THE biennial Beath High School History experience took the staff and students to Krakow and Berlin this year and what an 'experience' it was.

Despite leaving Edinburgh airport three hours late, the group were in good spirits when they arrived in Krakow just after midnight. Sleep would be at a premium as the group had a very early start that same day for the visit to the remains of Auschwitz – Birkenau camp.

The very name Auschwitz conjures up images of horror and the tales told by the excellent guides as the Beath party made their way around the grounds emphasised this.

The camp is in three parts with Auschwitz 1 still largely intact. It was built as a work camp for Polish political prisoners and the buildings were a grim reminder of the horrors perpetrated there. Actually walking through one of the gas chambers and into the one remaining crematorium was a solemn experience.

The second part of the Auschwitz camp is called Birkenau and it is vast in area. Purpose built for extermination and mass murder, this camp was partially destroyed by the Nazis in an attempt to hide the evidence of their crimes against the minorities whom they chose to attack. The remains of the gas chambers and other crematoria are still visible and the guides held nothing back in their descriptions of the atrocities which occurred on this site.

Walking the ground, it was impossible to imagine what had actually taken place there during World War Two.

Unlike over a million people who were exterminated there, the Beath group were able to leave the site and look forward to more enjoyable experience in Krakow.

Krakow is a lovely city with much to see and do. After a stroll around the main square and a bite to eat, most of party were early to bed.

The next day saw a visit to a vast salt mine in Wieliczka. They were over 130 metres underground at one point and the carvings in the salt were utterly outstanding. The underground workings include a cathedral with carvings of Biblical events and there are two coffee shops at this level as well!

After a visit to one of the big shopping centres in Krakow, they headed off for a group meal before making the 8 hour overnight bus journey to Berlin.

A quick breakfast, brokered by Mrs Sinclair, was welcomed before they made our way to the Brandenburg Gate for a walking tour of that area of Berlin. Taking in the Russian Memorial, the Reichstag and several memorials to the victims of Fascism, the Beath group were given a thoroughly detailed history of the area. Pizza for tea and off to bed as they had another full day on Saturday, their last full day.

The Jewish museum is mix of old and new and the guide provided the, with thoughts on the problems faced by those who were being persecuted by the Nazis. A brisk walk brought them to the Topography of Terror on the Freiderichstrasse. This was the centre of the Nazi regime and the museum is built on the ground that was once occupied by the Gestapo headquarters. The presentations by the excellent guides brought home the brutality and indiscriminate nature of the Nazi persecution of minority groups in Germany.

A wee visit to Checkpoint Charlie finished off our day trip to central Berlin.

Their last morning was another full of bright sunshine and they spent it around the Brandenburg Gate taking in some of the other sights around Unter den Linden. The flight home went without any problem and they arrived back in a much cooler Edinburgh.

The Beath party agreed that they are all much the wiser that they are are all different in some way and should celebrate that fact. The evidence of persecution, bullying and discrimination which led to mass genocide due to one group’s failure to accept difference was thought to be frankly sickening.