OPINION: Teaching kids about Shoah

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OPINION: Teaching kids about Shoah

The infamous gates of Auschwitz
The infamous gates of Auschwitz
Simon Rothstein
Simon Rothstein

by Simon Rothstein 

Like any parent with young children, I don’t know where to begin when it comes to teaching them about the Holocaust.

How can you explain horror and evil on such a huge scale?

How do you try to help them make sense of the fact that many of their ancestors died in pogroms and gas chambers simply because they were Jewish?

And how can you ensure that for the next generation ‘never again’ is more than just a slogan?

That’s why the Jewish community and, arguably wider society, is so lucky to have the National Holocaust Centre and Museum.

Based in the East Midlands, but easily accessible from London, I was invited to visit on behalf of Liberal Judaism as part of the centre’s 20th anniversary.

The first thing you notice is how calm and reflective it is.
Away from the city, and surrounded by beautiful memorial gardens, you can’t help but contemplate.
The day I visited was typically busy with a diverse range of people, including two school groups of mixed faiths, some Christian clergy and various individuals and families.

There are two main areas.

The Holocaust Exhi-bition, aimed at children over 12 and adults, edu-cates through a mix of artefacts, survivor testimony, archive footage, pictures and descriptions.

The second exhibition, The Journey, is purposely aimed at younger children, looking at the life of a Jewish child called Leo in Nazi Germany.

Each area perfectly recreates the period, from Leo’s classroom to a vandalised Jewish shop. In each, a video of Leo reveals the unfolding narrative. The result is an amazing and engaging way to teach the young about prejudice and persecution. 

Every day, the centre hosts a talk given by a Holocaust survivor. On the day of my visit, I lis-tened to Yvonne Franklin. By sharing her story, and answering every question, it captivated the older school year group in a way that no book or exhibition ever could.

Asked why she and other survivors give such talks, Yvonne summed up the very reason why places like this must continue to thrive. She said: “I do this so you think about it, talk about it and one day talk to your children about it – so that it never happens again.”

Details: www.nationalholocaustcentre.net 

Simon Rothstein is editor of LJ Today

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