Thursday, March 15, 2007

Explaining the Holocaust to LO

(Photo: Mariusz Kubik)

LO often has to do a current event for school. She always asks me to find a Jewish-themed article and this week's article was about Poland's Senate honoring Irena Sendler. Irena Sendler is a 97-year old Catholic woman who saved 2,500 Jewish children during the Holocaust.

LO and I have briefly discussed the Holocaust before but in a very simplistic manner since I struggle with feeling as though she may be too young to comprehend it all at this time. She is usually satisfied with my vague explanations but this time she decided to ask a whole lot of questions (which as usual I was not prepared to answer.)

I started by going over the basics which we had discussed before. She stopped me after my first sentence and said, "Ok, NOW you are freaking me out." Well, that freaked me out because I want to educate her but I don't want her to have nightmares because of it. So I proceeded on cautiously. She interjected, "Wait, why would anyone want to kill Jews? We are nice people." I tried to candy-coat it and explain that Hitler didn't think we were such nice people. Her reply? "Well, that Hitler guy is meshugganah." I agreed. She then asked if Hitler was still alive. When I told her no she said, "Good, cause I was scared he would come and get me. But even if he were alive maybe he wouldn't know I'm Jewish cause I don't look Jewish, I look Chinese." I didn't have the heart to tell her that he probably didn't like the Chinese people either.

How do you explain such an atrocity to a child?

9 comments:

The Babka Nosher said...

I have no good answer for you. My daughter is 7 years old... at some point soon, she'll become aware of the Holocaust. I'll be delaying that as long as possible. You may want to talk to your rabbi for some pointers

Sona said...

An interesting challenge which reminded how different it is to grow up now rather than 50 years ago like me. I can not remember exactly when I learned about the Holocaust, but the presence of tatoos and the lack of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles amongst some of my friends was a very different reality- more immediate- than the one facing young people today when it can get explained in terms of statistics and events. Perhaps something like the "Hanna's suitcase" approach would work today.

Jack's Shack said...

I understand. My son and I have an ongoing discussion about the tenth plague and why the Egyptians drowned in the sea.

It is tough.

torontopearl said...

Take LO to the Holocaust Memorial in Miami. I've heard about how beautiful it is, and maybe that's a good place to start.
Yes, "Hannah's Suitcase," as suggested by Sona, is a great introduction, too. Perhaps also the film "Paper Clips".
If you know any survivors, perhaps through shul or through Lo's school, maybe have her meet them and learn the basics in a gentle manner.

RaggedyMom said...

It's hard to know how to talk about the tough stuff to this generation of kids since although they are more removed chronologically, they also live in a world where they are bombarded with information, and we'd like our perspective to be the definitive one they hear.

Ann's just three, so we're not there yet regarding the Holocaust, but she has been hearing a lot in preschool about the various "wicked men" in Jewish holiday history (Antiochus, Haman, Pharoah) and has internalized that each of them in his own way aimed to hurt and kill the Jews.

We've had a rough history as a people, haven't we, Orieyenta?

Tamara said...

Just some links to help you get started. In addition I would navigate the US Holocaust Memorial Museum's page as well as the Museum of Tolerance. I teach high school English and cover the topic so it's close to me and I thought it my duty to start you off with some possible ideas. :)

A Brief History for Young Children:
http://www.cdli.ca/CITE/ns_camps.htm

Teaching Children About the Holocaust
http://www.holocaust-history.org/questions/teaching-children.shtml

Interesting article that discussses similar issues you're having.
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Modern_Holidays/Yom_Hashoah/Teaching_Holocaust.htm

A fellow teacher where I teach showed this book at a training. It looks fabulous and may be a GREAT way to start:
http://www.amazon.ca/Terrible-Things-Holocaust-Eve-Bunting/dp/0827603258/ref=sr_1_7/701-9564720-3105931?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1173987270&sr=1-7

VJ said...

Thanks for the note of reminder O. Then there's always the topic of 'man's inhumanity to man' which takes various well known guises. The Rape of Nanking/Nanking Massacre. The 'Cultural revolution', etc. We need to be reminded of the positive lights who helped lead, guide or keep us whole during those dark, dangerous & deadly times. Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Anonymous said...

i love ur blog! u 2 seem like 2 sweeties. keep it up. if u dont mind me asking, were u adopted too, how r u jewish chinese? malky

Tamara said...

I just found this too: http://art.holocaust-education.net/home.asp?langid=1