Progressively Speaking: How do we teach the young about the Holocaust?

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Progressively Speaking: How do we teach the young about the Holocaust?

 Rabbi Sandra Kviat reflects on the use of new technology and media to educate on the Shoah

Rabbi Sandra Kviat

Telling children about the Holocaust is one of the hardest things a parent or teacher has to face when educating the next generation.

Luckily our community and wider society are blessed with an abundance of resources to help.

A wealth of information and educational packages are offered by the Anne Frank Trust, Yad Vashem, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which suggest not being afraid to approach the subject, keeping the content age-appropriate, putting the history into context and giving time for self-reflection.

What is vital is having survivors speak in our schools and cheders, so that we can hear first hand what they went through, as well as a visit to the National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Newark, Nottinghamshire, with its exhibitions and talks suitable for different age ranges.

Another key issue is to focus not only on the death and degradation, but also on how people maintained their sense of Jewish identity.

One American synagogue recently used a photo of a seder in a ghetto as part of this approach, arguing that we shouldn’t allow only Nazi images and timelines to dictate our teaching and learning, but rather to tell the story from pictures, literature, art and music left behind by that generation.

We need the story to begin before the rise of the Nazis and to continue beyond the liberation of the camps.

Social media are also being used for innovative approaches to Holocaust education.

Eva Stories (pictured) is a colourful, Instagram retelling of the true story of a 13-year-old Hungarian girl who died in Auschwitz, complete with hashtags and emojis. It has 1.4 million followers.

This can be an effective way of teaching a generation through the technologies they are most familiar with. But if not done properly it can be in bad taste and crude.

There is no one answer to how we should teach young people about the Holocaust, or which forms of technology are acceptable. The core of how we teach has to be grounded in care, respect and honouring. We should strive to tell stories that are reliable, authentic and relatable, so that Holocaust education continues to be a source of learning, connection and care for others and ourselves.

  •  Rabbi Sandra Kviat serves Crouch End Chavurah
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