Saturday 13 July 2013

OE. Up there with MA.

OE. It means 'overseas experience' and it's a rite of passage for young New Zealanders. The Baby is off on hers already, the Firstborn soon to head off too, leaving a good job fully understood by her boss, who knows how valuable it is for people born so far from the rest of the world, into a comparatively privileged society, to travel to other countries, work and meet people whose experience is entirely different. Certainly, the Year 12 students I had yesterday have had a comfortable and affluent life so far, sitting there in the classroom with their tablets and laptops and smartphones.

They were meant to be taking notes on the video we were watching, and most of them were - but prowling quietly around, I discovered a few on Facebook or emailing, and one even playing a game. I was shocked, truly: because do you know what they were being shown? A special feature on the Schindler's List DVD, in which surviving witnesses from his factory in Krakow spoke in vivid detail about their experiences there and at Auschwitz. Playing a game!

I gave them a good rarking, of course, and when in the second lesson (during which, to be fair, they all paid attention) we finished with 15 minutes to spare, I told them everything I'd seen when I went to the Schindler Factory Museum last year and then to Auschwitz. I described the great brown mound of hair that they'd just heard a lady describing being shaved off, and the enormous heap of shoes, all sizes, little children's to men's boots, and the tangled pile of wire glasses frames, and the leather suitcases, their owners' names stencilled on them, and the long corridor with a triple row of photographs each side of prisoners in striped clothing. I told them about the slanted post in the courtyard for hanging people from by their hands behind their backs, and the pock-marks in the concrete wall behind, where the firing squad operated, and the gallows. I gave them all the detail about the gas chamber and the Zyklon-B canisters and the ovens and the chimney; and right beside it the playground for the Camp Commandant's children. I told them about 'Arbeit Macht Frei' and the wooden barracks at nearby Birkenau, and they listened to it all with wide eyes, somehow having a real person talking in front of them carrying more weight than watching a film of actual witnesses.

OE. Invaluable.

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