Standing in the darkness yards from the crumbling remnants of a gas chamber, a rabbi recited a funeral prayer to remember the millions of Jews slaughtered during the Holocaust.
Andrew Shaw then told his own story to the pupils gathered around him at the end of the railroad tracks in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, which operated from 1940 to 1945.
He told how his grandfather had been killed as part of the Nazi genocide, but how his grandmother had escaped to Glasgow with their unborn child - the rabbi's mother - who had grown up to have her own family in London.
The story of survival was an emotional release for many of the 200 pupils from schools across Glasgow and the west of Scotland who had spent a day in grim-faced silence witnessing at first hand the horrors of the Holocaust.
Many sobbed as the rabbi finished his story, before each lit a candle to put on the railway lines as a symbol of hope.
The ceremony was the culmination of a day-long visit to the Polish town of Oswiecim, renamed Auschwitz by the Germans, and two concentration camps close by.
Run by the London-based Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) and funded by the Scottish Government, the aim of the project is to give pupils a greater understanding of what happened in the death camps and to learn where prejudice, racism and anti-semitism can lead.
Pupils from many schools in Glasgow and its suburbs took part, including Bannerman High, Bellahouston Academy, Douglas Academy, Cleveden Secondary, Hillhead High, Hyndland Secondary, St Roch's Secondary and Springburn Academy.
At the camps the pupils visited former barracks and saw museum exhibits showing piles of belongings that were seized by the Nazis including shoes, clothes, prosthetic limbs and luggage marked with the names of the dead.
In the afternoon, pupils spent time at the main killing centre of Auschwitz-Birkenau treading in the footsteps of around one million men, women and children who were slaughtered.
On the return trip to Glasgow, pupils spoke of how difficult the day had been but how the memorial service had help bring a sense of hope.
Emma McKinlay, 17, of Douglas Academy, said: "When the rabbi spoke it was moving. It made the things we had seen more real and connected them to a living person."
Catriona Holland, 17, from Cleveden Secondary, found the most difficult experience a visit to a room with a vast glass case filled with human hair cut from the heads of females as they arrived at the camp.
"It was shocking to see the room full of belongings, but when I saw the hair it made me feel physically sick," she said.
"Your hair is part of your body and the fact it was stripped from them showed how they had been treated like animals.
"No-one was speaking. We were all just trying to take it in and find a way to accept what happened so you can learn from it and make sure something like that never happens again."
Corey Coll, 17, from St Margaret Mary's Secondary School, said he felt "numb" entering the gas chamber where people were killed.
He added: "I felt sadness because I was standing in a place where so many people have been, but I had the freedom to leave.
"Although the death is finished it still echoes around the place. It made me appreciate what I have and I feel lucky to have the choices I have."
After their return and a follow-up seminar, the students will become ambassadors for HET and share their experience with their schools and the wider community.