England visits Auschwitz, Schindler’s factory
KRAKOW, Poland ● England coach Roy Hodgson led members of his European Championship squad on a solemn visit to the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps on Friday.
Hodgson and Football Association chairman David Bernstein lit candles Friday at the site where prisoners got off trains at the most notorious death camp Nazi Germany operated on Polish soil after invading its neighbor during World War II.
The England delegation was accompanied by the Jewish former Chelsea manager Avram Grant, whose family members were among the estimated 1.1 to 1.5 million people to die in Auschwitz, either in gas chambers, from being shot or from starvation and disease.
“The Nazis were very clever,” Grant said. “They gave you hope. They thought of everything. It is so important this visit. People will see they have come here and then others will come here.”
Avram Grant showed the English players around in Auschwitz
Most of the Auschwitz victims were Jews but the Nazis also killed many Poles, Soviet prisoners of wars, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and political opponents there.
“You cannot understand how it can be so systematic, dehuman,” Hodgson said. “It was a job. It is difficult to get your head around.”
Other members of the squad visited the Krakow factory where German businessman Oskar Schindler employed Jewish workers to spare them from concentration camps during the liquidation of the ghetto in the city where England is based for Euro 2012.
“Most youngsters today have a glorified image of a ghetto but the ghettos we have learned about today are not like that,” England defender Joleon Lescott said. “I did not have a full understanding of what the word means. For a lot of people today, it has been lost in translation.
“You see it in films and learn about it in music but to learn the origins of the word ghetto opens your eyes. People were chosen to go to Auschwitz. This is my first experience of something like this.”
And one he found to be “very humbling,” having just won the Premier League for the first time with Manchester City.
“Coming here makes you grateful for what you have got but you must not rest on that,” Lescott said. “You must not take that for granted. You have to move forward and use this information to pass on to our children to show how people struggled and survived.”