback, Teacher and students provided feedback via email
  • Core content knowledge and transferable skills:

    We want students to develop a more in-depth knowledge of Auschwitz-Birkenau and understand why they are visiting. By using primary sources, (testimony & images), students can analyse and contextualise their existing knowledge of the Holocaust and the site which may be based upon secondary sources such as films & fictional books. HETI provides the students with the accurate historical background of the site, encourages them to explore the emotions the visit may stimulate, addresses appropriate behaviour while at the site and promotes reflection. By adequately preparing the students, answering their questions or addressing their fears, we can ensure the visit has a lasting impact on their understanding of the Holocaust. By proposing the use of a field diary, students have the opportunity to reflect on the thoughts and emotions and help them to remain focused while on-site, prompting more open and thought-provoking discussions in class after the visit.
  • Indicators of success:

    This activity is an effective practice for HETI as it is highly adaptable to various Holocaust site visits undertaken by Irish students. Visits to Holocaust memorial sites are a popular international excursion for Irish Transition Year Students (15-16) and this practice allows students to get the most out of a school trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau in a cost-effective manner for schools. Initial feedback indicates that students and teachers find it an effective way to manage and challenge students expectations for the site visit and gives space for reflection upon their return.
  • Educational coordinator contact details:

    Name: Aideen Stapleton
    Email address:


The RETHINK project is concerned with bridging formal and informal education. This section explores the factors that make a practice adaptable.

  • Key factors for successful implementation:

    Subject expertise of presenter/instructor, A planned excursion to a Holocaust memorial site
  • Main challenges to teachers adapting this practice for their students:

    The main challenge for teachers is to fully understand the development and historical context of the Holocaust and the memorial site the students are visiting. They need to be knowledgable and aware of their own and their students' preconceived ideas of the site.
  • Availability of guidance/training/replication materials (and in what language/format currently):

    HETI educators deliver the practice directly in schools. However, some of the external materials used are widely available online in English.
  • Other comments or details: