Saturday, 15 November 2008

And Why Would I Believe That?

There's an email circulating out there saying British schools no longer teach pupils about the Holocaust because of Muslim opposition. My sister sent it to me. I immediately sent her the link to that debunks this urban legend. Also, why she thought I, with two children in the British school system, wouldn't have something to say on this subject is beyond me. But that's my family.

But I decided this opened up an opportunity for me to talk to my son (my daughter was out) about the Holocaust. Hubby and I told him what we knew about it, starting with Kristallnacht. I explained to him about how Austrians broke into Jewish-owned businesses that night and ransacked them. It was called Kristallnacht because of all the broken glass on the ground. Then Jews were forced to wear badges on their sleeves and only live in areas called ghettoes. The homes and property of many were taken by the Nazis. Then, the Final Solution was devised in which they were herded onto trains and taken to concentration camps. Their heads were shaved, their clothing replaced by "striped pajamas," they were all but starved. And then they were gassed and either buried in mass graves or incinerated.

I told him the plot of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." Have you read the book or seen the movie? It's hard not to be deeply moved by the ending. I told him that not all Germans colluded in this Final Solution, notably Schindler in "Schindler's List." I also told him that in the USA during WWII there were concentration camps for Japanese-American citizens, one not far from my mother in Wyoming. Hubby told him that the British first came up with the idea of concentration camps during the Boer War.

I also told him how Israel came to be a nation in 1948, thus setting the scene for the conflicts that continue to this day between Jews and Palestinians. We touched on other holocausts as well, discussing Stalin's murder of millions of his own people. Most recently, in Bosnia, Muslims were rounded up and murdered en masse. We should not forget the Holocaust of WWII. We should not forget any Holocaust.

This was a lot of information for a 12-year-old boy, but I think he took most of it in. I suppose my first exposure to the Holocaust was reading "The Diary of Anne Frank." From there I read other books about the Holocaust. Some of it was school work, most of it was on my own volition.

I can't change the narrow-mindedness of my family, but I can have some influence still over my children and try to teach them that hating people because of their religion, race, or creed is wrong.


ChrisB said...

That was a great post, I feel so sad that there is so much distrust and hatred between people of different religious. Did you see this on the news

Retiredandcrazy said...

You only have to consider how hard it is to understand our own family members to realise how difficult it is for different cultures to get along together. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we did though!

darth sardonic said...

huzzah! good fucking on ya. i think it is hard, for one sitting in a warm classroom (my first reading of diary of anne frank) with a full belly and nothing more strenuous on my mind than what the drawing i was currently distracting myself with was going to be to fully grasp the weight of what had happened. after we finished the book we saw a silent movie called "night and fog" (i forgot the french title, but that is the english translation) with stills and film from what soldiers actually found when they came upon the concentration camps, and the tears started in my eyes, and the lump swelled in my throat, and i actually caught a glimpse of the magnitude of this atrocity. and since then, it has just been one new atrocity after another.

J said...

Excellent post. Good for you for taking that opportunity with your son.

In my experience, the schools that are lacking in education about the Holocaust are American schools, and specifically in the South. When I lived in NC I encountered young people (early 20s) who had no idea what I was talking about. That was scary. (Some areas of the south may be better about this area of history, and goodness, I hope so.)

It all does underscore that our children's education must come from home as well as school.

Fire Byrd said...

It is so important to keep history real. So people of integrity can fight injustice and brutality to others.

Flowerpot said...

Good for you wakeup - education at its best - from you as a parent.

laurie said...

another good book for them would be "the upstairs room," by johanna reiss. true story, told as a young adult novel, about two sisters who lived in a small upstairs room for three years, hiding from the nazis.

Trixie said...

I know in Germany, the children are made to visit concentration camps twice in their school life to remind them of their history, to not do it again. I visited on of them, it was the most eerie saddest places I've visited.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Chrisb: The link didn't work unfortunately.

retiredandcrazy: I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven if we did.

darthman: I remember "Night and Fog" too. Can't remember where I saw it though. I don't think my high school taught enough about the Holocaust. But atrocities have existed throughout history. Look what the Turks did to the Armenians?

j: You might have a point about that. I grew up in Florida, which doesn't have the best school system, but I went to private school. And we didn't learn that much about the Holocaust, though I did read Elie Wiesel's "Night" in a religion class. It was only when I went to college that I really started to learn about it.

firebyrd: I like what you say about people of integrity. Integrity is a quality that doesn't get enough press.

flowerpot: Thank you. I wish I knew more.

laurie: I will look for that book. I also remember reading about Corrie ten Boom (spelling?), who helped Jews in Holland.

trixie: Weirdly, I suppose, I want to visit one of them, perhaps to see how depraved and cruel humans can be.

Mean Mom said...

People can be so cruel to each other. It's hard for most of us to understand such brutality. I sobbed for hours after I saw the film 'The Diary of Anne Frank', on tv, so I decided that I shouldn't go to the cinema to see 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas'. I think I would just spoil the film for everyone else. I will catch up eventually, though, when it is shown on tv.

Sandrine said...

I reread the diary of Ann Franck this summer when I went to France with my two oldest (7 and 9) and tried to explain it to them.They had a really hard time to understand what happened.I told them that four members of our family went to a camp.Only one came back.My father and his siblings had to flee Paris in a truck with a false compartment and until his death still had nightmares about it.
I also saw "Nuit et Brouillard" and "La Shoa".When I was a teenager,I visited a former camp in Alsace with my dad.In my parents apartment,there was a book that had pictures of people in Aushwitz and when I was a kid, I opened it by accident.I still remember the picture until this day of this man sitting on a bunk bed with only skin on his bones and the loss of hope in his eyes.
Like you,I try to explain it to my kids and teach them tolerance.I hope that they in turn will pass it on.
Take care.

Expat mum said...

What I don't quite understand is why Muslims would be more offended by the Holocaust than anyone else?

(Very) Lost in France said...

I've had the same thing sent to me. I wish people would check them out before sending them on. We live close to a station where the French shipped the Jews off to the concentration camps and my son's school is named after an Italian resistant who was sent to Ravensbruck. She came into school a few months ago but didn't talk to the kids about her life. What a missed opportunity. VLiF

DJ Kirkby said...

Beautifully said. xo

DJ Kirkby said...

p.s. Trousers chose you as this week's wordless Wednesday winner on my Chez Aspie blog.