This Thursday, the 27th of Nisan, is Yom HaShoah. In English, this refers to Holocaust Remembrance Day. This day is set aside to remember the horrors of the past and the lessons that the past can teach the world.
Trying to explain the Holocaust to children is a daunting assignment. How does one explain to an innocent child that humans are capable of such disregard for human life?I first learned about the Holocaust at Hebrew school in 5th grade. The teachers made (what I feel) a wise choice in using Anne Frank and her diary to teach my fellow students and me about the Holocaust. Her young age made a bigger impact because she was someone I could relate to, a little girl with hopes and dreams like my own.
Reading her diary made the realization of what happened to her and her family a little less jarring but much more meaningful. I was able to follow the progression of the Nazis' power through Anne’s eyes, getting to know Anne as she recorded her experiences. Anne’s sense of humor and relatable worries lessened the blow for me when I realized that each diary entry was a baby step toward her death.
On the flip side, each page provided me toward a bigger lesson than I bargained for about human behavior and what it means to share a world with people who are different than I, and those who might not like me because of that difference.
The Holocaust is a heavy and emotionally draining subject, but it’s also a great opportunity to teach children about compassion and respect for others through history’s mistakes. It’s also a good opening to teach children about social responsibility and the different prejudices that still exist between cultures, ethnicities, and races.
Every child will respond differently to the stories they hear about the Holocaust but there are plenty of methods available to suit different learning styles. The important thing is that they learn and remember.