I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 11 years old. I knew that she died but, until I read the book, I hadn’t understood the gravity and tragedy of her death. As I read about this young girl I recall hoping with all my might that there was a different ending. Of course there wasn’t, and the shock of the brutality and callousness of humans really hit me at that point. Up until then you could say I lived in blissful ignorance.
Is there a good time to talk about the Holocaust with children? I don’t know. When is mass murder going to be easy? As a mother I want to protect my children from the cruelties of the world. But as a parent and educator I want to teach my children about acceptance, kindness, and humanity and sometimes we learn that through seeing evil and the impact and harsh reality of these deeds.
Perhaps Hédi Fried encapsulates the need to teach children perfectly in her book ‘Questions I Am Asked About the Holocaust’:
One of the lessons from the Holocaust is this..if knowledge only addresses the mind, it is easily forgotten. It must also reach the heart, where it can awaken emotional learning.’
Books provide children and young adults with a wonderful conduit to emphasise and understand others. When you feel it is right for your child to learn about this time then here are a few book suggestions:
Questions I am Asked About the Holocaust, Hédi Fried
Hédi Fried was nineteen when the Nazis snatched her family from their home in Eastern Europe and transported them to Auschwitz, where her parents were murdered and she and her sister were forced into hard labour until the end of the war. Now 94, she has spent her life educating young people about the Holocaust and answering their questions about one of the darkest periods in human history. With sensitivity and complete candour Hédi provides the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Questions like; ‘How was it to live in the camps?’, ‘Why did Hitler hate the Jews?’, and ‘Can you forgive?’.
An astonishing book that is new in January 2019 and an incredible opportunity to read the realities of Auschwitz from a survivor. I urge you to find this book and would guide it for 13+ readers. This book is non-fiction and perhaps therefore all the more moving.
Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
“They plan to arrest all the Danish Jews. They plan to take them away. And we have been told that they may come tonight.”
In wartime Copenhagen the world is suddenly a scary place for 10-year-old Annemarie. There are food shortages and curfews, and soldiers on every corner.
But it is even worse for her Jewish best friend, Ellen, as the Nazis continue their brutal campaign. With Ellen’s life in danger, Annemarie must summon all her courage to help stage a daring escape.
Inspired by true events of the Second World War, this gripping novel brings the past vividly to life for today’s readers. Stories like these remind us of that time and the people that died. But they also show us that alongside those who suffered were a great many brave heroes who confronted their fears and the brutality of others. An excellent read for 9+ readers.
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
The Book Thief is a touching and poignant book about a young German girl’s experience in the second world war as narrated by death, an unbiased and completely candid observer. Liesel, the protagonist is living with her foster family after her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. We see a story of courage battling fear and hope battling pain as the bombs begin to fall all around Liesel and change her life forever. A superb choice for 12+ readers
The Earth is Singing, Vanessa Curtis
When the Nazis arrive in Latvia in 1941, 15-year-old Hanna Michelson’s life is about to change forever, because she is a Jew. As Hanna’s life slowly changes around her, first from being banned from certain places, then as her boyfriend slowly becomes more and more distant, the horrors of being a Jew in the Holocaust slowly unfold in front of us in a way that haunts you long after you finish the book. Suitable for 12+ readers