THE horrors of the Holocaust is a topic many people will have read about in books, or watched documentaries about on television.

However, to see first hand the scene of such untold pain, misery and suffering is a different experience.

Lancashire Telegraph reporter NIC MARKO accompanied students as they faced the harrowing visit to concentration camps in Poland as part of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project.

AROUND 200 pupils from across the North West endured a day of rain and made the trip from East Lancashire as part of the educational project to witness the site where millions of people were killed.

After arriving in Poland the first stop was the village of Oswiecim, where Jewish people made up more than half the population prior to the outbreak of the Second World War.

However, as we looked around at buildings and the similarities they had to their 1940s counterparts, we were told no Jewish people lived in the area today.

The last died in 2000 and educators from the trust said this was the first stop on our trip to show the loss and affect of the Holocaust which is still prevalent today.

Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar pupil Hannah Chick, 17, said: "I thought it was really enlightening.

"It was depressing in a sense but also there was more than just killing.

"We were told about so many things we weren't aware of. I didn't know the area was cleared of people."

The coach then took us to the first camp we would visit, Auschwitz I, predominantly a work camp which also featured a museum showcasing a variety of possessions taken from people arriving, never to be seen again.

The most striking of these included a hallway filled on both sides by cabinets filled with shoes, some belonging to very small children, that people walked in to the camp in, but never walked out.

Two tonnes of human hair cut from people as they arrived was also on show, as well as glasses, pots, brushes and suitcases with their former owners names written on.

Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar pupil Niamh Howarth, 17, said: "You think that you know about it but when you go you just realise you didn't know anything. Its hard to describe. It really brings it home. It makes it feel so unbelievable."

Several students were crying as we walked from block to block, visiting the former sites which housed prisoners and now were an exhibit to what happened and what they left behind.

One room was titled 'the road to death' and featured images of prisoners journey from the train, to selection, to seeing those who were sent to be murdered.

Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar pupil Mairead Morony, 17, said: "I studied the holocaust for two years but I felt like we were only learning about one place, this just completely puts it into perspective. It's quite poignant."

Next we were taken to what is known as the death camp - Auschwitz II Birkenau.

We walked the railway line leading up to the camp which bought thousands of Jews cramped in cattle carts to the imposing entrance.

We stood on the same ground where so many families were destroyed; separated as some went off to work and some sent straight to their death.

Stephen Mills, Further Education teacher at Broadfield Specialist School, said: "It was really interesting and very enlightening.

"It was a very powerful day. It's a great opportunity for students and a great experience for them to go and see it first hand.

"It is amazing rather than just reading about it."

The sheer size of the camp was a shock to many, as it was filled with rows of wooden huts and watch towers alongside the rail track.

Walking along the stony path in the cold and rain was uncomfortable but it would not come close to the feeling people would have had at the camp more than 70 years ago.

As the dark sky drew in the approximately 200 students came together as first a series of readings were carried out by pupils.

Hawwaa Butt, 16, Broadfield Specialist School, who did one of the readings, said: "It was very emotional. There was a lot of feelings.

"I think seeing it, you could imagine it as just violence, but there was so much more to it than that.

"I was so glad that I got the opportunity to come and take part in this."

This was followed by a passionate speech and hymn from Rabbi Raphy Garson to bring home the reality of the horror that was inflicted, and how important it is that people carry remembering what happened here.

Jess Sutcliffe, 17, Haslingden High School Sixth Form, said: "It was weird, it was horrible and really powerful.

"I didn't get really emotional about the whole thing until the hymn at the end.

"I have no idea what it meant but it was just so beautiful.

"It was just very humbling, moving is not a big enough word.

"It just clicked, it's more than just numbers and statistics you learn in a textbook."

To finally remember those who lost their lives, everyone was invited to light a candle to complete the day.

Erin Wilson, 17, Haslingden High School Sixth Form, said: "I've been before so going back a second time it was weird because I knew what I was expecting.

"It was still very emotional know, I got really nervous coming back in case it might feel different, but it was really emotional, I loved the trip.

"You don't realise its happened until you're actually there."