Each Friday I share our theme of the week to give an opportunity for you to discuss this at home as a family with your child.
This week our theme is ‘the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz’ and this has been explored in many ways during the week.
Sixth Form students Kia Clarke and Lorenzo Stacey had the privilege of visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp last year and were invited to share their experiences in a Radio Devon programme on Sunday.
Plymouth Peace Garden
Kia also took part in a ceremony on Plymouth Hoe on Monday.
Cllr Jemima Laing said, “An extremely moving ceremony at the Peace Garden on the Hoe [with] wonderful contributions from some of Plymouth's young people including a poem by our Young Laureate and insightful reflections on a visit to Auschwitz by a DHSB student’”
Ms Davison added, “We’re proud of Kia showing such empathy for the plight of Jewish people at the City Holocaust Memorial Ceremony in the Peace Garden on the Hoe”.
Whole School Assembly
On Wednesday Mr Riggs delivered our whole school Holocaust Memorial Day assembly which commemorated the liberation of the camps in Auschwitz in Poland 75 years ago in 1945.
He has sent this summary for inclusion in today’s Head’s Blog.
I have been teaching about the Holocaust for nearly 30 years. At the beginning of my career, schools were privileged to have survivors of the camps visit them and they bravely told their stories to rapt audiences who wondered at their strength of spirit, their determination to survive and their wish to pass on their stories so that genocide would never happen again. Genocides such as those in Cambodia, Darfur and Bosnia do still occur and it is vital that we keep teaching about these issues, especially with anti-Semitism in Europe beginning to raise its foul head once again.
I have visited Auschwitz with survivors of that camp and met survivors in this country and in Israel when I took a course at the Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Memorial. But for many years, here at DHSB, we were enthralled by Mr Solly Irving, a wonderful man who told his story despite the great pain that it obviously caused him. He knew that his visits would come to an end at some point because of his advancing years, and on one of his last visits, sat me down and made me promise him that I would continue to tell the story of the Holocaust for him when he was no longer with us. I promised him that I would do that and have taken that responsibility exceptionally seriously since that day.
Six million Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust. There were, of course, other groups such as the Roma Gypsies, who were almost wiped out as well. These numbers are too big for us to comprehend so what I tried to do on Wednesday was to deal with a few human beings in order to show their humanity and how they wanted to live and to love in the same way that we do today. One of the main exhibits at the Yad Vashem is the hall where there are volumes of books where they have recorded all the names of those who were murdered to try to restore them as individuals rather than statistics. There is also the Children’s Memorial where a voice reads out the names of the children who perished. We were asked to just remember one of the names that we heard, and I remembered Shlomo Klein. He was murdered at Auschwitz aged 14, an age that all of our students can identify with.
The main reading at the assembly was a letter that a Holocaust survivor discovered sewn into the baby clothes that she was wearing when she was given up to a group who were rescuing Jewish children before the round ups. She did not discover it until much later in life. The letter is a heart breaking letter of love from a mother to her daughter, and is full of passion and rage as well as love. It is exceptionally emotional.
The letter was given to me at Auschwitz by a survivor of Auschwitz 20 years ago. They wanted to share it because it was the voice of one of the victims and because it showed so well that the victims were human beings. If there is anything that shows the sheer wickedness of the Holocaust, it is this. The letter and the slides that were displayed can be accessed via the link below.
Link to whole school assembly slides
Link to a copy of the letter read at whole school assembly
It is a very emotional experience delivering an assembly like this, but it is so worthwhile. Our students sat in absolute silence the whole time. I told them that I would like them to avoid giving applause and they did so even after the magnificent performance of the theme from Schindler’s List by Mr Adams and Joe Stell, and the superb readings. I also asked them to bow their heads while I read Psalm 23 and to leave in silence at the end. Every member of the school did so.
I asked the school to make sure that they built a world based on love, kindness and tolerance. Their reactions make me even more confident that our wonderful students will leave and build that world.
Mr Riggs concluded our whole school assembly by sharing these words by Edmond Burke.
A Nazi in the Family
On Thursday we received a visit from Derek Niamann (grandson of an SS Officer) who gave a prentation called 'Across the Divide'.
Ms Davidson hosted the visit and said, “This was one of the most enthralling tales I've ever heard. Students were held entranced by Derek's gentle voice and euphonious (Scottish) accent as he retold the story of his family set in the context of post first world war Germany to the present day. The negatives of 500 family photographs passed back from the Jewish occupants of his grandfather's home (when the Berlin Wall came down) brought the reality and contrast of the lives of Nazi families with those of the Jews we heard about on our assembly yesterday".
She added, "This was an unforgettable presentation and a privilege to hear it. Our students asked many questions and seemed to understand the necessity of such stories being told when tolerance and understanding must be sustained for the future”.
As an example of Excellent Work this week we are re-publishing a piece of writing by Lorenzo Stacey following his unforgettable visit to Auschwitz.
Please use this link to read Lorenzo's report.
In other news this week Ms Welton hosted a visitor from the Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Bristol.
Here Year 10 students are seen researching the experience of a Roman soldier.
On Tuesday evening, Asad Ali, Finlay Stewart and Austin Pearce from Year 8 took part in the Rotary Club Youth Speaks competition held here at DHSB. This year the competition has a new format where students must look at both sides of an issue. Our students chose climate change and wrote closely argued accounts of the arguments about this issue.
Mr Riggs said, “They performed magnificently and are through to the next round on Saturday”.
Longitude Explorer Prize
The Nesta Longitude Explorer prize is a competition that runs each year, based around a different STEM theme each time, it primarily intends to demystify innovation and entrepreneurship while encouraging young people to be the driving force in the future of tech for good. It has a £25, 000 prize for the successful team.
Ms Buckler said, “We were incredibly proud to be chosen for the semi-finals in London, a development day event to network with industry professionals and learn how to develop our app. Nesta was a great experience for all the team, it developed our understanding of AI and improved some of our main skills, such as public speaking, ethics and cyber security”.
Our students' idea 'Put it Down!' is an app designed to educate consumers on the health and environmental impact of everyday food. Consumers can be advised to put it down and choose a better option based on food image recognition and databases of information on the health and environmental data of the food, amount of palm oil for instance.
The students who took part had this to say.
“Thursday was an extremely active day, we got to code AI dogs, navigate a VR dog like robot round a maze and use the famous Pepper robot with a VR headset. After that we heard from a young entrepreneur Vincent Cook who ran a cyber security business for a living. The last workshop was on prototyping an app”.
“The team enjoyed this trip and would definitely like to make it to the finals”.
“Within the next few weeks, we'll produce a presentation about our idea and a video explaining what we learnt today”.
Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
Last weekend 85 students were on site for a full day of training. Subjects covered included appropriate food, map reading, first aid and equipment.
Congratulations to Mrs Donnelly who has been unanimously elected as the National Education Union South West Officer of the Year, and to Mr Weymouth who featured in the Plymouth Herald this week after he played some of his ‘best tennis’ in a recent doubles competitive match.
Well done to Oliver who became the Year 8 Indoor Rowing Champion at the Plymouth Championships on Tuesday.
Congratulations to the U15 football team who secured a good win in the Plymouth Cup 4 - 2 against Sir John Hunt School.
This week the U13 basketball team took a win against Coombe Dean 29 – 19 but there were two very narrow defeats for the U15 team.
And finally this week, good luck to our Ultimate Frisbee teams travelling to the open national championships in Wolverhampton this weekend with Mr McConnell. We'll bring you a full report next week.