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Apr 05

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah)

Yom HaShoah starts on Sunday night and ends on Monday at sundown.

I haven’t taught the kids about the Holocaust yet.  Other than in the most general of terms – they know about WWII, and they know that Hitler and the Nazis were terrible, terrible people, and they did awful things to the Jews.  They even know that a lot of Jewish people died during the war, and that’s part of why Jews are such a minority.

But the details… yeah, I can barely bring myself to think about them, how do I talk about them with my kids?  And by kids, you know I mean Jessica, as Sam is still too young for any detailed discussion of it.

I wonder how old I was when I read the Diary of Anne Frank.  Junior high?  I feel like I remember some sort of presentation down in the cafeteria.  But junior high was fifth through eighth grade in Maynard.  I’m guessing it was seventh or eighth grade.

Jessie and I were talking earlier on the way to her slumber party, and I told her that she was going to be going to the religious school class on it on Monday.  She knows about the Holocaust, but really has no idea.  She asked if it was as bad as 9/11.  Worse, I said.  It was much worse.  Then she asked what they did all day in the concentration camps, and I really stumbled over my answer.  I don’t even know exactly what I said… something about it being like a prison, and that it was horrible beyond words.  I started to think about the pictures I’ve seen, and actually started to say that people starved, and then I stopped.  Remembered that she’s only ten.

I don’t know that I’m old enough to really understand the Holocaust.  Are you ever really?  And if you aren’t – then when do I tell her?  How do you tell your child what happened?  This was her family.  If we had been alive then, and living in Germany, it would have been us.  That’s terrifying – and for a sensitive kid, for any kid, hell, for any adult, that’s … I don’t have words.

We’ll light the candle together on Sunday night, and we’ll talk a little about it.  General terms, avoiding any graphic descriptions, and reassure her, and her brother and sister, that we live today in America, and that we’re safe.   And we’ll tell her, and her brother and sister when they’re old enough, that they have a special obligation to remember, to make the world better, in whatever way they can.   To make the world a place where the Holocaust never happens again.

 

4 comments

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  1. Laura Dilts

    I did a book report on her diary in 8th grade. I related to her as I was her age. When in collage I visited the house that is now a museum. I have not talked to my kids about it yet, I’m sure it will come up at Religous school. I personally know at least two survivors who were 3 or 4 years old at the time.

  2. Sara

    Jordyn picked up and started reading a mini-biography of Anne Frank at the bookstore yesterday. She asked us about the Holocaust, so we told her (omitting the most graphic details). IMHO, most kids can handle this kind of stuff far more easily than we adults may think.

    1. Melissa Cohen

      I think you’re right, and I have talked to them about it. Both Jessie and Sam know about WWII, and the Nazis and in the vaguest of terms, about the Holocaust. It was that line between the really graphic information, the hard core brutalities and inhumanities that I worry about filling them in on… I know how hard it was to grasp as a non-Jewish kid, so I worry about how they’ll react as Jewish kids.

  3. Sara

    I don’t think anyone can ever really grasp it. I think we do the best we can by giving them an overview now and letting them learn more when they are older. I saw on Twitter a link to some amazing images (mostly post-liberation) that you need to see! Hopefully I can find it …

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