Archives for posts with tag: holocaust education
Chamber Door courtesy of USHMM

A door to a “de-lousing” chamber in Auschwitz. Sign says: Harmful gas! Entering endangers your life. Photo: Courtesy of USHMM


Imagine this: Your 14-year-old son says his history teacher told him that the gas chambers in the Nazi concentration camps weren’t intended to kill Jews.

Really? What were they for then?

Per The News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois, the town where this incident occurred, the teacher (who has not been publicly identified) said, “These concentration camps were horrific places due to cruelty from the guards, little to no food, as well as extreme overcrowding that led to the rapid transmission of deadly diseases in those conditions, such as typhus.”

He explained that this is based on his own research of the subject. What are your sources Mr. Teacher? Are they fact-based and reputable? Well, here’s a fact: The gas that came out of the showers killed lice, for sure, but it also killed the host, the HUMAN BEINGS that carried the lice. What you read is propaganda, that the ‘showers’ were to clean the prisoners, when in reality, they were to extinguish them, to choke the life out of them, to MURDER them. These are facts, witnessed by people who are still alive (!) and archived in legal documents around the world.

I don’t know what is going to happen to this teacher, and I don’t need to know his name or anything about him. Going forward, I just want him to share historical facts, not propaganda.

cynthia voelkl John Dixon The News-Gazette

Cynthia Voelkl. Photo: John Dixon/The News-Gazette


Thank you for saying something, Cynthia Voelkl. It’s easy to spout outrage, but to actually do something and attempt to effect change, well, that’s to be commended.

I think she sums it up best with this line: “I know it’s a complicated issue, especially with laws about free speech, but I don’t think historical facts are a matter of opinion.”



Credit: Meg James

Oof. That’s a tough one. Many high schools have Holocaust studies as part of their curriculum, but many Jewish children will be introduced to the Holocaust much earlier. Whether in Hebrew school, from friends or relatives, or happening upon a book or article.

My son Jack, who is six years old, does not know about the Holocaust. He does not know that he is a third generation survivor on his father’s side. He doesn’t know that his great grandfather died in Auschwitz or that his grandmother, who he calls Savta, was born in a concentration camp. Heck, he doesn’t even know what a concentration camp is. He will learn these things someday, but when, I don’t know. It’s not only part of his heritage, but also his personal ancestry. He is living testament to Hitler’s failure to eradicate an entire race of people. But for now, he’s just into the “Cars2” movie and riding his scooter.

This article from the Jewish Chronicle, “Mummy, What was the Holocaust?” caught my eye, especially this excerpt:

Judith Vandervelde, an educator at London’s Jewish Museum, runs a seminar entitled, “How do we talk to our children about the Holocaust?”

She says: “The philosophy behind teaching young children about the Holocaust is that you take them up to the gates of Auschwitz and no further.

“Holocaust education is no longer about sitting them down for that difficult conversation. There are a lot of children’s books that touch upon it and children hear about it from a younger age.

“Bad Holocaust education, that is shocking and frightening, damages the child’s Jewish identity, their sense of the world and how they perceive others.”

She advises parents to be prepared and only go as far as they feel their child can cope with, ideally by years five or six.

“Like sex education, Holocaust education has to be supported at home. It depends on the child’s maturity, their family background and their experiences of death.

“Be led by them and answer questions as simply as possible. If they want more, they will ask.”

Jack knows that I’m a writer and that I’m “writing a book about Savta,” but he doesn’t actually know what the book is about. Once I get a contract and this thing takes off in real time, he will want to know more. And I will want to share it with him, but within reason, of course.  Suggestions from the aforementioned article will help me figure it out. Among the recommendations are:

  • Focus on the stories of individuals, especially if your family was affected.
  • Treat it as an ongoing dialogue, not a one-off conversation
  • Use books and museums to introduce your child to this dark era of  history
  • The Holocaust means something different to everyone. The lesson you teach from it might be about strength, tolerance or anti-racism. See this as an opportunity to instil your child with your values.