IN life everyone has a memory that both permeates the mind and can never being erased.

For me, I will forever be haunted by an unforgettable visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau this year.

I was invited by the Holocaust Educational Trust to accompany more than 100 pupils from across Wales to visit one of the most notorious extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Poland in a one-day visit.

The reason for our visit was simple: to remember the victims of Nazi atrocities, most notably during The Holocaust.

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I met pupils, as well as staff from the Holocaust Educational Trust, at an unsociable hour in Cardiff Airport. And within the hour we were en route to Poland.

As the grandson of a Pole who survived a concentration camp, my knowledge of this dark period in European history is pretty good.

The Holocaust took place between 1941-45, with an aim to exterminate the Jewish population in Europe. By the time World War Two had come to an end in 1945, Nazi Germany had systematically murdered an estimated 17 million people who were deemed "racially inferior". Those who fell victim were primarily Jews, ethnic Poles, Roma people and other Slavs.

But, as I would soon learn, reading something in a textbook is no substitute for seeing it with the naked eye.

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(Tomos Povey reading through a list of victims.)

Once we had arrived in Poland, we were split into groups. I was placed in group four and was fortunate to have the aficionado Jiame Ashworth inculcate us with his unrivalled knowledge.

The historian firstly led us to Oswiecim - later renamed Auschwitz by Germany - which hitherto the 1939 invasion boasted a significant Jewish population that was well-integrated in society.

Following this, we clambered onto the awaiting buses and were taken to Auschwitz I.

Once there we were greeted with a deathly silence.

We began to walk to the entrance and I noticed perpetual rows of drab-coloured brick buildings.

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(Tomos Povey reading through a list of victims at Auschwitz)

After entering, my eyes swiftly turned to a sign, prominently emblazoned above the main gate which read: 'Arbeit macht frei' (Work sets you free).

The grim reality of what this disingenuous and sinister meaning actually stood for caused me to feel emetic. Perversely the Nazis believed they were setting people "free" - but through the chimney.

Disturbingly, Auschwitz I was not the only site selected to carry out mass slaughter, others included: Belzec, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.

Auschwitz I had been converted from an army barracks to hold incarcerated Poles. But its true purpose soon sinisterly evolved into an extermination camp, where the Zyklon B pesticide used for gassing was developed. The first victims selected to be gassed were Poles in September 1941.

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We were quickly shown to the belongings plundered from innocent civilians by the SS.

This took my breath away.

It soon became apparent that the Nazis found a use for everything attached to the victim.

An estimated 25,000kg of Zyclon B was used between the 1941-45 to poison the victims.

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Jiame Ashworth, who then led us to a different room to view an eight-foot-tall book taking up half the room size, pointed and said: "And here is a list of just some of the victims.

"In that list you will find men, women and children. The Nazis were indiscriminate."

He then walked three feet away from the book and poignantly added: "Not all the victims are recorded in that book.

"If we knew the names for the other victims then the book would come to where I am."

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(Historian Jiame Ashworth.)

Before moving on to Birkenau we went inside a gas chamber. Despite repeated (and admittedly wishful) attempts to comprehend the psyche of those who engineered this abyss, I failed to do so.

The sheer brutality operated on such a colossus scale is something no one can ever forget.

Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazis' Final Solution – The Holocaust - to the “Jewish question”.

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(Extermination camp.)

In total, the numbers of people murdered at the site were 1,300,000 Jews, 150,000-180,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma people, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and 25,000 prisoners of other ethnic groups. The vast majority were gassed.

The horror continued when we were driven down the road to Birkenhau, where a menacing watchtower could be seen. It quickly became apparent that inmates' every move would never have gone unnoticed.

Birkenau had opened in 1942 and was designed to relieve the pressures of brutality at Auschwitz I by also carrying out mass murder.

When walking down the railway track my mind began to race: I thought of the millions of victims who were forced to march to their tragic fate.

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(Shoes from the victims.)

For a split second I panicked. I desperately thought what I would have done if I had been a victim. Reality soon kicked in. There would have been no escape.

We then abruptly stopped.

It was at this location, said Jaime Ashworth, that Nazi officials processed all new arrivals.

A simple method was used for selection: A swish of the finger to the left or right either meant death by gassing or slave labour. But to be used for slave labourer was by no means an easy life. There was a constant fight for survival and once the victims' uses had ceased they were murdered in the chambers.

The depraved crimes perpetrated by these utterly demonic forces is reprehensible.

The day was rounded off by a poignant candle lighting for the victims of this atrocity.

When I came away I realised the importance of remembering all the victims.

Lifting the millions of victims' stories out of the hell-fire of Auschwitz-Birkenau is now collectively all our responsibility to undertake.

Every single person should make the trip to this site and learn the horrors committed by Nazi Germany against communities across the continent.

To ignore this would be at our peril.

As George Santayana chillingly once warned: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."