Almost 2,000 butterflies are hovering around Sheldon School to signify one of the simple treasures Holocaust prisoners were deprived of.

Each one of the Chippenham school’s 1,800 pupils decorated a paper butterfly to celebrate individuality and illustrate how people may take things for granted.

It was the idea of two Year 13 history pupils who were moved by a visit to Auschwitz last year and wanted to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday.

Brontë Jones, 18, of Kington Langley, said the idea was based on a poem called The Butterfly. It was written by Czechoslovak Jew Pavel Friedman while in Theresienstadt concentration camp, before he was killed at Auschwitz.

She said: “It is a powerful poem that shows how you don’t recognise the most beautiful and simple things in life until you’re deprived of them.”

She and classmate Katie Blake, 17, of Derry Hill, cut out 2,000 butterfly templates after an emotional trip to Poland to see the former concentration camps last March.

There they met Romanian Jew Leslie Kleinman, who told how on arrival at Auschwitz as a 15-year-old he was in a queue with his seven siblings.

He was told by a Polish Jew to pretend he was 17 and then found himself in a separate line from the rest of his family. He later discovered they had been murdered.

Brontë said: “We are so often told at school about the six million Jews who were killed, but we wanted to focus on the individuals. It was hearing Leslie speak about his experience that was so powerful for me.

"He told us how the barracks were only 200m from the gas chambers and he could smell them.”

Now the history students have visited each year group in assemblies to explain why it is important to remember the Holocaust.