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.

I have explained our eldest about the Holocaust when he was about 8.
I am Italian and I have always known about it I think. Plus, I was born on 1970, only 25 yrs after the end of the war.

nametakenagain Mon 29-Apr-13 23:13:31

The horror is to accept that people can be so evil towards each other, and this is not restricted to WWII.

I think older might be better so that children are able to understand better.

Thinking about this makes me think about how we teach reactions to violence in fiction.

I have also 'always' known (b. 1966). I am German, my father's family was displaced during the war, he has clear memories of living in various refugee camps for a few years. My mother's family had their house requisitioned by the Russian army (who apparently behaved impeccably) and the French army (who did not. According to my v grand gran who will be 100 this year). I 'knew' about concentration camps and mass killings.
But I did not understand the scale or organisation or cold calculation behind it until I was in my teens.

I have not read the Boy in the Striped PJs because (having been told about the plot and 'twist') I just cannot bear the deliberate twaning of heart strings. Not all Germans were evil and not all Jews were good, which sod all to do with what happened.
I think there is a danger, because the Holocaust was on a different scale of awfulness, to single it out too much and forget or be less vigilant about lesser atrocities happening today.

And yes, 'our reactions to violence in fiction' - I think it is a problem. DS2(9) has an app on his iPod which shows a little chained ?gingerbread man you can 'claw' or whip or hit. He thinks it's funny, I find it quite viscerally disturbing. Maybe I should rejoice in his ignorance/innocence of such things actually happening?

milk Tue 30-Apr-13 08:23:03

This film is great and suitable for all smile

learnandsay Tue 30-Apr-13 08:30:08

It's pretty easy to explain how it happened, the Nazis started building concentration camps as soon as they came to power in the Thirties. At first it wasn't Jews in the camps but undesirable nationals of various sorts and the camps, (I think Dachau was one of the first, or even the first) was used as a SS training camp. Extreme Nazis always had dreams about sorting out the Jewish Question but for the early part of the Nazi reign nobody was clear what to do. The final solution was an unhappy accident after much barbaric experimentation. Things of a very similar nature are happening today and have a similar genesis. The difference is today we have the International Court in the Hague. It's surprising just how frightened of the court criminals like Milisovic, Karadzic and Charles Taylor are given that it doesn't have the death penalty. Without the court I'm sure we'd be looking at atrocities on a vast scale on a fairly regular basis. In the Congo/Central Africa we still are.

Gay40 Tue 30-Apr-13 08:33:23

The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas has a children's version and an adult's version - book, not film. It's not 100% technically accrate but I like the way that it gets the message across.
I teach the Holocaust to adults, but I've still found it diffiicult to explain to DD. I don't advocate pictures or anything graphic, but to talk about what happens when people hate others for being different, people getting swept up in events, how it's important to do the right thing, etc
She had read a version of Anne Frank's diary and has seen where she lived although not inside the house as she's too young.

learnandsay Tue 30-Apr-13 08:35:45

In a way you could say that the nitty gritty of how it happened is not the point. Leaders are continuously committing the same crime. The nitty gritty is a bit of a red herring. For me the question is why do different leaders from completely different backgrounds over huge expanses of time commit, or attempt to commit, the same crime over and over again?

admylin Tue 30-Apr-13 08:42:20

We live in Germany and my dc are in the German school system.

Dd is in year 8 and ds in year 9 and so far there has been no mention of the war (I or II) or the holocaust in history or any other subject. A very brief mention about persecution was given in ethics (a class that they attend instead of catholic or protestant religion lessons) when they studied the different world religions. It'll be interesting to see how it's taught here as I presume it must be coming up in year 10.

MissFredi Tue 30-Apr-13 08:43:21

My parents explained it to me when I was quite young, I'd say 6/7, because, and this is the sad part which may get me judged, I was watching 'allo 'allo with my dad and couldn't understand some bits of it. They were very vague at first, they didn't just launch into the whole graphic description of what they used to do to people. Just after that we learnt about the war at school and none of it was mentioned. Looking back at that and reading other people's posts makes me wonder what my primary school were playing at now shock we only learnt about evacuees!

The curriculum has changed here in Italy.
When I was young we did ww2 in yr 5 (we were 10), I remember reading the diary of Anne Frank and bits of Primo Levi; nowadays they are still doing the Romans! I find it rather shocking that there are 10 yrs old who don't know about ww2 (and ww1).

Bonsoir Tue 30-Apr-13 08:49:54

My DD is 8 and in the French equivalent of Y4. She recently studied the diary of Anne Frank and we watched the film of Sarah's Key on DVD as a family over a couple of evenings. She has watched several series of Land Girls and seen films that depict bombing and fighting WW2 but we haven't talked about the worst aspects of the holocaust yet. She knows her (French, Jewish) grandparents were in hiding and/ or the south during the war.

admylin Tue 30-Apr-13 08:52:23

We live in Hannover at the moment but I know that the dc's old classmates from Berlin went to the holocaust museum in year 6. I'd already been there with my dc a couple of years before when they were in year 3 and 4. It's probably a different curriculum. Maybe in Bavaria or another part of Germany it's different again.

WouldBeHarrietVane Tue 30-Apr-13 08:53:08

My grandfather escaped on a boat as a teenager and my great grandfather, his wife's mother and her sister died (in his case apparently of a heart attack in a holding camp and the sisters committed suicide to avoid capture). My family is still affected - my grandfather was understandably very traumatised and it made my mother's childhood very hard.

We will be waiting until DS is at least 10 before we give any info at all, unless he hears about it elsewhere and asks. I feel I was told too early and it really really frightened me sad

ZZZenagain Tue 30-Apr-13 08:55:29

at 8 I would not go into too much detail. If he has a basic idea, the details can be added in as he gets older. Have a look on BBC bitesize primary history. There may be class clips which are not too disturbing and would be ok for an 8 year old.

I think the first book we read about WWII was: When HItler Stole Pink Rabbit. I found it was a good place to start. You can discuss things around the issues brought up in the book. There is a lot of literature about childhood experiences during the war, including the persecution of the Jewish population - which is accessible to dc. I think photos can be more disturbing than words tbh.

My dd asked at some point if we could read something about the lives of dc in Nazi Germany because we had learned a lot about dc in Britain and in some of the occupied territories such as the Netherlands, Poland and Russia.

We read this book together: Eleanor's Story which my dd found interesting since she had been born in Berlin and knew a lot of the places mentioned in the book. It is at times a hard read, the parents I found deeply unpleasant, the book mentions (but does not describe) the rapes that took place when Berlin was taken, it mentions a neighbour shooting his own two dc because they have been covered with phosphorus and would not live without great pain. Otherwise it is not the most dramatic book about WWII but it does show another side to it and for dc from a German background or mixed German-English background, I think it would be an interesting read. My dd enjoyed it (with the exception of the more drastic scenes). It mentions little of the Holocaust which the author says she did not know about until the war ended. Below on the amazon page are links to books specifically about dc in the Holocaust.

There is a book about occupied Denmark (from where with the help of the non-Jewish Danish population luckily most Jews were able to escape to Sweden) which is not a disturbing read IMO and is also a good place to start for younger dc. Number the Stars

ZZZenagain Tue 30-Apr-13 09:00:20

How old were you wouldbeharriet?

WouldBeHarrietVane Tue 30-Apr-13 09:09:11

I'm not sure as I don't remember a time I didn't know. I'm sure I knew by 8.

Can't ask my mother because it's a very triggering subject for her, completely understandably. She was born only 4 years after the deaths in her family and in many ways it defined her childhood sad we have her family tree where a whole section is shaded in black to show that across one whole level of the tree everyone died - cousins, grandparents, great aunts.

ZZZenagain Tue 30-Apr-13 09:16:16

God, how sad.

I think you can know something about it at primary school without knowing every hurtful detail of the cruelty and evil of it all. Dd is 12 now and we went to a concentration camp 2 weekends ago. We didn't take her into the exhibition with the photos but tbh she was still too young to cope well with it. She broke down in the carpark, just sobbed and sobbed. I think for the more detailed books and so on 14 is a good age, you have the maturity to cope with it IMO.

My dd is half-Russian and I have not told her all the details of what happened in occupied Russia because I know it would be too close to the bone and hurt too much. She has some idea about Slavs being considered sub-human and so on but she doesn't know the true extent of what went on. She does know about the concentration camps, gas chambers and so on now but I haven't dwelt on it. I think we started talking about the yellow star, the increasing restrictions imposed on the Jewish population in Germany - that Jews were not allowed to sit on park benches, use swimming pools and libraries, that Jewish owned shops were boycotted and all that sort of thing. Talked about why other people didn't do more to help

horsemadmom Tue 30-Apr-13 09:23:00

To the German parents,
Germany has done so much soul searching and penance. No German child should be made to feel guilty today.
Austria is a whole other story....

DeWe Tue 30-Apr-13 09:33:51

Ds (age 5yo) is very interested in WWII and he has been very much into reading about it.
He (and his sisters) have been brought up knowing about it, we lost family on the continent-as far as we know all that side of the family was killed.
And my great aunt (by marriage) came over on kinderstransporten, as her parents were Quakers and were very vocal in opposing Hitler, so they got her out of the country. They were killed in a concentration camp. In her 70s she relearnt German and went to Germany to talk about her and her parents. Very inspirational woman.

In the children's books, Usborne does a fair number, but I haven't ever come across a photo that I think of as inappropriate. There's pictures of arrests, people arriving at concentration camps. possessions left at concentration camps. They help to make the victims people, not numbers, and the pictures of possessions gives some idea of the scale of it.

The BBC quite a good interactive time line which shows how the Jews were gently whittled away at. It didn't happen overnight. Showing that each little step was a nail in the coffin, and ordinary people wouldn't suddenly think "that's dreadful, I must protest" because each step (mostly) was quite small, until it had gone too far. That's very powerful for older ones who ask why people didn't do anything.

The photo that had all of us in tears is a little girl, must be aged about 9yo we saw on the internet one time. It's entitled "Little Girl in Warsaw". I think it was taken just before the Warsaw uprising. She's the spitting image of dd2, to the point of the way she stands and everything. Really makes you think "there but for the grace of God go I". We had family in Poland. sad

WouldBeHarrietVane Tue 30-Apr-13 09:41:30

I remember nearly being sick in the holocaust museum (won't say where as it would out me) when i went aged 14. I ran to the toilets and retched. I needed to know, though and maybe that was as good a reaction as any.

I think for the actual details of what happened you need to have a general age in mind and then also look at how sensitive your child is. Some children may be ready for full info before 14, but I would have 14-16 as the earliest age in mind.

noramum Tue 30-Apr-13 10:29:53

I think there is a difference between reading about the WWII and even knowing that millions of people were killed than knowing HOW it had happened.

While I think it is necessary to teach them I think under 10s are not mature enough to cope with gas chambers, living skeletons, medical experiments, lamps made from human skin etc.

We talked about the Blitz at home as DD got a book about London and this had a page about the Blitz. She also saw some items in the Museum of London. She got this ORT book as well and we talked about her German grandfather and one German grandmother being evacuated into the countryside, similar to English children here.

Religious tolerance and murder popped up during talks about Henry VIII and Bloody Mary, Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. So it is easy to teach them the general understanding but there is a big step to teach about the Holocaust.

infamouspoo Tue 30-Apr-13 10:45:43

funnily enough as jews its been easier to talk about the Holocaust than to mention to disabled ds that the nazi's started with disabled people. He's 10. I havent told him about T4 and Hadamar. He is bullied for being disabled today in the UK but has never encountered anti semitism.
There are no books on that one! That disabled people were killed in the Holocaust systematically and deliberately as 'useless eaters'. I think that would hit him far harder as he already feels different. So he knows about Ann Frank, he knows about the 'righteous gentiles' and other stories, as do my other children but we dont dare go anywhere else sad

DD1 did WWII last year, in year 2, so she was 6/7. She was telling me what she had learned about Hitler, I asked if she knew what he did to the Jews, she said no, so I told her. I though it important that she know since we're Jewish. I didn't go into graphic detail; just told her that Hitler didn't like the Jews and killed 6 million of us. To my shame I have realised from this thread that I didn't mention any of the other groups who suffered, and will tell her if she brings it up again.

I'm sure we will cover it in more detail soon.

My point is that there isn't really an age that's too early, and if you explain it in the context of that entire period of history and don't give graphic details when they're young, there's no reason a child shouldn't be able to understand and appropriately absorb the information.

Periwinkle007 Tue 30-Apr-13 12:05:20

I agree that you can talk to them about it from being younger in many cases but that the actual details are better kept for when they are older but it does depend like many of you have highlighted on not only the child themselves but also the family's experience of it. My kids will grow up knowing about it but not just yet. They are a mix of German and British, the German side were Jewish although we are not as they dropped it when they came over to the UK and they are apparently related to an extremely famous person who lost their life in the holocaust so they will definitely know about it all but they will also know that it wasn't all Germans etc but the Nazis. They will also be told that not everyone in an army believes in what they are made to fight for as I think that is an important detail. It is an extremely important part of history that we can't afford to forget.

NeoMaxiZoomDweebie Tue 30-Apr-13 12:11:32

I have an 8 year old DD too OP and she's also fascinated by the subject...like Pariah, I have got her The Silver Sword. She's not opened it yet but I only got it the other day...I hope she likes it.

SuperScribbler Tue 30-Apr-13 12:51:16

I have talked about WW2 with DS, who is 6. He is interested in the subject and DH has a strong interest in military history so we have 100s of books on the subject in the house. That said I haven't gone into details of the mechanics of how people were murdered in the Holocaust or shown him graphic images.

A while ago DS chose a graphic novel from the library called A Family Secret by Eric Heuvel, which deals with the subject. It was produced by the Anne Frank House and although some of it went over DS's head, but it is a very good way into the subject.

learnandsay Tue 30-Apr-13 13:56:27

The school age version of the "holocaust", whether it contains any details or not, is a good example of a historical placeholder. To have a more realistic understanding of the holocaust you need to know that anti Semitism was rife throughout Europe long before the war and that in many Eastern European countries where experimentation for what later became the Final Solution took place it wasn't the Nazis who were rounding up victims. It was the local populations. All school can really do is give a child a label. It's not until much later in life that a person can get even a small understanding of what went on. In that sense a quick trip around the Anne Frank house is adequate. Label duly given.

Very interesting thread.

It sounds like most first heard about WW2/Holocaust roughly around the same kind of age - late primary school age.

I totally agree, that what exactly and how much, and what detail is told to which child and when, will depend entirely on the age.

I visited Dachau, a concentration camp near Munich, in my early 20s as a young medical student. By pure coincidence it had a special exhibition on, exploring the role of the medical profession in the Holocaust and included examples of human experiments (as an aside: a lot of what we know happens to the human body while dying of hypothermia, for instance, still stems from some of these experiments sad[no emoticon available for what I feel about that]). I was absolutely horrified and physically sick. I still feel sick when I think about it. That was 25 years ago. I have no idea how people who lived through some of the horrors and witnessed abuse, torture and death, kept going. Much sympathies to all those affected.

OTOH, I had a terrible fear of war when I was about 8 or 9. I refused to go to sleep because I was afraid an airraid would happen over night. I think this was triggered by new stories about the Cold War.

What I am trying to say, some information is traumatic at any age (if you are a person with some degree of empathy), but can certainly be given too early. And some fears will grow out of all reasonable proprotion, not necessarily because of a real/acute danger.

I think the trick for all of us is to know our own children and what they can take/process.

at what age exatly, sorry

OlyRoller Tue 30-Apr-13 16:32:08

When I was about 7 I read a book called The Endless Steppe by Esther ??? - about the author's youth, she was sent with her family to Siberia during WW2, and the hardships she faced there. I loved that book. I really recommend it. But I think that was my introduction the subject.

3MonthMaid Tue 30-Apr-13 21:03:56

The endless steppe is amazing.

It's so interesting that so many of us on here have this background.FWIW as a child of German parents in the 80s I was teased and bullied for being a "nazi". I so hope that same fate doesn't await my DD. She is so proud of being "German" at the moment...

Ps completely agree with PacificDogwood about the Austrians!

3MonthMaid Tue 30-Apr-13 21:06:14

Sorry - that. Should be HorseMadMom

suebfg Tue 30-Apr-13 21:28:32

I was only thinking about this recently as I re-watched Schindler's List this week. He may find out at school earlier but I was thinking early teens. When he is older, I do intend to take him to Auschwitz.

On similar lines, I have wondered about when to tell him about 9/11 as I was in New York that day but he is too young to understand that yet.

Sparklymommy Wed 01-May-13 09:11:28

My daughter (year 5) is currently doing WW2, however she hasn't mentioned the holocaust. That said, at her dance school we have a senior character dance group that doing a dance entitled "the Holocaust" which she has watched. It is a group that when the teacher started teaching it all the parents of the children in it were asked if they didn't want their child performing in it. The head mistress of the dance school was very careful about the subject matter and even told some children (aged under 15) that it wasn't suitable for them and choreographed a different dance for them based on the potato famine in Ireland so that they wouldn't feel left out. (I know, our dance school likes to delve into dark subjects!) we do have some happy flappy nunbers too! Lol

Periwinkle007 Wed 01-May-13 09:22:31

I remember reading The Endless Steppe too, I think I have it in the loft, along with Eva's Story (Eva Schloss), The Diary of Anne Frank and numerous others. I went through a patch of reading them when I was a young teenager.

Suebfg - 9/11, 7/7, IRA, Boston Bombings, Connecticut school shootings, Dunblane etc they are all the same and I suppose you just have to raise them when you think the time is right/relevant depending on your families experience. I wonder if I shelter our kids too much by not having the news on when they are around, I have other friends who sit and watch the news with their children, but I think there is time for them to know about these things in the future when they are more emotionally mature.

iseenodust Wed 01-May-13 09:40:35

DS yr4 is studying WW2 this term. They are using Carrie's War by Nina Bowden as one of the works of fiction.

They are going on a school trip to Eden Camp (as do many schools round here). I haven't been but am told it is well done.

I did send one ORT non-fiction on WW2 back to school when DS was in yr2 with a note saying I was not letting him read more as the next page was about 'The Final Solution' and I thought yr2 was way too young for that.

Periwinkle007 Wed 01-May-13 09:56:55

I am relieved we haven't had any books sent home on it yet. mind DD1 is only in Reception but I think they must have taken them out of the reading boxes as she is on level 10.

learnandsay Wed 01-May-13 11:00:53

Personally I don't find individual acts of terrorism and genocide similar. From the genocides that I've read about so far the leaders (and it tends to be leader doing these things to their own people) seem to have a rationale. Some international terrorists seem to have a rationale too. But some of the domestic ones don't appear to have any idea why they're doing what they're doing the Boston bomber doesn't seem to know why he did it. And of the few American school shooters who have survived I haven't yet seen a coherent account of why he (and in one or two rare cases she) did it. I'm terribly afraid that in America school shootings are fashionable (and easy) and get lots of attention. And in the case of Anders Breivik I think everyone has given up trying to understand why he did what he did, including Anders himself. Unless my daughters ask me directly about a terrorist incident I think I'm going to ignore that kind of behaviour all together. I've got a sneaking suspicion that in the end all terrorism is some kind of attention seeking. I can't get what I want so I'm going to throw my toys out of the pram. The big difference is that people get killed.

gabsid Wed 01-May-13 11:13:14

I have been thinking about this myself, as I am German and DS (8) is fully bilingual and thinks of himself as German. A while ago a boy at school said to him 'lets all be horrible to DS because he is German and the British fought the Germans in the war'. I don't think that boy had any insight though.

We had a chat about it and I explained about Hitler and what he did in very general terms. I feel he needs to know a bit more but not too much. I think literature from childrens' point of view as some suggested is the way to go now. Also, DS has a 4 1/2 old sister who listens to the same books I read to DS

gabsid Wed 01-May-13 11:21:35

I went to Dachau when I was 13 or 14, I was so shocked, I never forget it and I myself steer away from graphic information about the Holocaust

Pyrrah Wed 01-May-13 11:33:13

DD's 4 and we started discussing the Holocaust when she was about 2.5 - my husband's family are German Jewish and either escaped from Germany or died in the camps.

My husband works in Liverpool Street and the station there has the wonderful Kindertransport memorial with the children and DD loves it, especially the little girl with the teddy bear sitting on the suitcase.

Some of the family came to Britain on the Kindertransport and so we dicussed that great-aunt x was one of the little girls on the train.

DD also loves 'The Sound of Music' so I could tie the bits of that story into what she knows. She also loves 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and asked about the bombing in the opening scenes and why the children had to leave their mummy.

I wouldn't show her graphic details of the camps until she is a lot older, but I'd like her to have a basic understanding of the whole Jewish issue in WWII before it's taught in school.

In some ways, when they are very young, it's less of a shock or upsetting to them than suddenly coming across it later. We also have a very Jewish surname so I don't want her worrying.

I'm not sure I could take her to Auschwitz, I would find it too upsetting knowing how many of her ancestors walked through those gates.

A lot depends on the individual child as to how the deal with things or not, what is the right time for one child may be too soon for another.

gabsid Wed 01-May-13 11:44:11

We do go to local museums where we often come across WWI and II, but it often is about local people and what happened to them and their towns and cities during the wars.

I feel we are drip feeding.

learnandsay Wed 01-May-13 11:53:15

WWI/II per se is a slightly different topic. But both wars/subjects are so monumental that I think drip feeding is the right approach otherwise you'd overload the poor children and probably make them hate history into the bargain.

WidowWadman Wed 01-May-13 11:56:21

It's really strange to think that when my dad was my daughter's age (4.4, too young for me to want to worry her with tales of the war yet) - he was hiding from allied bombs in the bomb shelter, and evacuated shortly after. He has memories of asking his mum whether they were going to die now.

At the same time my husband's grandma was evacuated from German bombs.

I feel very lucky to know war only from stories I've been told, books and news reports and to have the luxury to protect my daughter from this knowledge just a little bit longer.

suebfg Wed 01-May-13 18:57:40

"Personally I don't find individual acts of terrorism and genocide similar"

Not on the same scale obviously but the similarity for me is the senseless destruction of innocent people, whether that be millions in the Holocaust, thousands on 9/11 or twenty children in an American school. It's hard to explain that to any child.

StephaniePowers Wed 01-May-13 19:07:14

It came up, I forget how, when dd was 8. There are references to it all over, if your child has sharp ears. She asked questions. I answered.

So far we have not talked about the details of how people were killed and disposed of, nor of how they were chosen.

She has asked about the reasons why the Jews were singled out and that was very hard to talk about. (I do mention the other communities who were interned/killed.) I felt I was actually planting the seed of the idea that it is possible to hate an entire population of people who live among you. I had to take care to say it was absolutely awful to do that whilst trying to say that it still goes on, got tied up in knots.

I read on here once about a group of school kids going on a school trip to Auschwitz. I have visited it, there is no way any child of mine is going there aged 12. Not a chance. I got argued off that thread by a lot of well-meaning people, but I still maintain it is not ok for your average 12 year old.

learnandsay Wed 01-May-13 19:08:09

Both subjects, terrorism and the holocaust have relevant issues for today. The international criminal court is playing a significant part in one and it looks as if, in the case of school shootings, America's constitution and its gun lobby are playing a significant part in the other. My own personal feeling is that children ought to learn about the holocaust. Unless you're an American child knowing anything about school shootings, The US constitution or its gun lobby are all optional/better off ignored.

notfluffy Wed 01-May-13 19:46:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

There is a significant difference in my eyes between discussing a war, any war, and genocide or the Holocaust: atrocities happen in any war, people behave terribly (or in fact very honourably) and innocent people die. Many countries have been involved in wars and, I would argue, many countries have not necessarily acted honourably (if that's possible in a war).
The Holocaust is on a totally different scale, not just in terms of numbers, but in chilling calcule and organisation. That is what I find difficult to explain. Not that individuals can be cruel, but that whole governments can persue a policy of destruction - an elected government btw. And a majority of people followed...

Terrorism is hard to explain too, but the scale is so much smaller; even 9/11... And school shootings... <sigh> no idea what to say about that other than that I really don't think that arming teachers is a good idea hmm.

So, in conclusion, I shall continue to be baffled by what humanity is capable of and answer questions honestly as they come up. A trip to Auschwitz is not on the cards any time soon, that's for sure. Growing up we had a book about Auschwitz with pictures of rooms full of shoes/hair/teeth which I leafed through a fair bit - and then one day <wham> it hit me what those pictures ment. I can still remember the sick feeling in my stomach and me so wanting somebody to come and tell me that they did not mean what I had just understood them to depict sad.

ZZZenagain Wed 01-May-13 21:17:44

haven't been to Auschwitz. That would be one heck of a tough trip, for an adult. I am not sure I want to go there. We have been to a concentration camp, a smaller one which was not set up as a death camp with gas chambers etc. Obviously people suffered there greatly, were subject to medical mistreatment, shot, starved and all the rest of it. There was almost nothing left standing, just a couple of barracks, a sort of firing squad area and explanations as you went round. I found that quite tough too because you know so much more than what you see. However, I am glad we went.

One thing that really shocked me was how close the houses in the area were to the camp. It was really not out in the middle of nowhere.

PastSellByDate Thu 02-May-13 09:47:10

Hi nevergoogle:

Not sure when is exactly the right age - 8 does seem very young - as the topic is so horrible and tragic (man's inhumanity to man) - but some 8 year olds can be very precocious and sensitive.

I can recommend a graphic novel called MAUS which portrays the Nazis as cats and the jews as mice. It brings across the cruelty somehow much more clearly.

Wikipedia has a nice summary about it here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maus

Periwinkle007 Thu 02-May-13 09:58:30

learnandsay I didn't mean that 9/11, 7/7 etc were the same as the holocaust, I meant they were the same as each other and the IRA and other such horrible events. The holocaust like some of the african genocides are in a league of their own.

however I do feel that all these things needs to be told to our young people at some point.

Pyrrah Thu 02-May-13 10:50:32

MAUS is a fantastic book - a bit like Primo Levi's 'If this is a Man', it's a book that stays with you forever after you've read it.

I'm not sure it would be suitable for younger children... 10+ with a basic understanding of the war and Holocaust would probably work better. There's a lot of stuff about depression and dealing with being a survivor of the camps - and heavily stereotypical jewish portrayals (think Maureen Lipman as Beattie type).

It did spark off some discussion with DD - I was reading it in the bath one day and she was intrigued that mummy was reading a 'comic book' and wanted to know about the story. So I explained a bit about what was on the pages I was reading about the different groups.

learnandsay Thu 02-May-13 11:35:34

I'm open to a discussion about talking to children about 9/11 and all the rest of it, but I'm not convinced. Possibly American children need to know about 9/11. If they're taught about Perl Harbour then they should perhaps be taught about 9/11 on the same day. The parallels are striking. Maybe British children studying A level history can have a module about insurgency:IRA, Mau Mau, the Mahdi & General Gordon and so on and so on. But I wouldn't teach history like that.

infamouspoo Thu 02-May-13 11:53:11

How would you teach history? I dont undertsand your point? My kids learned about 9/11 as it happened because we lived next to the Pentagon on that day. They were 9, 8, 6 and 5.

learnandsay Thu 02-May-13 13:17:35

I wouldn't teach history by topic. Part of the reason that I wouldn't do it that way is because then you misinform your pupils as much by what you leave out as by what you put in unless you include in each lesson an example list of the kinds of things which you'll not be covering. Terrorism is such a fantastically broad topic I don't even know if it's possible to do any kind of justice to it whatsoever. But the kinds of terrorism which sparked wars is an interesting sub-topic. I don't know how often the holocaust is taught as an introduction to genocide in general. But it might be worth pointing out that at one time slaughtering whole populations of cities as an act of war was considered perfectly normal. If the city didn't surrender then that's what it could expect. It's a relatively recent development that slaughtering whole populations has become proscribed. And even now it depends upon who's slaughtering whom and where.

noramum Thu 02-May-13 13:51:34

L&S but wouldn't that cause large confusion when you only tell one part without the context in which it happened?

You can't teach holocaust just as genocide. You need to teach WWII, why Hitler managed to come into power (maybe not as detailed as I learned it for A-Level in Germany). Without these information you can't understand why it was possible.

Also mix and matching various historical periods can cause confusion. You can't teach, let's say Revolutions, and set 1776 (USA-GB), English Civil War, Russian Revolution of 1917 and the French Revoluton of the 1780s next to each other. You loose too many important information just relating to one of them if you teach just the similarities.

learnandsay Thu 02-May-13 14:46:25

Agreed, I don't think teaching history by topic is a clever thing to do. I think there's an important distinction between analysing the subject and teaching it.

Although some people complain that simply covering a subject at a young age isn't always helpful and is liable to be forgotten. Teaching genocides in general might lead to interesting conclusions, Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, Abdul-Hamid II, Hitler, Pol Pot, has there ever been a civilian genocidal leader?

maizieD Thu 02-May-13 16:15:15

Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, Abdul-Hamid II, Hitler, Pol Pot, has there ever been a civilian genocidal leader?

Or a female one?

learnandsay Thu 02-May-13 17:35:44

Some of these leaders actually expressed their wish to use widespread killing of a particular kind of people as a policy. I don't think I'd ever want this type of behaviour discussed with my school age child. If she went to university to study a political or historical subject, then we could discuss it or she could study it.

teacherwith2kids Thu 02-May-13 17:35:50

Responding to OP - DS did WWII in Year 3 ... meant to be the Home Front onlybut he was and remains a history nut so his reading around it expanded exponentially. I discussed the Holocaust with him at the time, in my usual parenting 'answer all questions straight, stop when you have answered the question' manner. We didn't look at graphic pictures or details because his questions didn't go that v=way, though it did often stray into questions about current day politics (another obsession).

wigglesrock Thu 02-May-13 20:06:55

My dd1 - she's in P4 (she's almost 8) and they covered WW2 last term specifically from the viewpoint of evacuees and the Belfast blitz but they did cover Anne Frank, death camps and Hitler. Their teacher was led by them in so much as he could be. Some of the kids had heard stuff from relatives, some had no idea. In the run up to it, the kids had brought in photos, family bits and pieces relating to the war so it was easier for them to relate to.

We talked at home about the Holocaust, she didn't understand why but after a few clumsy analogies on my part we were able to answer some of her questions.

learnandsay Thu 02-May-13 20:41:06

In response to the question has there ever been a female genocidal leader, at the moment I still think the answer is no. But a female minister in the Rwandan Hutu government actually instructed militia in the art of genocide and was sentenced to life imprisonment www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/22/rwandan-woman-stripped-citizenship-genocide

nevergoogle Thu 02-May-13 21:24:13

Thanks for all the responses here. The local secondary school seem to have it covered with an annual holocaust project featuring in the local newspaper.
Meanwhile in primary today they did land girls.

The right time will come around, I just don't want him to learn the way I did by just discovering graphic photographs.

Carry on the discussion, it's great to have a real (important) parenting discussion on here.

learnandsay Thu 02-May-13 21:33:38

I'm not sure if a fear of graphic photographs is the right reason for broaching the subject. There are gazillions of subjects which have provided material for graphic photographs and you can't possibly discuss all of them. I think there are holocaust levels with 1 being the Anne Frank house, without the graphic info and 10 being photos and info about experiments on dying people. Lots of people don't get to level 1. I don't think many people need to get to level 10. Why would they?

infamouspoo Thu 02-May-13 21:44:19

I think adults need to be horrified to be honest. Horror means they might stand up if there's any inkling at it happening again.

WouldBeHarrietVane Thu 02-May-13 21:53:30

Noramum for years Cambridge university had a comparative 'Revolutions' module as part of the 3rd year history syllabus.

Oh, I agree, some people are not horrified enough, by half.
But depending on child, I think the most gruesome facts are best left to late teens and even into adulthood.

As mentioned upthread, I also find the question "But there aren't any Nazis NOW, are there, mum?" difficult to answer sadangry

learnandsay Thu 02-May-13 23:34:37

I sincerely hope (we're a mixed British/German family) that we don't get around to discussing the Nazis until our girls are well into their teens. For very young children who for some unfortunate reason have been told who the Nazis were and some of what they did I believe the reply, no dear, there are no Nazis now, is adequate. The ones from the Thirties and Forties are dying of old age and the young pretenders aren't Nazis because the party no longer exists. So, give or take a little, there aren't any now.

Devora Thu 02-May-13 23:43:38

Another one here whose family were involved, and therefore the children know early.

I didn't learn about WW2 or the Holocaust at school, either primary or secondary. But I heard all about it at home, from elderly relatives (or they seemed old to me then; thinking back, my grandfather - a teenage refugee was Nazi Germany - was 43 when I was born. His father, who was in a concentration camp, would have been in his 60s).

dd1 and I first started discussing the Holocaust when she was 5. No graphic detail, obviously, and I tell her in a restrained way. Her other mother is the descendant of slaves, and we are lesbian, so in many ways her family is different and sometimes the target of prejudice, and she has to be gently prepared for that.

dd1 is now 7, and working her way through the Harry Potter books, and we've often found them helpful in discussing these issues (mudbloods etc). Recently she listened to my dp doing a talk about slavery, which was ill-advised as there was some upsetting content. Afterwards we discussed it and she said to me, "It made me feel the same as Neville Longbottom when he watches MadEye Moody do the Cruciatus curse on the spider". That was useful in telling me that she was at the limit of what she could cope with, but also that she is developing ways of understanding and managing upsetting information.

learnandsay Fri 03-May-13 09:42:45

I would be worried that a 7yo who had enough upsetting information that she had to find ways of managing it had too much and could end up having sleepless nights or worse. Why is horrible detail useful to young children? I could be wrong but I can only think that the truly nasty nitty gritty is only useful to analysts, academics or interested adults.

ZZZenagain Fri 03-May-13 11:09:29

"For very young children who for some unfortunate reason have been told who the Nazis were and some of what they did".

What unfortunate reason lies behind the transmission of important historical and human rights knowledge in your opinion? It doesn't suit you that people are aware of it perhaps but that is an entirely idiotic attitude.

There is no reason why young dc even very young dc cannot be told who the Nazis were and some of what they did. I really find your posts disturbing because you do sound as if it is all irrelevant and should be shoved away out of sight and kept from everyone but researchers and so forth. Why on earth could anyone in these day and age find that an acceptable attitude?

It is not necessary to wait until they are adults or even teenagers. I do think primary school dc can process this information as long as it is presented to them in an age -appropriate manner. There are plenty of families who have victims within their ranks and it is entirely natural - and good IMO that these families discuss what has happened. THere is no need to dwell on extremely upsetting details, to show photos of bodies piled up and people shot, etc to visit holocaust exhibitions and camps, however primary school dc can deal with the basics of the increasing discrimination leading up to and culminating in mass murder and I believe it can be helpful to access some knowledge at this point, it helps in the positive development of character IMO. Too much detail could be frightening but some knowledge is not harmful and there are plenty of good books which lead into this and are age appropriate.

In the same way, I would talk to primary school dc about terrorism, about 9/11 if it came up but I would not dwell on the suffering in detail.

We learn a great deal of things in that we at first learn a skeleton outline which is filled in with detail as we get older and acquire more knowledge or discover a real drive to learn more and follow things up. This is perfectly natural.


infamouspoo Fri 03-May-13 12:08:44

agreeing with Zzzen. Children are remarkably resilient. After all, many jewish children actually lived through it. It is part of our history and we do talk about it and as Zzzen says, we are fortunate enough to be able to pace the details nowadays but the Holocaust is vital history.

learnandsay Fri 03-May-13 12:35:32

Because the Nazis were only one set of culprits, the biggest, maybe. But only one. Focussing on them is a bit like explaining how football works by talking endlessly about the Brazilian national team and ignoring the rest of the world.

StephaniePowers Fri 03-May-13 15:05:00

They may not be called Nazis, but there are anti-semitic racists still. There are genocides happening right now. I don't think children should be fobbed off, even if (of course) they don't need the horrific details.

learnandsay Fri 03-May-13 15:25:38

My own view is that children should learn about good citizenship, responsibility, duty and do as you would be done by first. Regardless of what they call themselves the people who commit atrocities, or would if they could, are the mirror image of that. You don't have to study evil to know what it looks like any more than you need to dip your hand in a pot of boiling water to know that it's hot. You can tell children that evil people exist and that they don't believe in doing good. But you don't have to catalogue their bad deeds.

learnandsay Fri 03-May-13 15:27:30

Or the names by which they call themselves. It's their rejection of do to others as you would have others do to you which is important not their names.

infamouspoo Fri 03-May-13 16:31:19

The Holocaust is a massive part of western history learnandsay

learnandsay Fri 03-May-13 17:27:14

Massive in what sense? As many died in Stalin's famines. Where's that on the curriculum?

noramum Fri 03-May-13 17:48:50

Learnandsay, you can't not teach the holocaust, you would the leave quite a big chunk of WWII out. It also explains how Israel functions today, why the Germans still have some kind of collective guilt three generations later, why we still have trials of people involved in something which happened 70 years ago.

Yes, there are more if these kind even today and children need to learn that just because one guy is now dead there are still people who kill others because of their beliefs. Don't forget, the holocaust wasn't just about Jews, you had Jehovas witnesses, gypsies, gays, people with other political opinions as well being transported.

I Remember, I was not even 13 when we sat through sound recordings of large Nazi gatherings and tried to understand why people blindly followed one person's sick ideas and how a whole nation could be manipulated.

And anti-semitism was quite big in the UK as well in the early Thirties.

infamouspoo Fri 03-May-13 17:58:03

What noramum said. And because WW2 and the nazi's happenend here. We still have bomb damage in our cities and dig up unexploded bombs. We had the kindertransport arrive in our cities. We have Holocaust survivors living in our cities, and their families.
You seem remarkably opposed learnandsay. Why?
Of course Russian history is important (I'm a huge history buff and would also include the Japanese atrocities but there's limited room) but the Holocaust is very immediate to western Europe and that is where we live. And even today we still have fucknuggets doing seig heil salutes on our streets. We dont tend to deal with people advocating communism and gulags.

gabsid Fri 03-May-13 18:01:45

There is so much to learn from history and one doesn't have to go into detail to explain the basics. I told DS(8) that this man was a dictator who killed lots of Jewish people just because they were Jewish. He knows about wars, we watch the news sometimes and he asks questions, although I brush over some things.

DC to understand, slowly, why some thinking is so very wrong and what the consequenses can be if it gets out of hand, e.g. DD (4) told me some time ago that she didn't want to play with certain DC because they are black! She rarely sees black people but we have to try and make her understand that they are just like her, only with black skin.

learnandsay Fri 03-May-13 18:13:18

The Japanese also have a sense of guilt and a state organised pacifism. Both West Germany and Japan were colonised by the Americans and indoctrinated in the arts of guilt and remorse as high culture.

There is supposedly a doctrine following from the holocaust that genocide is no longer practicable in today's world because the so called International Community will step in and prevent it from happening and bring those responsible to justice. But if you saw Bill Clinton and Sc State Albright doing everything they possibly could to avoid calling the Rwandan massacres genocide (because of what that word obligates) you'd know that in fact "crimes against humanity" is just more hypocritical Western bull crap. It's crimes which are convenient which interest us in the West.

There are lots of important topics in Western history and within those topics there are lots of significant details. Children don't need to be taught all of them.

The flu pandemic of 1918 and the two great plagues each killed more people in Europe than those who died in the holocaust. But the death toll of the holocaust combined with all other victims of the war do indeed make Hitler and his cronies one of Europe's greatest disasters.

noramum Fri 03-May-13 20:24:18

Learn&Say, you got me laughing. The Americans def. did no colonise West Germany. Don't forget, you had three powers in Western .germany, I grew up where the Brits were and I lived where the US were for a couple of years. We had very little to do with them, they all lived in their own little world and while the government had to please them they had to please all of them.

The guilt we have comes from what was designed from all four powers after the war, study the Postsdamer Conference and how the German constitution came together. If you ever read this there is much more tolerance in it than the US is ever capable of doing.

Certainly there are more topics in our history than portait in any curriculum. If you go in any bookshop in themUK you could think history is just War of the Roses to Elisabeth I and then that the WWII has to be won over and over again. It is a shame and there could be more done. But some areas can't be taken out. history is taught to teach us that humans can't learn from previous mistakes and how these mistakes shape the current view of a nation.

Surely the ongoing importance of the Holocaust is not just about numbers - yes, Stalin killed similar, the Japanese were capable of atrocities, Rwanda, Kurdish cleansing by Saddam: the list goes on. BUT the Holocaust is pretty unique in scale and organisation and scope.
The Spanish Flu and Black Death is an entirely different thing altogether and I don't see what they have to do with this.

And I don't think it is unfortunate for young children to find out about what the Human Animal is capable of doing to its own kind; I only regret that there is cause for them to learn of such.
Having said all that, I have to confess being of a very 'glass half full' kind of disposition, I am a pessimist wrt whether humanity ever learns from its mistakes.

crunchbag Fri 03-May-13 21:27:51

I am Dutch and born in 1970 so I grew up knowing about the war and Holocaust, to an extent that I really got fed up with yet another WWII movie on tv around this time of the year (remembrance eve and liberation day). But it wasn't until secondary school that I really learned and understood the realities/impact of the holocaust. I still remember the personal stories from prisoners of war and camp survivors who came to our school.

DS (11) has covered the war at school and we have talked about it lots more at home so he has a good basic understanding which is appropriate of his age. I just follow his lead and take it from there. I do think it is important that he will learn what happened.

RustyBear Fri 03-May-13 21:57:17

Well, if the new history curriculum gets adopted, they won't be learning about WWII at all until near the end of KS 3...

learnandsay Fri 03-May-13 22:30:18

Personally I think the aim of learning from our mistakes is a lost cause. Because as we learned not only from wilful failure to act on Rwanda but also wilful failure to act on Darfur

it costs in terms of political support, war financing, and dead/injured soldiers to intervene in genocides.

So what are we actually teaching our children? Yes, genocide is bad. But if you personally are going to have to pay in coins and blood to prevent a genocide, then you're better off (in reality) letting the genocide occur and later trying to persuade an audience that there was nothing that you could have done about it. (That's where we are today.)

Better of maybe, but still morally wrong IMO.
I'd rather teach and have that teaching be in vain, than just resign to it.

Devora Fri 03-May-13 23:51:13

Well, some of us have said that we tell our children about the holocaust because it is part of our family reality and they will hear about it, sure as eggs is eggs, if we don't get there first with an age-appropriate explanation.

Same argument gets played out here about when you should tell children about homosexuality. In my family, it is our reality; we can't not talk about it.

And that means that other children will be talking about this stuff in the playground too, so it makes sense to get to your child first. We can argue all day about collective memory and the Holocaust industry (and I'd be happy to) but bottom line is that our society is obsessed with WW2, so it's fairly pointless asking why should we address that and not the Irish potato famine.

gabsid Sat 04-May-13 08:15:35

I do think one can obsess about it a bit as well. We talk about what we come across and there are many ways to stumble across wwII, e.g. in museums and TV films and memorials. It is one of the things we sometimes talk about and may explore a bit further, one amongst many and I will always water down any horrible stuff for them. We watched the film Zulu a while ago and talked about it. Lots of killing, it just doesn't seem so real and horrible in a movie like that or Westerns.

gabsid Sat 04-May-13 08:22:10

Talking about the Holocaust fine, but most importantly do we need to remember and teach how this could come about in the first place, e.g. the early 1930s in Europe.

Especially, in a time when our economy is on its knees and a right-wing party is doing very well in local elections and one of their main policies are to clamp down on immigration.

learnandsay Sat 04-May-13 08:41:39

It's a digression, but the fact that we don't talk about the Potato Famine is an example of History being written by the winners, isn't it? It was the English/British, (Whitehall) which insisted on Irish grain being exported during the famine and not remaining to feed the people as the Irish called for at the time, which contributed to the death toll and displacement. But surprise, surprise, you don't get that in our history books.

I wonder why.

maizieD Sat 04-May-13 12:10:19

^ But surprise, surprise, you don't get that in our history books.^

Perhaps it has something to do with history being 'dumbed down' and taught in 'topics' rather than chronologically. We certainly learned about the Irish Famine at GCE 'O' level in my 1960's grammar school.

As to 'not in our history books', are you just referring to 'popular history' or school history text books? May be you're not looking at the right history books. I have on my bookshelves one or two books specifically about the Famine plus some primary sources and histories of the 19th century which cover it in some detail. And it isn't even my particular area of interest.

learnandsay Sat 04-May-13 15:28:02

It's a general complaint about the way our school history is edited to show Britain in its best light. I'd have loved to have heard about the power of cannon used in the final battle of the 100yr War at Castillon, (a French victory) instead or as well as Agincourt and Crecy our two English victories. Knowing that much of the effect of the Irish famine could have been prevented if the fledgeling Victorian civil service hadn't been so pig headed would have been useful. Much was made in my history of the abolition of slavery (the part that makes Britain look good.) (Well, not if one studies all of it.) But nobody thought of mentioning that it was an Elizabethan privateer who established the Triangular Trade in the first place!

maizieD Sat 04-May-13 17:40:07

So, slavery was a world wide institution in which the English participated as enthusiastically as many other countries. While we might feel shame at our participation in it the fact is that we were among the first to attempt to stop it. Does this mean that we shouldn't have some pride in this and teach it as a positive aspect of our history?

I find it a perplexing topic as my maternal grandmother was a product of slavery while all my other forebears belonged to the nation which enslaved her ancestors. Do I feel anger at what happened to them or shame that threequarters of my family went along with it? I can't view history as a constant process of national self flagellation...

learnandsay Sat 04-May-13 19:17:05

From the BBC news website, on the subject of anti-Semitism www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22413301

Hungary must have some strange laws.

infamouspoo Sat 04-May-13 19:25:28

good grief

mrz Sat 04-May-13 19:34:26

History always reflects the views of the "recorder" which is why children are taught to look at different sources and compare accounts rather than blindly accept.

Shakespeare's account of Richard III may have been quite different if the Yorkists had won

noramum Sat 04-May-13 21:05:52

Mrs, I agree. Tudor propaganda is something modern politician could take as a pn example how to smear your predecessors.

breadandbutterfly Tue 07-May-13 14:10:39

My family is German Jewish and my father came over on the Kindertransport; various family members were not so lucky.

I very strongly disagree with LearnandSay that the Holocaust should not be singled out for attention - as PacificDogswood correctly states upthread, "the Holocaust is pretty unique in scale and organisation and scope". In addition, it is usually used to highlight (a) other examples of genocide eg Rwanda - eg on Holocaust Memorial Day and (b) to learn lessons from the past so that we don't just view it as the action of a few (or a few million) madmen, that could never be repeated or prevented, but instead understand it as something that happened because normal, rational but unquestioning people who were afraid or wanted an easy life went along with it (as well as some psychos, probably). It's about how all of us should strive to stand up for what is right even if it is not popular or easy, and protect the weak or defenceless. It's about bullying on a grand, national level, and what happens when this is allowed to get out of hand. It is and will remain relevant to all of us.

Re the OP, though, I would not feel the need to do more than a very gently intro to the fact that lots of Jews were killed by a bad German at primary school. My parents took me to Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem holocaust museum, when I was 11, and I was far too young (and sensitive). I have never forgotten it - in a haunted kind of way - and would not recommend graphic images like that for children of any age - strictly adults only. My own perspective on the Holocaust has been influenced by my father's amazingly upbeat and positive approach to his past - he knows and I know that he only survived because of a family of good Germans who risked their own lives to save him and his father on Kristallnacht - he had a few days in an attic too. Rather than focus on the flawed individuals who allowed it to happen, he focuses on the good individuals who defeated Nazism. It is that perspective that I want to pass on to my dcs - the amazing bravery and courage and effort of so many to defeat the evils of Nazism.

By the way, I find it astonishing that on the day the British headlines are full of the trial of a Neo-Nazi cell in Germany, that LearnandSay can attempt to claim that Nazis no longer exist and the Holocaust is no longer relevant. We have the rise of Far-Right parties all over Europe - Golden Dawn in Greece, the one in Hungary mentioned above, and some distinctly racist overtones in politics in many other countries, not least the UK. I see no reason to relax vigilance.

This does not, of curse, mean that other events in history are not also important - my eldest dc, aged 13, has read books about the Irish potato famine and slavery, for example - but I will not yet let her read anything too graphic about the Holocaust. She will study it at school next year - I hope it is not too disturbing (in particular having to be the token Jew, and being sympathetically stared at every time Jews are mentioned - rather wearing I should imagine...).

learnandsay Tue 07-May-13 14:33:14

The current woman on trial in Munich and her dead friends appear to have started their own cell. I can't start up my own version of the Conservative party and claim to be a conservative or to speak for British conservatives. That's not how political parties work. The word neo in neo-Nazi is there for a reason. Any crackpot can be a neo anything. Being a real Nazi is a bit harder!

The relevance of the holocaust hasn't been discussed by me (yet.)

breadandbutterfly Tue 07-May-13 15:45:16

learnandsay -

That's illogical. Hitler didn't 'join' an established and successful pre-existing Nazi party, he did indeed 'start it up' - to use your terminology. According to you, the woman in Munich is nothing to worry about because she's on her own (well, only her and her 'cell'). The point is, unpleasant historical movements start somewhere - if we ignore them because they're only a small fringe group then we risk them getting more support and growing into a mainstream group. Whether you prefer to call them Nazi or Neo-Nazi is mere semantics - clearly she identifies with a lot of the original Nazis' worst policies, including that of killing as many immigrants from backgrounds they dislike as possible. Policies which advocate mass murder should be stopped and confronted whether or not they are labelled 'Nazi' - surely that much is obvious???

Clearly the Conservative Party are not a small fringe group with a dangerous and potentially violent philosophy (well, Michael Gove aside...) so if we share their views, we can join the 'official' party which is allowed to continue freely. There is no need to start off our 'own' Conservative parties (though UKIP might disagree). The fact that this particular cell in Germany has not joined an 'official' Nazi party to express its views is not because it has unique or exceptional views but because official Nazi parties are banned in Germany as a direct result of the holocaust.

Undoubtedly, if it were legal to have an 'official' Nazi party in Germany, they would have quite a large number of supporters - as they do in other countries with a Nazi past but less awareness of responsibility for that past and no laws to prevent it. The article linked to above about Hungary demonstrates that well.

learnandsay Tue 07-May-13 16:09:09

Proper political parties are recognised by the state. Primary school children are too young to understand or care about any of this detail. But as far as the question "are there any Nazis today?" goes the answer is no. Because there is no Nazi party, so it's not possible to be a member of the Nazi party today.

Are there far right parties out there who are recognised by the state? Yes: BNP and France's Front National for a start.

Maybe the question are there still any Nazis is the wrong question because it has a literal answer. Perhaps a better question is: are there still influential fascist parties and leaders today? And the answer is yes there are.

gabsid Tue 07-May-13 16:40:58

Besides, Hitler and his right-wing party consisted initially of 30 people. He didn't gain in popularity because he intended killing lots of people, he was popular because the economy was at its knees, people didn't believe in the main parties and he promised them to solve the problem and blamed the whole misery on the Jews. He was a very charismatic speaker and promised to resolve local issues, provide work and food.

And I think we can learn a lot from this today, maybe not at primary age but certainly in secondary school. That said, I think no age is too early to be outward looking, tolerant and understanding, e.g. my DD (4) hasen't seen many black people in her life and recently she didn't want to play on a swing in a park, she said that she didn't want to swing with these black DC because she doesn't like black people! It's hard to meet people from different cultures around here though, but we will have to work on that. Also, UKIP did very well around here and the posters they put up read something like: Enough is enough, stop immigration confused

mrz Tue 07-May-13 16:44:43

The American Nazi Party not only exists in the present day but is active on Twitter and other social networks

infamouspoo Tue 07-May-13 17:03:08

Indeed Mrz. And very busy they are with the anti-semitic stuff and the jewish conspiracy theories and the white supremicist hate.

learnandsay Tue 07-May-13 17:37:33

I guess people will make their own minds up about what is a group of nutters and what is a political party. I'd imagine in a democracy a political party would stand for elections. I suppose how seriously analysts would take them would depend on whether or not they won any. When the BNP started winning council seats in Barking a few years ago there was very much upset indeed.

mrz Tue 07-May-13 17:54:05

Well the ANP have their first lobbyist in Washington in the shape of their presidential candidate ...does that make them a political party as well as a group of nutters?

I took my two to the Anne Frank House when they were studying the war in S2.

learnandsay Tue 07-May-13 18:19:11

Well, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17710570 he says that he wants to meet congressmen. The obvious question is how many congressmen/women want to meet him? I imagine they're busy people. (I did worry when I read that the now deceased founder of the ANP got invited to speak at universities!)

Secondme Tue 07-May-13 18:35:41

dd1 was very interested in history all through years 3, 4, 5, 6. (She didn't do juniors, she did first and middle...) and especially ww2. She became interested in the holocaust in year 5 and was asking lots of questions. I told her the basics, and left it up to her to discover more about it. I had to explain to her that it would never happen again, etc, but I still haven't let her read the boy in the striped pajamas. It is too sad. maybe pictures should be kept till later, because they are quite disturbing...
Also I read the silver sword to ds1 recently and it mentions the holocaust in not much detail. I think a better one to try is Once by Morris gleitzman. www.morrisgleitzman.com/once/ Very moving book. Very sad though...lovely book and followed by Then and Now.

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 09:14:12

learnandsay - the point is that the Nazis weren't all nutters and their supporters certainly weren't - and to dismiss them as such makes it more likely that an event like the Holocaust could occur again.

There are numerous groups with 'Nazi' in the title around the world (though not in Germany).

I cannot understand your motivation for denying this.

learnandsay Wed 08-May-13 09:50:29

bread, that's not what I'm saying.

If I call myself lumberjack that doesn't make me a lumberjack.
If I call myself Fireman Sam that doesn't make me a fireman.
If I call myself Copper Bill that doesn't make me a policeman.
and so on x 1000

If I call myself Nazi Noonoo that doesn't make me a member of the Nazi Party because the Nazi Party no longer exists. What is makes me is an idiot with ridiculous political ideas and a silly name.

gabsid Wed 08-May-13 10:10:03

Also, there are groups and political parties who don't have Nazi in their name but their narrow minded and inward looking right wing view makes them no better, e.g. BNP.

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 11:37:48

But there isn't just one historical entity with the name 'the Nazi party'. There have been lots of people who call themselves Nazis or Fascists and there still are. You seem to have this strange idea that political affiliations can somehow be trademarked - in your analogy, that only 'official' lumberjacks can call themselves lumberjacks. In the real world, if I wear a checked shirt and cut down trees for a living and call myself a lumberjack, then others may refer to me as a lumberjack - I don't have to belong to 'the Lumberjack Party' or union or whatever for this label to be valid.

You seem to have taken it upon yourself to deny that people who call themselves Nazis and who adhere to traditional Nazi views, are not in fact Nazis. I am not sure why you think you have this right.

You may not intend to come across as apologists for Nazis, current or past, but by trying to suggest that Nazism is a purely historical evil, with no current resonance, you misrepresent both the present and the past. Nazism in the past was complex and represented different things to different people then, just as its current adherents are not identical. That does not mean it did not exist then nor that it does not exist now, nor that we should give up trying to prevent its resurgence or the growth of similar, related movements, such as the BNP, Jobbik in Hungary or Golden Dawn in Greece (and many other local variants).

As I said above, quit with the semantics - it is irrelevant to the main point - namely that the most distinctive and unpleasant policies of Nazism are ones that everyone needs to continue to be aware of and that children should be educated about why intolerance, racism and bullying are not acceptable, from a young age. But we should avoid terrifying young children, at the same time, clearly - events of such horror are not suitable for most young children and can be introduced in more detail when they are ready for it.

gabsid Wed 08-May-13 11:50:22

Well said!

infamouspoo Wed 08-May-13 13:04:33

call them what you like learnandsay, it happenend before and it can happen again. People like that would like it to happen again.
Already we have elected councillors suggesting disabled children are put down to save money. And they fucking get re-elected. Never forget the Nazi's started with disabled children. And no-one piped up. It always starts small.

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 13:10:36

Thank you, gabsid.

And learnandsay - to claim that the Nazis (historical ones) were just 'nutters' is to spectacularly miss the point. Of course an entire nation did not just go 'mad' - the reasons for the success of the Nazis are complex and I suggest you read up on them a little before coming up with such hogwash.

It is too simplistic to suggest they were just born 'evil'. 'Evil' and 'good' are two extremes and most people (everyone?) combine some of each in their make-up. We wish to bring children up to be aware of their and others' potential flaws, so they can take responsibility for being the best human beings they can be.

Interesting musings on this very topic in a recent edition of the FT, entitled "My father, the good Nazi" - about how a son of a very high-ranking Nazi still refuses to come to terms with the evil his father did, because he had some positive aspects too. See:


learnandsay Wed 08-May-13 14:44:30

Well, fine. Go to America and start a new party called the Democratic Party or the Republican Party or come to London and start a new party called The Labour Party

and see how far you get if you think that political parties can't be trademarked.

methinks some are in need of a Politics 101 lesson.

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 16:23:12

@ learnandsay

What are you gibbering on about? Why would I wish to start one of these parties when they already exist? But if I wish to start a Nazi party in Germany, I and it will be banned - not because one already exists and it's been 'trademarked' by the 'original' Nazi Party, but because what they did was so horrific that the Germans sensibly do not want to confer democratic respectability on their ideas. It does not mean that the ideology they represented has disappeared, relegated to history. It just means that Nazis in Germany can't join a party of that name if they wish to, nor take part in the democratic process. Nazis in other countries can and do.

The only thing stopping me starting another party called say the Labour party in London or the Democratic party in the US is because it would be mighty confusing as they already exist. It would clearly make more sense to call my party something else. Or if my party followed exactly the same principles as theirs, I'd just join theirs - because I can. But no matter how identical my views as a German are to the original Nazis, I can't join their party. Because it's against German law to do so. But if I'm American, say, I can merrily join the American Nazi party. No 'trademark' restrictions. hmm

How difficult is this to understand?? Do you really think Hitler is going to come back from the grave complaining someone has stolen his trademark??

learnandsay Wed 08-May-13 16:29:20

Oh, right. So the Electoral Commission would be merely confused, would it if you tried to register The Labour Party.

gabsid Wed 08-May-13 16:31:44

So Hitler's party was called 'The German Workers Party' and later 'National Socialist German Workers Party'. That doesn't immediately strike me as evil too terrible. I can't stand it if politicians use the word evil, especially American one's - its just not a word I like to use to describe anyone.

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 16:33:09

I have to admit I find your views quite concerning, learnandsay. The desire to pretend that the Nazis are all in the past and finished implies that there are therefore no lessons that can be learnt now. It shows extreme naivety about the current political situation in Europe and elsewhere.

infamouspoo Wed 08-May-13 16:34:32

I'm struggling to understand learnandsay's point. Except I'm getting a strong feeling of not wanting to teach the Holocaust and not understanding why.

learnandsay Wed 08-May-13 16:35:42

You don't know anything about my views. All I'm saying is the Nazi Party no longer exists.

If you want to have a conversation with me about modern fascists then that's a different topic.

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 16:35:57

learnandsay - you have claimed that the term 'Nazi Party' is trademarked, preventing modern parties from using the name. This is crap palpably wrong.

Modern parties can and do use the name.

You seem to be tying yourself in knots to avoid the real issues - that Nazism and what it represented is a present as well as past danger.

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 16:39:29

If you prefer to call them 'modern fascists', I'm not very bothered about the terminology, as I've said. (Though why you think Mussolini isn't going to get hot under the collar about his trademark rights too, I don't know.)

'Modern fascists' (makes them sound a bit like a trendy youth movement to me, like the New Romantics or something, but never mind) are on the rise in many countries across Europe and elsewhere. This is something that should concern any normal person to whom the democratic process matters.

learnandsay Wed 08-May-13 16:41:19

You'll have to quote me on that one. I can't remember saying that. I do remember explaining politics 101 to you on why you can't register the name of a party already registered.

If you want to misquote me a bit more here are some other things I haven't said:

I haven't said:
Mars is orange.
My left toe is semicircular.
My granddaughter is purple.

I'm sure the world is full of other things that I haven't said too. Please feel free to misquote me on those too.

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 16:53:01

What have I quoted you on that you have not said??

breadandbutterfly Wed 08-May-13 16:54:14

And what is your response to my comments on modern fascists (your preferred term apparently)?

learnandsay Wed 08-May-13 18:19:40

I don't know about your comments, but here's what I think about modern fascists.

a) There are lots of them all over Europe and further afield.
b) In America you have all sorts of supremacist and hate groups. I'm not sure how many of them have enough of a political ideology to be called fascist. My limited view of the KKK is that it's what's left behind from a gang of rednecks who once liked lynching black people and burning crosses. But they're not allowed to lynch black people any more and I don't think they're happy with just burning crosses. Anyway, from what I can tell they're not much more than a bunch of thuggish morons.
c) In Britain you have the BNP, EDL who are supremacist, thuggish morons and UKIP, who are too refined to be thuggish morons (and do have a political ideology, well MEPs and councillors, anyway. Perhaps they'll now buy an ideology from a thinktank.) And they went to nice schools, or some of them did. But they're still supremacist, even if they're very nice about it.

What do I think about them all generally? I wouldn't pee on them if they were burning. So, there you are. Now you know.

WidowWadman Wed 08-May-13 18:42:15


"What are you gibbering on about? Why would I wish to start one of these parties when they already exist? But if I wish to start a Nazi party in Germany, I and it will be banned - not because one already exists and it's been 'trademarked' by the 'original' Nazi Party, but because what they did was so horrific that the Germans sensibly do not want to confer democratic respectability on their ideas. It does not mean that the ideology they represented has disappeared, relegated to history. It just means that Nazis in Germany can't join a party of that name if they wish to, nor take part in the democratic process. Nazis in other countries can and do."

That's not entirely true. Whilst incitement of hatred and holocaust denial is illegal, attempts to ban right wing parties such as the NPD as anti-constitutional have been unsuccessful so far. So people can and do still join nasty parties in Germany, too. Thankfully, they're not very popular, though.

breadandbutterfly Thu 09-May-13 10:55:59

Thanks, learnandsay. Still wondering what you meant on this page when you said:

"You'll have to quote me on that one. I can't remember saying that."

Who quoted you on what?

I still disagree with your basic surmise, that supporters of the far right are just thugs with no coherent ideology - as that tends to imply that therefore nothing can or should be done about them. As I stated upthread, clearly what happened in Nazi Germany cannot be explained by labelling the entire population of a highly civilised country as 'thuggish morons' - clearly some would have fallen into that category but many, many more did not. It is to remove culpability and therefore responsibility from those involved by suggesting they are basically too thick and/or mentally ill to know any better.

The educated German upper/middle class at the time certainly could have known better. That things happened as they did has lessons for all of us, including those of us who are not in any way 'thuggish morons'.

Don't forget that in many countries, including England, the leading proponents of fascism were the upper classes.

learnandsay Fri 10-May-13 06:21:31

I've talked about specific thuggish morons, EDL, BNP, KKK and refined supremacists, UKIP. I've talked about past and now defunct fascist parties and groups who aren't political parties at all, (ie you can't vote for them.) I've been specific and related each of my comments to a particular point. What you've continuously done is dragged a point usually similar to something I've talked about (but not always) into a wide generalisation and then disagreed with it!!!

You're not arguing with me. You're arguing with one of your many interpretations of things I often haven't said in the first place. If you want to disagree with a specific point of mine then please cut and past the exact text of what I've said and then disagree with my point. Don't interpret (always wrongly) what I've said and then go off on an irrelevant rant.

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