John Whittingdale, together with Simon Burns MP, accompanied pupils from schools in Mid Essex on a day visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp in Poland.

Last Wednesday (21st March) Maldon and East Chelmsford MP, John Whittingdale, together with Simon Burns MP, accompanied pupils from schools in Mid Essex on a day visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp in Poland. The visit was arranged by the Holocaust Education Trust which seeks to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust and its relevance today and so far some 4,000 students and teachers have paticipated in visits.

John Whittingdale said: "The visit was immensely moving and at some times distressing experience. It is only by seeing it that one can appreciate the sheer enormity of the horror of what happened at Auschwitz. In total, about 1.2 million people died at the camp and during the visit we saw the remains of the gas chambers, the crematoria and the barracks in which they lived. Seeing the piles of personal items, hair shavings and clothing of the victims, particularly of the children was harrowing and upsetting for many of those visiting. However, it is important that we are reminded of it in order to reinforce our determination that nothing like this must ever be allowed to happen again. It is particularly relevant today when some are still trying to deny that the Holocaust happened and when there have been other attempts at genocide in placeslike Rwanda and Darfur. The Holocaust Educational Trust are doing a vital job and I am sure that all those on the visit will never forget what we see that day."

The picture attached shows John Whittingdale with Ruth Hardy, Head of Sixth Form and Emma Smith and Poppy Gibson, sixth form pupils at St Peter's High School, Burnham on Crouch. They are pictured at the entrance to Auschwitz 1 Camp with the famous sign in the background "Arbeit Macht Frei" meaning "Work Makes You Free".