Players from the English national squad took time out from football yesterday to reflect upon more important matters. David Beckham, Michael Owen, Frank Lampard, Gary Neville and team-mates visited Auschwitz ahead of the team’s World Cup qualifier against Poland.
Located in the southern Polish town of Oswiecim, Auschwitz-Berkenau was the largest of the Nazi’s World War II concentration camps. The complex was first opened in 1940 to hold Polish political prisoners, but was vastly expanded after 1941 to include gas chambers, crematoria and a second camp called Birkenau. During the Holocaust, more than a million men, women and children were systematically murdered there. Jews, gypsies and political prisoners from across Europe passed beneath the camp's infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work makes you free) gate before being gassed to death in the gas chambers.
The England team were clearly stunned by what they saw. They walked through the hour long guided tour with heads bowed in disbelief.
Jewish leaders in the UK have applauded the team’s actions. Lord Janner QC, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said,
“Auschwitz is the worst place on earth. I salute the team for their brave and decent example. I hope that all visitors to Poland follow their example and I hope our boys do England proud in the match.”