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After discovering this outrageously inappropriate Anne Frank dot-to-dot puzzle and a full kids’ activity page of Holocaust word searches and games, I sent the link to a few respected educational institutions for their perspective.
As I mentioned in my post, “Holocaust Education is NOT Supposed to Be Fun,” if you have to make Holocaust lessons entertaining for children, maybe they just aren’t ready to handle the subject.
So what age is the best age to start teaching the Shoah? A couple of experts weigh in below:
ANTONY POLONSKY, Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University:
“I am not in favour of this material being given to primary school children, so I think it should probably be in secondary school. The general context is also necessary. I have found Americans (not only children) woefully ignorant of the elementary facts of European history.”
“At Brandeis, a student said to me after a lecture, ‘You were talking about the Second World War; when was the First World War?’”
NELLY SILAGY BENEDEK, Director of Education, The Jewish Museum (New York):
“From my experience, the best age to introduce students to the topic of the Holocaust is in high school. Even then, I wouldn’t expose them to the most graphic images. The Holocaust is a topic for mature audiences, and teachers should tread cautiously.”
“On the other hand, it is important for the Holocaust to be part of a study of 20th century world history. There are ways of talking about World War II to elementary and middle school students without speaking about the particulars of the Holocaust and emphasizing its graphic and disturbing events. For example, fifth grade students might learn about the how Jews were forced to flee Europe and about immigration to the United States during that time. They can learn about the challenges and hardships Jews faced as immigrants.”
YAEL WEINSTOCK, International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem (Israel):
“These are fascinating images that you bring to your blog. While I cannot speak from a personal perspective, as I represent Yad Vashem, I appreciate your engaging with such materials and questioning their use in the classroom and with young children.”
“As for educational suggestions, I can share with you the very well thought-out approach that Yad Vashem takes. We feel that outside of Israel (where the Holocaust is present starting at a very young age just by growing up in a Jewish country), children should not begin learning about the Holocaust until about 3rd or 4th grade.”
“Yad Vashem has published three books that are brilliantly written to introduce the topic of the Holocaust without difficult photographs or too much information at once. The first is called “I Wanted to Fly Like a Butterfly” and tells the personal story of a Holocaust survivor, but in a way that a child could understand. We do not believe in lying or making up parts of the story. Tell the truth, but perhaps not the entire truth when the child is young. It is a spiralic approach, so that with each year, a student is introduced to more and more about the subject.”
MICHAL STERNIN, International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem (Israel):
“First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to your dedication to the subject of Holocaust education. Thank you for drawing our attention to the children’s activities.”
“The most important thing to understand is that learning about the Holocaust should take place in a frame of an educational process. The educators should be constantly focused on the value of the activity they construct for the children and ask themselves what exactly is being achieved by performing each and every task they give.”
“The materials presented to children should be appropriate to their mental and cognitive skills. We think that the subject can be taught to younger children, and in our site, you can find ideas of how to do that.”
Here are some links to lesson plans:
“Until Then, I Had Only Read About These Things in Books” (Grades 5-6)
“I Wanted to Fly Like a Butterfly” (Grades 3-5)
“Thanks again for approaching us, we would be happy to continue the dialogue with you.”