Schoolchildren left behind the relative comfort of the classroom to fly out to a snow-covered Krakow, where they would go on to bear witness to one of the darkest atrocities in history.

After landing in southern Poland the students boarded a coach to the town of Oswiecim, better known as Auschwitz, in a trip organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust. 

Children from Glenthorne High School, Greenshaw High School, Wallington High School for Girls, and Carshalton Boys Sports College all volunteered to go on the journey.

Seventy years on from the liberation of the death camps, it is the numbers from the genocide that are carved into people’s minds, with 1.1million people, mostly Jews, murdered in Auschwitz alone.

The children toured the walkways, barracks and gas chambers where innocent people were starved, gassed, or shot to death, simply because they didn't fit with the Nazi doctrine.

The student's journey was designed to humanise those who were murdered, as well as the perpetrators who meted out the abuse. Nazi troops, known as the SS, kept order in the camp where people were left to emaciate in squalid conditions. Those who tried to escape were shot dead.

The town of Auschwitz had three death camps, with the first home to the infamous Arbeit Mach Frei gateway.

Barracks that stood there during World War Two remain, and now contain the belongings of the murdered inmates.

Students were close to tears as they were shown a two-ton pile of hair, all shaved from the heads of those who were persecuted. Nazis wove it into mattresses and blankets.

Jake Bastable, 16, who goes to Glenthorne High School, said: "It felt difficult to grasp that we were standing where someone had died, and where millions of people had been killed.

"Seeing the hair was awful. That really put things into perspective."

Jews on the road to Auschwitz were told it was a holiday camp and expected to return home, but their shoes, suitcases, and front door keys remain there even now. For the Nazis everything about the Jews had value except their flesh and blood.

Led by an educational guide the children were taken into the gas chambers where 1,000s of people were murdered at a time.

The bare room left a pit in the stomach, with many children struggling to come to terms with what they envisaged there.

Your Local Guardian:

The camps were near impossible to escape

Seventeen-year-old Rob Shields, who goes to Greenshaw High School, said: "I felt it was hard to deal with, I wasn’t prepared for how real it was.

"We couldn’t take it in. The whole time there I felt empty."

Your Local Guardian:

Sutton students: (From left) Heather Phillips, Glenthorne High School, Rob Shields, Greenshaw High School, and Jake Bastable from Glenthorne High School

After touring Auschwitz 1 the students were bussed to Birkenau- a much larger concentration camp with a huge rail track down the centre.

The children were shown the latrines and living quarters where the prisoners perished.

Under the snow fall, it hit home how unbearable the conditions would have been for the barely-clothed inmates.

Heather Phillips, 17, who goes to Glenthorne High School, said: "It was really harrowing, I actually couldn’t believe the whole thing had happened.

"The amount of hair put into perspective how many people died."

Your Local Guardian:

SS troops destroyed the crematoriums when Germany lost the war

On their way to Auschwitz 1 the children drove past the third site Morowitz, which housed labour workers of an IG Farben factory.

The chemical firm produced the Zyklon B gas dispersed to suffocate jews in the chambers.

The same day as the trip on Thursday, February 5, the Community Security Trust released figures showing the amount of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK doubled to 1,168 in 2014 from the year before. 

The highest level since the trust began recording incidents in 1984.  

Rabbi Barry Marcus MBE, of the Central Synagogue joined the schools on their journey to Auschwitz- a place he has visited  hundreds of times to educate children about the genocide. 

Afterwards he said: "How else do you make people aware of what happens if you allow hatred and violence to run wild.

"They need to be educated and the best way to do that is to come here and walk and see the result of the most infamous and barbaric time in human history.

"I think it’s very difficult to know what happens, but it has clearly had an effect on many of them. Most of these students have chosen to come here, it’s voluntary.

"The main aim is to make them aware that these things can happen again."

Your Local Guardian:

Rabbi Barry Marcus MBE leading a ceremony after the tour