When and how do you discuss the Holocaust with kids?

(160 Posts)
nevergoogle Mon 29-Apr-13 15:28:58

DS1 is 8 and loves history, "especially the stuff that actually happened" he says. smile
This term he is learning about WWII at school and he's really enjoying the subject. He has complained that the teacher doesn't seem to know much and keeps talking about sweetie rations.
We went to the book shop and I found myself vetting any of the WWII books for any graphic images of the holocaust, which is sensible I think, although it got me feeling like I was enforcing some sort of holocaust denial.
So when and how do you broach this subject?

I remember being about 10 when I discovered some graphic photographs in a history book and I remember finding it very shocking so I don't know if this was too early, or just not the right way to learn about it.

For me, it's such an important part of human history so needs to be discussed at some point, but when?

noramum Mon 29-Apr-13 15:44:22

I had a discussion with a colleague about it as I am German and wanted to know when it would hit us because I don't want DD to be shocked and getting comments at school about it.

I think she said something about Year 5 or 6 with the really gruesome details in secondary school.

There is an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London and I think they recommend it for 12 and older.

nevergoogle Mon 29-Apr-13 15:49:06

Thanks that's helpful to have some sort of guide. It's hard to explain to him why he shouldn't be making lego swastika's without all of the information.

Runoutofideas Mon 29-Apr-13 16:16:53

I looked in to the suitability of visiting Anne Frank's house recently and I think they said recommended for children over 10. my 2 are 8 and 5 so we'll leave it for a few years.

nevergoogle Mon 29-Apr-13 16:26:10

that's good to know. the problem with having a younger sibling is that it's difficult for the older one to keep information to himself until a more suitable time for the younger one, so that's another consideration. They are 8 and 5 also.

UC Mon 29-Apr-13 16:32:33

I think I would talk about it to an 8 year old if he asked about it. I wouldn't necessarily bring it up myself. The books I've seen which are aimed at children his age have appropriate pictures and explanations I think. I certainly wouldn't try and hide it if he found pictures, and I'd talk about things like tolerance, ignorance and why we should never hate anyone because they are 'different' to us.

simpson Mon 29-Apr-13 19:08:02

They cover it in yr6 at my DC school.

prettydaisies Mon 29-Apr-13 19:08:52

I have taught about world war 2 to year 4. Lots of my class already knew about Anne Frank so we had a bit of a discussion then. I actually started the topic with a book by Adele Geras which tells the story of the Kindertransport. I have also used the story When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit which also tells the story of a Jewish family who lived in Germany and had to move. It was more of an introduction to the holocaust and very much built on what they already knew. However, some of them knew quite a lot of graphic detail.

learnandsay Mon 29-Apr-13 19:09:28

When they're very young still I don't think you give them the gruesome details and the shocking statistics. You just take them to the Anne Frank house and maybe show them a memorial plaque. So, depending on what you tell the older one it limits the scope for her to pump her kid sister's head full of stuff that's going to keep her up screaming all night.

lopsided Mon 29-Apr-13 19:19:56

I have discussed it with my 6 yr old. There is an oxford reading tree book that was sent home called war children. It mentions the final solution I think and he's some graphic pictures. I think it talks about Anne Frank. I would not have raised it had it not cropped up and though we discussed it in general terms I did not shy away from it.

I don't think it is really within many younger ones comprehension. I think that is why much of it is told though personal stories of children. The idea of the systematic murder of twice the population of New Zealand is massive to get ones head round.

Periwinkle007 Mon 29-Apr-13 19:57:36

I would say 10/11ish probably myself. I went to Anne Frank's house at 16 and that was a good age to go, I have been since as an adult too. 14-16 for full details I would say but it depends on the child and what they are already aware of in the world I suppose.

My Father in law was one of the first troops in to liberate one of the concentration camp and my husband's family had relatives who were killed in it so it is something our children will definitely be brought up knowing about but it is hard to know what age is suitable as it is really so horrific.

numbum Mon 29-Apr-13 20:39:02

Strangely I came on to ask a similar question, although my DD is only 6 sad

She was reading a book which mentioned evacuees and the Blitz and said she'd heard about the Blitz in assembly at school. She told me what she knew about the Blitz and knew way more than I'd want her to at her age. But, ever since she's wanted to know more about the war. I've distracted her as much as possible so far and only given little bits of information, but she'd getting more and more obsessed with learning about it all. What's wrong with fairies and unicorns? grin

lougle Mon 29-Apr-13 20:49:59

It depends on why you're being asked, doesn't it? If your DC has just heard the word 'holocaust' and wants to know what it means, that's different from hearing about the holocaust and wanting to know what happened.

If the question is 'what's the holocaust', even now with my children being 4, 5 and 7 (eldest has SN, so much younger), I think I'd say "'holocaust' is the name for a horrible thing that a man called Hitler did. He didn't like people who were Jewish, so he decided they should die. It happened a long time ago, but we still talk about it because it's so important that it never happens again."

3MonthMaid Mon 29-Apr-13 21:37:26

I think it's important to talk about things that happened without creating prejudice.

I have recently had to introduce the idea of the war and more specifically of the role of the Germans to my DD who is 6 after watching the sound of music!

I decided to refer to Nazis rather than "Germans" as a whole. I.e "there were some bad people in Germany called the Nazis". Rather than "the Germans were bad people..."

My family are holocaust survivors (or victims if you prefer) on one side and honest ordinary Germans on the other. It's important to consider them all...

Incidentally, My great aunt was also on the last Kindertransport from Berlin. She is in her 80s now of course...

PeneloPeePitstop Mon 29-Apr-13 21:40:40

They did discuss it when DS1 did Ww2 last term. In an age appropriate way - ie graphic images or descriptions.

Sort of Hitler was trying to create a master race, anyone who didn't fit his idea of perfection was imprisoned and made to work or killed".

PeneloPeePitstop Mon 29-Apr-13 21:41:18

Ie NO graphic images or descriptions, sorry

infamouspoo Mon 29-Apr-13 21:41:34

we started simple without the grusome details pretty early, maybe 5 or 6 because we are jewish. As they get older more details are added. Its part of our history and our synagogue deals with it very well.

horsemadmom Mon 29-Apr-13 21:42:41

Not much to add except- Reading this thread, I was thinking how odd...my children have never not known about the Holocaust. It's part of their story.
I envy your childrens' innocence. I also admire you parents for looking for away to explain the inexplicable. I do hope that your children have opportunities to listen to survivors and their stories because this is the last generation that will have the privilege.

WidowWadman Mon 29-Apr-13 21:44:07

Watching this with interest. I'm German and do wonder when this will come up. Having grown up in Germany, I can't recall when I first heard about it, it's something we just grew up with knowing about.

I worry a bit that it will make my kids feel awkward about their German heritage, or that they might get stupid remarks at school.

nevergoogle Mon 29-Apr-13 22:25:09

some of the questions I've had to explain so far are...

"Why did so many people think Hitler was good?"
"Why did Hitler kill himself?"
"Nazi's don't still exist do they?"

I've explained so far that Hitler didn't like anyone who was different whether that be race, religion and that he did horrible things. It just doesn't seem to cover it when I try to explain it simply.

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 29-Apr-13 22:41:13

I took DD to Anne Frank's house when she was 7. I admit she has always been a very mature girl, but she quickly grasped what the holocaust meant and how awful it was. I can never remember a time when I didn't about the holocaust probably due to my grandmother and the role she played in the liberation of several camps.

nevergoogle Mon 29-Apr-13 22:42:25

I don't think those of you with German children need worry. I think children are able to distinguish between a Nazi, and somebody from Germany. It's not like they're exposed to 1970's light entertainment in the same way we were.

I struggle with this too.
There are several threads on the subject (most not started by myself wink).

DS1 read 'When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit' which was quite good at opening dialogue without being too graphic (some death and suicide, but no reference to mass 'cleansings' etc).

As I struggle explaining to myself how the Holocaust was ever allowed to happen, I am not sure how to explain it to my children sad. So that is what I say.
I am unreasonable relieved to hear people saying on here they differentiate between 'Nazis' and 'Germans' btw.

I think like with other tricky subjects, the key is to be honest, but age-appropriate. In details discussion about the Weimar Repbulic and the shame felt by a lot of Germans at the contract of Verseilles, is likely of no interest to a child. Talking about tolerance of otherness, whatever that otherness might be, is much more important.

Dd has just done WWII in school. She is in Year 5.
One of her homework projects was to put together a booklet about one aspect of WWII which particularly fascinated her. She chose Anne Frank's diary and retold Anne's story presenting it in diary form.
We briefly researched the Holocaust and concentration camps as they are an integral part of Anne's story but I helped with this bit and vetoed any websites which had graphic images or too much harrowing information. She does now however know what the Holocaust was, how many Jews were killed and how they died.
She graps, in as much as a ten year old can, the awfulness of it.

I know that she will do the Holocaust in more detail at secondary school.

Ds read The boy in the striped pyjamas at age 11 and it made him cry. Dd is far more senstive so have put that book away and will let her read it in a few years.

PariahHairy Mon 29-Apr-13 22:58:39

I think my first introduction to the holocaust was being read The Silver Sword, the headteacher read it to us when we were about 8 or 9 I think. I loved it and checked it out of the library to read at home.

Don't think we even touched on WW2 in primary, it was all Vikings and Romans. Could you maybe introduce it through fiction? Can't really remember the content of The Silver Sword, but I remember it as gripping and exciting.

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