How do I tell 7 year old DD about the holocaust?

(31 Posts)
ontheedgeofwhatever Thu 08-Nov-12 10:16:47

DD's best friend is Jewish. A lot of her family were lost in the holocaust and her mum has gradually started telling her about it. She's obviously been talking to DD. DD is quite confused and keeps asking me questions like

"why did Hitler kill lots of people just because they were Jews like X"
"would he have killed X if she'd lived then?"
"Would he have killed me for being friends with X?"

DD is very imaginative and creative and tends to dwell on things. I've tried to answer gently and without too much detail but she keeps on and on asking questions. How can I give her the facts without scaring her? Is there an age suitable book I can share with her?

I don't want to scare her too much but I don't want to keep her from the truth either

learnandsay Thu 08-Nov-12 10:24:59

Maybe take her to see the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. (Personally I wouldn't mention anything about the mechanics of the holocaust until teenage.)

RillaBlythe Thu 08-Nov-12 10:43:19

www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/79217/teaching-childrens-books-holocaust#

Difficult. I'm struggling enough with extinct animals with my 4 yo.

the museum in london, can't remmber whch one, war museum i think, the holocaust exhbition is for over 12s only.
so at 7 i htink she is bit young.

learnandsay Thu 08-Nov-12 10:51:12

The author of the article in the link above deals with the question of the holocaust and her young son's questions by avoiding the subject and fobbing him off with some kind of a non-answer.

seeker Thu 08-Nov-12 10:54:56

when Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Buy this book and read it to her. It's fantastic.

Elibean Thu 08-Nov-12 10:56:25

I tend to give facts (when asked) in as neutral a way as possible, and I do answer and I do tell the truth - albeit in as age-appropriate way as possible.

A bit as if presented by Horrible Histories, I suppose?!

I would just answer a) because he was insane b) yes and c) I don't know, I think. Then add that it must be hugely sad for best friend's grandparents, who could remember all of that (and the lost relatives), but that best friend herself is living a long, long time after it all. I would reinforce 'you don't live then', that Hitler doesn't live now, and that whole countries went to war to stop him - and they won.

dh is Jewish, my father is Jewish, dd1 (nearly 9) knows the absolute basics ie that there was a mad German called Hitler who decided Jews were 'wrong' and decided to kill them all. I stress that it was a long time ago, that our family never lived in Germany, and that yes it was absolutely, hugely awful and almost impossible for us, today, to imagine, and that it was stopped in the end. So I don't minimize it, but I don't go on about it and I place it in history - where it can't hurt her, iyswim.

dd1 still won't watch Bambi because it will make her 'too sad', but is quite resilient if told straight facts that don't actually impact on her or close family/friends, and has never brooded on the Holocaust at all....then again, she thinks I am 'ten thousand years old' so anything that happened last century is almost like a fairy tale!

OTOH, if your dd is talking about it a lot....I did just wonder if her friend is having a more emotional time of it (which she well might), and if her friend's emotions, rather than the actual facts, are affecting your dd? In which case, I would tackle it a bit differently I think...

noramum Thu 08-Nov-12 10:58:47

While I can understand the friend's mum, 7 is very early.

For us the topic is sensible as well as we are Germans and I don't want DD to hear something or feel she is a "bad one" due to her nationality.

DD knows that there was a war between Great Britain and Germany. We told her that over the centuries often countries don't like each other and war can't avoided. We tell her that soldiers and other people die (she knows that my granddad died in the war) but we don't explain more. She has a book about London where the Blitz is explained.

Regarding the holocaust itself: we recently had a discussion at home why Guy Fawkes wanted to blow up Parliament and why Henry VIII got divorced and why his children burned either the Protestant or the Catholics. Not really the same but the bottom line is that sometimes people kill others because of the religion they have. I wouldn't go into more details, especially not in the gruesome parts or the race issue.

I would keep it like that. If the friend comes with more details I would speak to the teacher, maybe it can be incorporated in the lessons even if it is not yet part of the curriculum.

Elibean Thu 08-Nov-12 10:58:48

x post with seeker - that looks great, am off to buy, thanks for link!

I heard a program about her on Radio 4 a few weeks ago...

DeWe Thu 08-Nov-12 10:58:52

I wrote a long answer to this which then got deleted. Grr.

There's an Usborne young reader book about Anne Frank-it goes through her early life, and through to her death in the concentration camp. It's giving the truth in a fairly gentle way. We bought it for my dd (age 8yo) last year when she was asking for the sequel to Anne Frank's Diary that she's just read.

I lost a certain proportion of my extended family to the holocaust. Plus my great aunt (by marriage) was rescued by kindertransport as her parents were protesting about what Hilter was doing to the Jews. She never saw them again.
I've been very open to my children from an early age-my 5yo will tell you basics, and that/why it was wrong, but the Germans are now our friends.

I was like your dd at that age-very much inclined to dwell on things. But I picked up a small book called Corrie from the children's books. It wasn't a child's book, it was a autobiography of a lady called Corrie Ten boom who was imprisoned aged about 20yo with her family for helping Jews. Most of that book is in and just after the concentration camp.

I horrified my dm by asking very difficult questions about the holocaust. She tried to deflect and dumb down my questions and it really panicked me as I felt there was obviously something to hide.
When she sat down with me and explained properly, I felt much less worried about it.

There is one scene that still stands out 30 years later from that book. After the concentration camp she was talking about her experiences. After the talk a young man came forward and thanked her for the talk and held out his hand to her. She looked in his face and realised he was one of the SS guards from the camp she was on. After a pause she reached out to take his hand, and found he was crying and asking her to forgive him.

So the one scene that has stayed with me, with all the nasty scenes she wrote about, was the one of forgiveness. And it still makes me cry, as it did when I was reading it, in the cold dining room (where our books were)a when I was 7yo.

RillaBlythe Thu 08-Nov-12 10:58:58

Oh yes, Pink Rabbit is brilliant.

My 6 year old dd is also very intrigued by it all. She asked out of the blue not long ago 'why was randolph hitler so unkind ' smile. We got a childrns books aout of the library as well - cannot remember it's exact title but it was very basic and clear. Unfortunately she got quite upset as she read that Hitler also killed people with disablilities and asked if she would have been killed (she has a hearing impairment) I ended up taling about prejudice and hatred across the board - right back to slavery! It's a very hard one at this age, but introducing it gently is the best way i guess.

Elibean Thu 08-Nov-12 11:01:41

And I should add that I make quite sure that the dds know that a race cannot be blamed for the insanity or wrong-doing of a few of their number. They know 'baddies' pop up in all cultures!

Its all part of learning about bullies, communities, healthy respect, responsibility (as opposed to blame)...and yes, schools can help on all of that.

absolutley!

Pink Rabbit is a good way in but I still think 7 is extremely young. The IWM will strongly recommend that no one under 14 goes into the Holocaust exhibition and I certainly wouldn't take a 7yo in. Far too much imagery that they cannot avoid seeing.

seeker Thu 08-Nov-12 11:42:58

7 is young, but once they've asked the questions you can't not answer. The Imperial War Museum is very strong stuff (rightly so)- I wouldn't take a 7 year old to any of it, never mind the Holocauset bit. Some 7 year old's would be very shaken by it, others would just go "Wow! Guns!" Both equally inappropriate, IMO.

DeWe Thu 08-Nov-12 11:49:57

Pink Rabbit has very little Holocaust in.

It's mostly about a little girl (Judith Kerr) who has to leave her home (which she thinks is exciting) and her settling in various different countries. It's much more "fun and exciting" in mood than "frightening and dangerous".

There are three points that I think could be distressing about the situation.
1. She discovers her dad has a "price on his head". She thinks this means he is going to be put in a room and crushed with coins. When she finds out what it really means she's not upset-in fact her dad makes a bit of a joke of it ("what do you mean I'm only worth 1000 marks-I thought I was worth more")
2. She overhears her mum and grandmother talking about rumours about happenings at a concentration camp. When I read this to ds, this was the bit I missed out. It's a brief overheard conversation and upsets the child at the time, but is no more than about half a page.
3. Her godfather dies (committed suicide). He was a Jew and doesn't get out in time because he doens't believe anything will really happen. They receive a letter and gift from him via a friend.

BUt when dd2 (age 6) and ds (age 4) read the book the bit that they did find upsetting was the grandmother's dog dying, even though Judith was not upset about it-thought he was a pretty horrid dog.
What you think might upset a child isn't necessarily what actually upsets them.

crazygracieuk Thu 08-Nov-12 11:58:45

This came up with my kids last weekend and my youngest is 6.

I told him that Hitler had an irrational hatred of Jews and described a few situations that he'd come across where people behaved irrationally. (He knows someone homophobic so I used that analogy) He pressed me a bit so I said that I didn't really understand it either.

If he'd asked me the next 2 questions then I'd have said " I hope not ."

DS (very avid reader) got very very interested in WW2 over the summer when he had just turned 6. We also believe in giving the truth in an age appropriate way but know with DS if you leave stuff out a) he'll find a book and read about it and b) he gets more worried if he doesn't have the full story. We 'enabled' loads of learning about WW2 and therefore also the holocaust over the summer. The Usborne WW2 book is fantastic and although aimed at 10+ it was a perfectly ok level for DS. We also took him to the Imperial War Museum but explained WHY the exhibition on the holocaust wasn't suitable for him. He understood that. We also read several other books - 2 Horrible History ones which also cover the holocaust and explain it at the right level, and several e.g. Harry's War. I initially tried to skirt over the holocaust but DS was getting worried and asking more questions so definitely found giving some infor better than giving none.

He's moved on from WW2 now... we're on to an obsession with Ancient Egypt now grin

lingle Thu 08-Nov-12 12:49:54

"I place it in history - where it can't hurt her, iyswim."

That is the answer, IMO.

Lonecatwithkitten Thu 08-Nov-12 13:12:58

We took DD to Anne Frank's house when she was just 7. She then read the children's autobiography and did a school project on Anne Frank.
These are sentences from her project:
Anne and her family had to hide in the attic as the Nazis wanted to send them to a concentration camp.
Anne was very scared.
They had to be quiet during the day so no one heard them.
Someone told the Nazis where they were hidden they were sent to a concentration camp Anne died there with a lot of other people some Jews, some gypsies and some disabled.
I think she sums up what she understood about holocaust particularly that it was not all german's but a small group and that it wasn't just Jews who suffered.
It the other children in the class understood to as she gave a little presentation and none were scared by it.

ontheedgeofwhatever Thu 08-Nov-12 18:18:27

Thank you for the fascinating discussion. You've been very helpful thank you

vesela Thu 08-Nov-12 22:17:23

DD is 5, and an insatiable asker of questions. She's been round the Jewish museum in Prague with preschool, which started some questions (we live here), we have quite a few friends who are Jewish and she's interested in history.

She knows that that bad man called Hitler who thought he and the Nazis were better than everyone else sent Jewish people (just because they were Jewish) and some other people to prisons, and they died there. She knows that people don't die in prisons now (not here, anyway...) and that after the war, people were so sad about it that they made a club of countries called the EU so countries in Europe wouldn't fight each other. And that we are very, very careful now not to let bad men like Hitler be in charge.

She did want to know how they died, but I haven't told her yet. There's also an Usborne Young Reading book on the Holocaust (from the same series as the Anne Frank and WW2 books) which seems as if it would be a good factual introduction when she's a bit older.

vesela Thu 08-Nov-12 23:16:11

actually I did say "they killed them" - "they died" is too close to the Holocaust deniers' version of events.

sashh Fri 09-Nov-12 04:21:59

Some one beat me to pink rabbit - great book and the auther is still alive.

AlsoThe Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, based in Poland. It is more about the war in general.

I know the holocaust started before the war but I think at 7 it should be in the contxt of; "bad things happen in wars, this is a really bad thing that happened in WWII".

Maybe, the Nazis believed Jewish people were bad and responsible for anything that was wrong, so they decided they wanted to get rid of them". Then some talk about the Kinder transport, the ghettos and then camps people were sent to where most people died.

Isn't WWII covered at primary school in history? There must be some history books that are age appropriate.

Lonecat

Sorry to be a pedant, but, disabled people didn't make it as far as the camps. Mobile gas chambers were sent to hospitals and care homes before the camps were built.

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