EMOTIONAL youngsters have told of the impact of visiting a Nazi concentration camp had on them.

School pupils visited Auschwitz-Birkenau just after International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

They included eight students from schools in Royal Wootton Bassett, Calne, Chippenham and Trowbridge.

Juliette Hudson, 16, of Royal Wootton Bassett Academy, said: “I found it a lot to take in. It has been very emotional.

“It’s hard to picture how the people must have felt when they arrived here.”

Sam Ogden, 17, also of Royal Wootton Bassett Academy, added: “It’s hard to describe how I feel. No matter how much you study or read about it, you just can’t really picture what has happened here.

Georga Coleman, 16, of Sheldon School in Chippenham, said: “I have just been taken aback. It’s unbelievable that this could have really happened. It must have been a real hell on earth. It’s so cold and desolate here.”

Maia Tagholm, 16, also of Sheldon School, added: “It has been so overwhelming to look at the figures, the people’s life history, and their photographs.

“I found it very emotional to hear the personal stories of the people that came here. At the end of the day, they were ordinary people like you and me.”

Thea Hine, 16, of St Mary’s School, Calne, said: “I wasn’t prepared for how massive it was. For me, it was the way that people were just given numbers. There was no recognition of their names.”

Georgia Brooks, 17, also of St Mary’s School, added: “It’s definitely moving to see all the photographs of all the individuals.”

At the end of the visit by more than 200 children from across the South West, organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust, Jewish Rabbi Andrew Shaw preached a powerful message of peace.

Rabbi Shaw, chief executive of a UK-based orthodox Zionist movement called Mizrachi, warned that a plague of anti-Semitism is again growing across the world.

“It is not just in London, hate is happening all around. We get it from the far left, from the far right, from fundamentalist Islam.

“It is growing and seething and so horrible to see. What you saw today, what the Nazis said about the Jews in 1939, it is being said today. It is disgusting. Words can lead to where you are today. Take the message back to your family and friends; explain to them where hatred ends.”

Sam Ogden said: “I think the Rabbi’s message is really relevant. We need to change the way some people think.”

Auschwitz-Birkenau comprises a complex of more than 40 concentration and extermination camps built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during the Second World War.

The camps, near the Polish town of Oswiecim-Brzezinka, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and are now a Holocaust memorial to more than 1.1 million people who died there.