Lessons from Auschwitz

Lessons from Auschwitz is a groundbreaking project run by the Holocaust Educational Trust, to explore the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today. The blog below was written by Katherine Perry and David Rowley, students at Brine Leas Sixth Form in Nantwich, to share their experiences of undertaking the programme last year. This is accompanied by a display in the museum’s upstairs Joseph Heler Room, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.


As part of the Holocaust Educational Trust project we visited Auschwitz One. Throughout our entire trip what was most striking to me and my work partner was that alongside the horrendous suffering of the victims of the Holocaust, there were also signs of the perpetrators’ humanity. From the Auschwitz One camp the house of Rudolf Höss, the man in charge of Auschwitz and responsible for overseeing the death of hundreds of thousands of Jewish men, women and children, was clearly visible. It was also in that house that he, according to his daughter, became ‘the nicest man in the world’ who ordered his children to ‘never hurt others’. It is difficult to reconcile what seem to be two completely opposing personalities into one human being but we must in order to understand why the Holocaust occurred.

Höss is just one example of thousands of Germans in the period between 1933-45 who were seduced not just by Hitler but by the whole idea of Nazism. It can be hard to see how regular people became convinced that Jews and other minorities were indeed ‘Untermenschen’ and thus not worthy of dignity, compassion or even life. The once glorious Germany had been destroyed through the First World War and the subsequent collapse of the German economy. Often in times of crisis people gravitate towards parties or people that offer a return to the safety of the past, that find an easy cause and solution to the current problems (often a minority group) and who reinforce the idea that they as a nation are special and more important than any other nation. We can even see this trend in modern day Europe with the rise in Nationalism since the 2008 economic crisis. However the sheer scale of indoctrination that seeped into everyday life, from the burning of Jewish shops to the rampant propaganda in schools, meant that extremism and intolerance became part of everyday life.

It is painful to admit that the perpetrators of the Holocaust were not just indoctrinated Nazis but also ordinary people from all over Europe. During our lecture on the Holocaust by the Holocaust Education Trust, it was astonishing to discover how numerous countries participated in the genocide by allowing the Jews to be deported without a struggle – from Greece even to places such as the Channel Islands where British policemen helped to deport Jewish members of their own society. Whilst one could argue that the invaded countries were forced to deport the Jews out of fear for their own lives, it does not explain stories of people defying this hate and intolerance in order to protect people of their community. In comparison to France who lost around 90,000 of their Jews to the Holocaust, Denmark lost only 120 people. This was mainly due to the fact that the Danish were so resistant against Nazi persecution. The Danish warned and hid as many Jewish families as they could when they got wind of the order to deport the Jews on the 1st October 1943. Moreover they made persistent demands to know the whereabouts of the 430 Jews that did not manage to evade capture, which meant no Danish Jews were deported to the killing centres. One of the main reasons for this is that the Danish did not see their Jews as ‘other’ but as members of their community.

Often in our narrative of the Holocaust there is no room for the true complexity of human nature. The perpetrators are monsters, the persecuted helpless victims. In doing this we cause a disservice to those who perished in the Holocaust. By allowing the Holocaust to simply become a cautionary tale with the people involved becoming distortions of themselves we turn this tragic event into something that is too far removed from reality to be actually be taken as a threat. It is only by becoming aware of how easy it is, especially in the modern day with the increase in indoctrination through social media, for such a dangerous mentality of ‘Us vs. Them’ to arise and acknowledge the true danger in passivity that we can begin to make sure such an event never occurs again.

Placement report from Edge Hill Student

Nantwich Museum regularly hosts works placements from schools, colleges and universities, helping young people to gain valuable skills and experience. Our most recent placement Ben shares his experiences here:

“Hi there! My name is Ben, and I am currently in my 2nd Year at Edge Hill University, studying Primary Education. Back in September, we were asked by the university to undergo 10 days of work experience, which linked in with our minor unit of study; mine being history. Since I was a boy, I have always lived in Nantwich, and so, the Museum was the perfect place to enquire about a possible placement.

Before I knew it, I arrived at the Museum doors on the 7th of December, ready to tackle the two weeks ahead. Upon arrival at the Museum, I had no idea of the scale of which the museum operated under. There is a huge emphasis on education and involving the community, and the sheer amount of support from the volunteers that help run this Museum is incredible. Within my first week, I was involved in a dementia awareness session and an education workshop with a group of local children. Both of these activities were planned extremely well, and despite the two groups being extremely different, both were engaged fully with the activities the museum had set out for them, and both groups enjoyed themselves massively.

In addition to this, I also assisted Barrie, one of the museums education volunteers, on many town tours. Not only did I begin to understand more about my own town, and where I grew up, I also learned about how I can use the local settings and surroundings of Cheshire, to teach fun, exciting and stimulating lessons. This was crucial for me to know in regards to my career, and I know that the information I have taken from these tours and talks, will stay with me throughout my vocation. Remember Barrie, history detectives always look…UP!

Furthermore, I also became involved with the Museum’s collections group. This involved the storing and numbering of the new artefacts that the Museum had gained over the past month. These ranged from World War 2 Helmets, Civil War musket balls, and even a Times newspaper article from the 19th century. Consequently, it was fascinating to see the amount of artefacts that the museum does have, and how they are preserved and documented, to ensure they stay safe, and accessible for future exhibitions.

Overall, my 10 days of work experience here at the museum have been outstanding. I have been involved in a vast variety of activities and events, and the warm, friendly, welcoming atmosphere of the museum made me feel right at home. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the museum manager Denise, and her team of staff and volunteers for working with me over the past two weeks, and for involving me in their day to day activities and events. Again, it has been truly amazing.

To the Museum, and anyone reading this blog, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.”

Support for Museum Dementia Friendship Group

On Monday 6th July staff, volunteers and visitors attending the Museum’s Dementia Friendship Group were joined by Tim Ashcroft from Thanks for the Memory along with Gill Jones and Jackie Stubbs, representing the Kiltearn Medical Practice Patient Board. Tim Ashcroft recently organised a second Big Band Concert at Cranage Hall where music through the decades was played to encourage reminiscence. Money raised has been distributed between the Museum and the Alzheimer’s Society and we have received £450. Gill Jones and Jackie Stubbs organised a raffle as part of National Dementia Awareness Week and very kindly have donated over £100 to the group.

The Museum’s Dementia Friendship Group does not receive funding and so these generous donations will enable the group, which has been going from strength to strength, to continue to develop. We hope to bring in an artist to work with the group and to also purchase additional musical instruments as well as other resources to enhance our sessions.

The group is open to anyone in the community who is living with dementia, their partners, carers or friends to attend. The group which meets on the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month is becoming increasingly popular so please ring on 01270 627104 if you would like to find out more.

Tim Ashcroft (Thanks for the Memories), Kate Dobson (Museum Manager), Jackie Stubbs & Gill Jones (Kiltearn Medical Practice).
Tim Ashcroft (Thanks for the Memories), Kate Dobson (Museum Manager), Jackie Stubbs & Gill Jones (Kiltearn Medical Practice).

Thanks for the Memory Concert

We are incredibly pleased to be supported for the second time by Tim Ashcroft and the superb Dave Egerton Big Band as they host THANKS FOR THE MEMORY BIG BAND CONCERT with 50 years of Music and Songs from the 1920’s to 1970’s on Sunday May 10th, 2pm – 5pm. With support from Vera Lynn, hosted by Cranage Hall Hotel & Conference Centre, Byley Lane, Cranage, Crewe, Cheshire, CW4 8EW and sponsored by Oakmere Wealth Management, this will be an afternoon of great entertainment. Sit back and be taken down memory lane to the Swing era, from Glen Miller to the Beatles; Fred Astaire to Vera Lynn to Van Morrison; Frank Sinatra to The Temptations… and much much more.

All proceeds are going equally to Nantwich Dementia Friends Group and the Alzheimer’s Society.


We hope the concert will bring back precious memories for those living with dementia and memory loss and their families and take them all back in time through music to those yester-years.
More information is available online or call the information line: 01606 551122, or email: ticket.sales@thanksforthememory.org.uk


The band at last years concert
The band at last years concert


The audience at last years concert
The audience at last years concert

More information about the Museum’s Dementia Friendship Group can be discovered here.

Salt Sunday

Nantwich Museum featured a part of its Celebration of Salt exhibition at the recent Salt Sunday event held at Winnington. The exhibition focussed on the literary celebrations of the local salt industry. In particular the Blessing the Brine hymn which formed a part of the celebrations of the gift of the brine which took place for a time on Ascension Day. A painting by Nicholas Ferenczy entitled Blessing the Brine was commissioned for the original exhibition and depicts the event. Copies in post card form can be obtained from the museum shop.

Salt Sunday was initiated in 2007 by the Bishop of Birkenhead as a celebration of the natural resource and a means of strengthening  the links between salt-related industries and the community.

Visitors inspect the Nantwich Museum stand at Salt Sunday  11 May 2014

Dementia Friendship Group

Anyone who is living with dementia or caring for someone with dementia is welcome to join us on the first Monday of each month from 2pm.

Our Millennium Gallery offers a comfortable and relaxed environment for our sessions where people are free to come and go as they please. The sessions have a different theme each week and use objects from our specially created reminiscence boxes and the Museum’s collection. There is opportunity to have a chat about the theme, sometimes an activity (always chance to handle objects) and always a cup of tea and chance to meet other people. As the Museum is closed to the general public on a Monday, we have the entire Museum available for this group’s use.

We have been working with the Alzheimer’s Society and staff assisted by volunteers will be present throughout.

This is a free event.

If you would like further information please contact us on 01270 627104 or education@nantwichmuseum.org.uk

We would appreciate, if possible, for you to contact us if you are planning on attending a session.

Our next seesion is based on Entertainment.


Story Sacks

The Craft Group were approached by the Museum’s Administrator with an idea of making story sacks for the Museum’s younger visitors. Some examples of their work can be seen on the wall.

What are Story Sacks?

A Story Sack is a cloth bag containing a children’s story book or rhyme sheet along with supporting materials to stimulate reading and language activities.

It aims to make reading more memorable and enjoyable for both parent/carer and child.

Why are we using them in the Museum?

By introducing story sacks, we hope that parents/carers and their children will take time to read together during their visit to the Museum, and encourage their children to make links between the stories or rhymes to the relevant displays/objects around the Museum.

Story Sacks to be made available from 2014:

Story or Rhyme                                                           Link to

Elves and the Shoemaker                                             Clothing and shoe making in Nantwich

Hickory Dickory Dock                                                   Clockmakers of Nantwich

The Grand Old Duke of York                                       The Battle of Nantwich

London’s Burning                                                            The Fire of Nantwich

Should you wish to discuss any of the above, please speak to Vicky Edwards, or email Vicky at enquiries@nantwichmuseum.org.uk