Hi blog, it’s Blue here to let you know what 84 has been up to. Today is a very weird yet exciting day as Sis84 heads back to school for year 11! – I’m sure when I met her, she was only starting year 9. 84 has been telling me how scary it is that she has finished Sixth Form and will be heading off to university later this month to study Mathematics and Computer Science.
This summer has been very busy for 84 as she has slowly been packing for University, has started a new job over the summer and took a well earned break after there chaotic two years of Sixth Form during the pandemic. On the 10th of August she got her ALevel results and 84 was very pleased with them, she got into the university of her choice which is still fairly local to home but far enough away to live in university flats for her first year. I look forward to joining the SSAGOS unit and maybe even joining a local Beaver group as a leader (well 84 as the leader not me)!
Hello blog, recently I have not been very active with my blog due to being back at school (in real life) rather than on online school. This has meant that I have been very busy, especially getting back into the school routine, as well as preparing for exams. Hopefully, by the end of May, I should be back to blogging weekly as I should be finished with school for the Summer.
On Monday the 19th of April 2021, we had our first Beavers meeting outside in over a year after being on Zoom since March 2020. This was really enjoyable and the Beavers seemed to enjoy the evening playing games, sat at a safe distance apart, as well as learning about the patron saint of Scouting, St. George. We played games such as Splat, Heads and Tails and Simon Says before finishing the evening by designing our own shields – which mine had a snail on.
Content Warning: this article discusses the Holocaust and Auschwitz
A year ago, I was given the opportunity to visit Auschwitz with the Holocaust Educational Trust with the aim of rehumanising the Jews and the people who helped to collaborate the act of the Holocaust – whether they were the perpetrators or bystanders. In today’s blog I will discuss the importance of remembering the Holocaust in our daily lives.
‘the holocaust was the murder of approximately six million Jewish men, women and children by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during the Second World War’
definition of the Holocaust
Before flying to Poland, we had an orientation seminar where we discussed the Jewish community and listened to a Witness testimony.
We were reminded that everyone was human, and the Jewish community were all integrated within society where they were proud to show their faith. However they were still slightly segregated in their religion throughout specific youth groups to celebrate their faith. Overall, the Jewish community was respected for their help within the First World War as well as them being across Eastern Europe.
We then listened to a witness testimony and ours was told from Hannah. At the time of the Holocaust, she was just a young girl. During this time, she never really understood what was happening until many years after where she was able to create modern links with her experiences. A memory she vividly remembers from this time was when she saw her mother die to protect her. Her family has a ‘pact’ which made sure that her grandfather was properly buried in his hometown to allow her family to keep their beliefs and values strong. Before her family left their town, they buried a box hidden with photographs which she was able to retrieve and show us. Hannah has regrets from not being able to pull her friend into the hay to save him from his death and is haunted by the vicious dogs which would threaten the villagers.
Yet whilst listening to Hannah, she was calm. Her experiences had not changed her faith in God. As she recalled her testimony, her memories flooded back in emotions which no one would be able to ever fully understand. To me it showed how surreal and recent the Holocaust still is. The Holocaust happened and if we cannot change the past, surely we can prevent it happening again within the future. However today we can still see antisemitism, for example some of the white supremacists who stormed Capitol Hill last month. The Holocaust was over 75 years ago and still people are uneducated on the history and horrors from this time.
Within the photo on the left, you can see Jewish children in a youth group making the star of David. Zagreb is in Yugoslavia and around 12,000 Jews lived here. In April 1941, Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Hitler allowed Croatia to become a separate country controlled by Croatian Fascists which passed a law to remove Jews’ rights. In June 1941, they started sending Jews to concentration camps in Croatia and most Jews were killed by the end of 1942. By May 1943, any Jews who were still left in Zagreb were handed over to the Nazis and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau where the majority were killed in gas chambers when they arrived.
The town of Oswiecim:
Once we arrived in Poland, our first visit was to the town of Oswiecim. Here we looked at old photos of the town and compared them to the town today.
As shown in the black and white photograph, the town of Oswiecim had a large Jewish community of around 58% in 1939. The market square was very important for trade and business. After the outbreak of the war in September 1939, occupying forces burnt down the Great Synagogue in the town to show their authority which as a result removed all Jews from this town. It was soon renamed Auschwitz and was the closest town to the building of the Auschwitz concentration camps. The large church by the water remains however the synagogue which proudly stood next to it was burnt down. This shows how before the town of Oswiecim was well integrated, everyone was respected and proud of their identities. Today there are no Jews in this town.
We then visited Auschwitz I and were giving a tour guide from one of the local workers. Before my visit I was expecting it to be solemn, reserved, quiet, monumental, historic and thought provoking. During my visit, I found it to be some of these characteristics. It was historical and monumental however it was bright with green grass, yet the buildings were plain and simple. In a way, the buildings were reserved, solemnly quiet – as if reflecting on their purpose within the Holocaust. It was neither silent nor loud instead more peaceful as we all took in the true history reminding ourselves that the Holocaust unfortunately was very real. It was so recent for such inhumane evil activity with the brain washing included. In a way I learnt how it was unintentional the mass murder, with the gas being used to prevent the outspread for diseases yet this is a worrying thought.
In the top right photo you can see the ‘gate’ reading Albeit Macht Frei. This translates to work sets you free.
‘They beat us between the cars and the gate. They gave us such a hard time. There was a young boy standing next to me, maybe he was sixteen, fifteen even, and he was crying, tears were falling. We were afraid, we didn’t know where we were. It seemed to me that we found ourselves in hell. You cannot describe it any other way. And it turned out that this was hell.’
This is an extract from Jerzy Bielecki whom was on the very first transport to Auschwitz of 728 Polish political prisoners at Tarnow on the 14th June 1940. Its tales Jerzy describing his arrival at Auschwitz prior to the construction of the current entrance building.
Excluding the top right photo, all the photos show the belongings the Jews and others brought with them to the concentration camps. As soon as they arrived, they would’ve been stripped of all their belongings and their identities. Their hair would be shaved to be sold to factories in order to be used for wool – though much was never sold and sent to factories. The suitcases are all named with returning addresses and many prosthetic limbs from those who were disabled or needed them after them helping in the wars. There were many pots and pans as well as glasses frames, keys, shoe brushes and prayer mats. However, what surprised me most was the shoes. There were many different styles, shapes, sizes and colours, making you question what pair of shoes would you have worn and how a single pair of shoes can define and individualise every person who arrived there. Also, those who brought keys with them, would they have known it would be the last time they locked their home?
The top right photo shows empty canisters of the gas used within the gas chambers. These hadn’t been destroyed and the gas was originally used to try and kill those who had diseases and were ill. However someone soon told the ‘hierarchy’ who gave the order to be used within the gas chambers. No one knows who or why.
The top left photo shows the gas chamber at Auschwitz I. This was around 10-15m away from the camp owners house who lived with his family where their children played in the garden, they would be able to see all which was happening. This goes against the whole idea at Auschwitz – to dehumanise the Jews whilst the children were enjoying their lives. The bottom left photo shows the striped pyjamas the ‘prisoners’ would wear.
The middle photos show a book of names, of all those who died or suffered during the holocaust. The book is incomplete and merely shows a proportion of those who suffered as a result of the Nazis actions. Block 10 was used for experiments and block 11 was used as a prison where there was a mass shooting between both these blocks. Near these blocks lived the ‘bird watcher’ who would go around spotting birds at Auschwitz and would be paid for his findings. After the Holocaust ended, he was rewarded with a job as I believe to be a professor. Was he a bystander or a perpetrator?
Auschwitz II – Birkenau:
Auschwitz II – Birkenau was known to be the end. This was where the train track stopped and ended but in reality, this was the end of everything leading up to arriving here to face your death.
The top left photo shows a train, cart which would’ve arrived full of passengers to Auschwitz Birkenau. There were no windows and seemed like a cargo for livestock and goods. There would be a single bucket for a toilet on what might be a 9-day journey from Corfu. The drivers of these were they a perpetrator? Many bought a home return ticket as well expecting to return home.
Once you got off and had arrived you were greeted with a guard. A thumb left meant you would face death up at the gas chambers and a thumb right meant you’d be able to work. Many lied about their age and claimed skills in order to survive.
The photo on the right shows one of the two gas chambers. In the moment leading up to the defeat of the Nazis within the Second World War, they tried to destroy all evidence by collapsing the gas chambers and burning the wooden barracks in the area they called ‘Canada’ which held the belongings of the Jewish community to be searched through and sold on.
The middle photo shows the turning of the thumb left and right. The bottom right photo shows items in ‘Canada’ being sorted through by the prisoners as work. The bottom left photo shows the brick huts where many would’ve been squashed in to sleep and live. They were triple bunks and there was also holes as a toilets, more than 700 people would be living in here. One worker who worked in the toilets felt as if their job was royalty. They would be able to talk to the others in the toilets as no SS guards would come in from fear of typhus and catching any diseases. The worker was able to hear stories and find out about the camps gossip.
The top left photo shows the site of where a wooden barrack once would’ve situated and within this barrack would’ve held more than 200 Jewish children between the ages of 2 to 16 being kept as prisoners. Many of them were twins who were being used for criminal medical experiments.
The top left photo shows the section of Auschwitz Birkenau which was called ‘Canada’. Lots of workers would want to work in ‘Canada’ to sort through clothes and items. The Nazis burnt down this section of the camp and so only the bottom bricks remain of what once were wooden barracks. If you were a worker, first your belongs would be stripped and men and women would be separated. Then you would burn or steam your clothes before having a shower to clean yourself. Everyone would gather into the same room (of each gender) before boiling hot or freezing cold water was tipped down. Your hair would then be shaved before getting your tattoo and then getting your clothing to wear (the striped pyjamas). The photo on the left shows more photos of items and belongings people brought with them.
Some may say the Jews were free and the guards were the prisoners ‘locked’ up being held captive. This is shown by the Jewish community using the moon as guidance to remind them of their heritage through their festivals. Even through the Nazis dehumanising the Jews, they were still able to fight back and hold onto the remnants of their self belief.
After my visit I reflected on what I’ve learnt about human beings. I’ve reinforced the idea that everyone is equal no matter your beliefs however at Auschwitz, everyone was dehumanised and torn away from their own views for being so called ‘wrong’ yet they stood stronger together and became more resilient despite their lives completely being torn apart.
The key points I would like to share and hence take away from my experience is the harsh reality of the ‘production line’ at Auschwitz Birkenau, including the items each family brought with them to continue their ‘new life’ at the camps which were rapidly stripped from them. Another concept I would like to reinforce is where can we draw the line between a perpetrator and a bystander – in a way both their actions, however big or small, consequently it all added up and made the holocaust happen.
Nazi Germany tried to kill all the Jews through dehumanisation in the following ways; Concentration camps, Gas chambers, Murder camps (Auschwitz Birkenau), Shooting, Starvation, Beating/Strangling and Mass murder -when they realised that they were not sufficient in their methods.
The words perpetrator and bystander now mean two new things. A ‘perpetrator’ I see is someone involved within the act of the Holocaust. They were the Nazis, the guards, the bird watcher, the farmers who provided food to the camps, the photographer and the train drivers. Yet more importantly as such this act never would’ve been carried out if the ‘bystanders’ who knew what was happening but did not act against it would’ve done something. They include country leaders and governments, families of Nazi believers, the local community who watched their Jewish community be removed from their towns and villages. However, both terms link as the hierarchy cannot run without the bystanders.
On the 4th of January, England announced a 3rd national lockdown. This led to the closures of schools and the uncertainty of examinations. Recently the government have release a survey (which you can find here) about the grading of these exams which I ask for you to fill out.
Over the past weeks, I have been partaking in online school which has been very different from last years online school (March to July). This is due to our lessons being live via. Teams rather than having work being set primarily on Show My Homework. At first, it was very hard to get into a routine but after two weeks, I have found my routine.
Throughout this new lockdown I am going to try and pick up some new hobbies such as learning some more guitar, learning a new language, teaching myself to write with my right hand, embroidery, crocheting, playing chess and doing computer art.
Here is a piece of art I completed a few days ago:
Yesterday was the last day of school for me this year and after some reflection, I realise it was very strange and chaotic. The year started off well working upon my Extended Project Qualification and applying for head student however, soon it took a strange turn. I was not offered a head student role but instead was offered the Centenary position. I flew out to Poland for a day with the Holocaust Education Trust to visit Auschwitz and continued Sixth Form usually until March the 20th when everything changed. Suddenly it was online school, copying from a textbook whilst revising for my year 12 mocks.
During England’s first national lockdown, we were not in school instead completing our school work at home (and sometimes completing an online lesson). We completed our year 12 mock examinations at home. Over June and July, I was able to attend school twice which I blogged about here and here. Then it was the summer holidays before returning back face to face in September, this raised many concerns for me and so I wrote to my school expressing my view.
I survived the first half term and then the second half term where I submitted my UCAS application and applied to American universities abroad. I wrote to my MP and was filmed for the schools Christmas concert. Yesterday was a half day at school so we had virtual events within our form groups. This included completing a virtual Christmas quiz, watching a virtual assembly and watching houses got talent (which my house won!). Overall the day went very quickly and it was a good way to end the strange year. I am now waiting to see what the New Year has in store for school.
Howdy y’all and welcome to Blogmas 2020. After a chaotic year, I believe that bringing back Blogmas will help with the holiday cheer. This year I am going to do it slightly differently, with blog posts of Blue teaching and crafting with you as well as an update of my week from me (I may also bring back the fan favourite Christmas cheese jokes!). To start day one off I am going to write about the Boar’s Head Christmas Carol.
The Boar’s Head Carol is a tradition at my school (and many others) which is sung by the sixth formers in acapella (aged 16-18). This (and last year), I am taking part in singing the traditional song. The carol is about a sacrificing a boar and resenting it at the head of a Yuletide festival. It has been around since the 15th century and has been sung at my school for 100 years. Usually we perform it in the dark with lanterns during the beginning of our Christmas concert however going this year it is being filmed to be shown virtually.
The lyrics are as follows:
Chorus: Caput apri defero. Redens laudes domino. Caput apri defero. Redens laudes domino.
Verse 1: The Boar’s head in hand bear I, Bedecked with bays and rosemary. And I pray you my masters be merry, Quot est-is convivio.
Chorus: Caput apri defero. Redens laudes domino. Caput apri defero. Redens laudes domino.
Verse 2: The Boar’s head as I understand, Is the rarest dish in all the land. Which thus be decked with a gay garland, Let us servire coniuco.
Chorus: Caput apri defero. Redens laudes domino. Caput apri defero. Redens laudes domino.
Verse 3: Our steward hath provided this, In honour of the kind of bliss. Which in this day to be served is, In reginensi a trio.
Chorus: Caput apri defero. Redens laudes domino. Caput apri defero. Redens laudes domino.
Verse 1 repeat: The Boar’s head in hand bear I, Bedecked with bays and rosemary. And I pray you my masters be merry, Quot est-is convivio.
October is Black History month so to celebrate I put up a display in my schools Mathematics Corridor. Here are seven important mathematicians and scientists who have defied
Katherine Johnson was a famous mathematician who earnt a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and French.
In 1953, she was hired by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ and worked analysing data from flight tests.
In 1962, Johnson was asked by John Glenn to rerun the numbers and equations which were calculated by the computer because he wanted to check the programme was correct. His space flight was then successful.
In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. This is the highest civilian honour any American can be awarded.
Jesse Ernest Wilkins Jr.
Jesse Ernest Wilkins Jr. attended the University of Chicago at the age of 13 (in 1936) and was one of the youngest students to attend. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at 17 and earnt his PhD at 19.
Wilkins worked with Arthur Compton and Enrico Fermi to research methods into producing fissionable nuclear materials focusing on plutonium-239. Unfortunately, he did not fully know the purpose of his research until the atomic bomb was dropped over Hiroshima.
In 1944, he worked on research with Eugene Wingner on neutron absorption which lead to the discovery of the Wigner-Wilkins approach to estimate the distribution of neutron energies within nuclear reactors.
He helped on the Manhattan project with a strong interest in the peaceful application of atomic energy.
In 1976, he became the president of the American Nuclear Society and later was the second African American to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering, which is one of the highest honours an engineer can receive.
Dorothy Vanughan was a mathematician who in 1943 worked at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory and was assigned to the segregated ‘West Area Computing Unit’. The West Computers contributed to most areas of research at Langley.
In 1949, Dorothy was promoted to become NACA’s first black supervisor and was one of the few female supervisors.
Later in 1958 when NACA transitioned to NASA she joined the Analysis and Computation Division which was one of the first integrated groups at NASA. She became an expert of the FORTRAN programme and contributed to the Scot Launch Vehicle Program.
In 1971, she retired from NASA.
Benjamin Banneker owned a farm near Baltimore, USA and was largely self-educated in Astronomy and Mathematics.
He constructed a wooden clock which kept accurate time for more than 50 years and Banneker was able to accurately predict lunar and solar eclipses.
In 1791, Andrew Ellicott hire Banneker to help assist in surveying territory for the nation’s capital and worked in the observatory tent using a zenith sector to record movements of stars.
Between 1792-97, he published many Almanacs (annual calendars) which included astronomical calculations, opinion pieces, literature, medical and tidal information.
Benjamin wrote letters to Thomas Jefferson outlying his hypocrisy to enslave African Americans whilst they were fighting the British for independence. He also attached his Almanac to the letter.
Jefferson acknowledged his letter and, in his response, stated how he had sent Banneker’s Almanac to Monsieur de Condorcet.
Banneker gained widespread support of abolitionist societies in Maryland and Pennsylvania for his views against slavery.
Katherine Adebola Okikiolu
Kate Okikiolu developed an interest for Mathematics in high school and in 1985 attended Newham College at the University of Cambridge and graduated with a Bachelors degree in Mathematics.
From here, she then studied in the United States to research for her doctorate and became an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and in 1974 she became a full-time professor.
In 1991 she gained her PhD for her thesis on The Analogue of the Strong Szego Limit Theorem on the Torus and the 3-Sphere.
From 1992-95 she worked as an assistant professor at Princeton University and produced two papers whilst here.
She became an assistant visiting professor at MIT from 1995 to 1997 and produced three joint papers with Victor Guillemin.
She joined the University of California at San Diego in 1997 as an associated professor where, during this time, she was awarded the Sloan Research Fellowship and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
Throughout her time here she delivered many lectures and talks including three talks at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 2011 she joined the Mathematics department at Johns Hopkins University, USA.
David Blackwell was an American mathematician and statistician whom in 1935, age 16, attended the University of Illinois and graduated with a Bachelors degree, then a Masters and finally earnt a Doctorate.
Later, Blackwell took a position at Howard University which he described as being the “ambition of every black scholar” and after 3 years he became a full professor and became the Head of the Department of Mathematics.
In 1954, he left to take a position as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and in 1956 he became a chairman of the Statistics Department.
In 1965, he was elected to the National Academy of Science.
In 1979, he received the John von Neumann Theory Prize for his work on dynamic programming.
In 1986, Blackwell also earnt the R.A Fisher Award from the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies.
Mamokgethi Phakeng achieved a Bachelors degree in Pure Mathematics at the University of North-West, South Africa and a master degree in Mathematics Education at the University of Witwatersrand where in 2002 she became the first black female South African to obtain a PhD in Mathematics Education.
Phakeng became the first female president of the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa during 2002-2006. In 2007 she was elected a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa and in 2009 she became an honourary member of the Golden Key International Honour Society.
From 2011 to 2016 she became the first female president of the Convocation of the University of Wiwatersrand.
In 2014, the CEO Magazine named her Africa’s most influential female academic.
In 2016, the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa awarded her the prestigious Businesswoman of the Year Award in the education category.
On top of this, Mamokgethi has gained many awards such as the Doctor of Science from the University of Bristol and held the Mellon Award from 1998 to 2000.
For the last 8 weeks, I have been settling back into my school routine (COVID-19 edition). Even through the last few weeks, school have made many changes such as now making face coverings compulsory in all shared areas as well as making the loud noisy common room a quieter study area. It is very weird having my science lessons in a DT room and my Maths lessons in random classrooms however luckily the majority of my Chemistry classes are in a science lab.
For the first few days of the year I was very stressed over returning to school. We were sent our reopening plan and I was unhappy with the changes in place and was very anxious however, I have slowly adjusted to school. It is not as strict as it was before Summer but there are specific doors and areas of the school we are allowed in. The weather has been fairly warm so I have been able to sit outside rather than in the hot common room. However, as it neared the end of September and start of October, the weather got colder so I have been sitting inside more often.
This term at school, we have been focusing on sorting out UCAS and our personal statements as well as sorting out my American applications. Halfway through the term we had Recovery Assessments to catch up on our work from March. These tests were low stakes so it was more for the teachers to check our understanding compared to being grades. As part of my USA application, I have been partaking in many virtual webinars in my evenings and attending UK open days.
I have also been continuing my extracurricular activities from dancing weekly on a Wednesday evening to completing virtual Beaver meetings on a Monday. I also am counting watching Home and Away as an extracurricular! Over the past month or so, I have nearly finished watching The Flash season six and participated in DC’s virtual comic con.
Overall, this term has improved as the weeks have past. The leaves are falling and soon we will be converting back to GMT time. Summer is over, and autumn is in swing getting closer and closer to Christmas. During half term, I am planning to complete some school work, revise and finish up my university applications. On top of this, I am going to relax and carve pumpkins whilst decorating the house for Halloween.
On Monday, the government announced that the A-level and GCSE examinations will be pushed back by three weeks –https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-54508851. This is not a sufficient amount of time to catch up on 5 months of missed school. The government needs a Plan B!
In my three extra weeks instead of ‘revising’ I am going to:
sing happy birthday repeatedly and consecutively 181,440 times
watch the film Pandemic on loop 328.7 times
catch up on some sleep
procrastinate for 10 hours, finally revise for 2 hours, eat and sleep for 12 hours. repeat
listen to ‘I’m still standing’ by Elton John 9,969 times
if I were to go on a mission to Mars, I would only get 7.6% through my journey (or 3.8%) before I’d have to turn around to take my exams)
read the Great expectations by Charles Darwin roughly 49.5 times – though I am sure I’ll get bored of reading it by the third time
But one thing I cannot do is catch up on 5 months of missed school work 🙁