The Holocaust, racism, terrorist attacks – how to tell the child about these terrible events, whether details and how to remain honest. Says the columnist for The Washington Post, Jaime levy Pessin.
Photo: Oleg Afonin / flickr
I went into the shower and introduced the child who inhales the gas
When I was 9 years old, my teacher in the Jewish school told our class about the Holocaust. Kinky plump woman with dark red spot on his neck told us about the Jews locked in the ghetto and wagons for the transportation of livestock, the soldiers, sending families into the gas chambers and crematoria. I was sitting at a wooden table, everything was fuzzy from tears, my nose was red, and I tried to stifle the sobs.
That night in his bed among the dolls I couldn’t sleep. Mom stroked my back and kept a bright pink tape, which was played by one of my favorite magazines. But it didn’t help.
The plot is cute songs about teenagers, who began a secret affair, it seemed ominous. I imagined a family that runs as fast as you can, in an attempt to escape. Their hearts beating fast, and they are frantically whispering.
The next morning before school I went into the shower. We lived in a quiet suburb this house is in the end of the lane, double jointed dressing room, wood-panelled bathroom with covers from the New Yorker framed.
And still: I looked at the shower over me and shaking, presenting a child my age, who came to wash and instead inhales the gas. I didn’t go to school that day: my parents couldn’t convince me to shower.
Until that lesson in school I didn’t pay attention to the tattooed number on the arm of an elderly woman. Not listened to the stories of my grandfather, as he liberated a concentration camp in the us army. As just a few years after fleeing from Poland, he fed like skeletons the survivors of chocolates that my grandmother sent him in a parcel. The year before my brother and I saw painted a swastika on our synagogue, and 30 Windows at a religious school were broken. The fear of the parents not affected, we did not understand their worry. Now I understood what message was sent by the vandals.
To answer the questions and find the balance between honesty and what he wants to know
For many years I was wondering – is it normal was to tell about the Holocaust in the 1980s, or that I was unusually sensitive to such information. My son is 10 years old, and although he knows about the Second world war and the murder of millions of Jews, he was not aware of the details. And I don’t know if I should.
I turned to joy Sandler working in our school at that time to ask her to discuss the details of the Holocaust with the fourth graders was a deliberate act, possibly so that we can better understand the story?
It turns out that it is not.
Joy Chandler now works at the Center for development of Jewish education and a lot of time on this issue. During the preparation for the day of remembrance of the Holocaust they constitute instructions for teachers how to speak about the tragedy of students from different classes. But, as she explained, my teacher has deviated from the approved materials, perhaps because she was from Israel, where many survivors lived in camps.
The main rule: if you’re talking about the Holocaust, you should be specific.
The teacher of my children in elementary school once told me how to talk to kids about sex: give them a small piece of information one at a time. If they want more, they will ask if they will be enough, they will stop.
I applied his advice this summer when my son struck me, “What really happened on 11 September, Mama?” “Where were you when it happened? How many terrorists were there? How many people died? Why they chose our country? When will the next terrorist attack?”
I tried to answer his questions and to find the balance between honesty and what he wants to know. I told him about the passengers of the fourth plane, which seized control of the plane before he had to collapse on the Capitol.
About how I saw the incident live tower and thought that any city could be next. I told him about his cousin who died in the first tower. I didn’t know him, but me, my brother and sister danced at his wedding just a few years before.
“I wanted to see what happened to fix it”
This September my son went to high school and every day rides the bus with the teenagers, whose phone access to all the horrors of the world. I am more and more thinking about how to tell him: how personal should be a conversation about what is happening in the world and how it connects with our story?
If I was responsible for the destruction of his innocence by the story of the horrors of our world in the present and the past? Or is it enough to trust that he will know what to do with the information when you become old enough to hear it?
This spring, my son went with a friend and her son to the national civil rights Museum in Memphis, located in the Motel “Lorraine,” where he was killed Reverend Martin Luther king, Jr. On the balcony on the third floor still hanging the wreath; concrete, painted by his blood, has long been removed.
Via old-fashioned telephone handsets, we listened to the stories of survivors during the Jim crow (Jim crow laws – the informal name of the laws of racial segregation in the United States in the years 1890-1964).
As we approached the torn pictures of Emmett till (African-American teenager brutally murdered in 1955), I tried to divert his son, but he wanted to see.
The exhibition, which was dedicated to the three human rights defenders abducted and murdered in Mississippi, my friend, the granddaughter of a Belgian Jew who survived the Holocaust, turned to his son. She pointed to a black-and-white poster, which shows three pictures labeled “LOST.”
“I remember your grandfather told me about his friend Mickey from College? Michael Swerner. It was he.”
Perhaps now, when racists proudly marching across America, these personal details are important.
Maybe vivid images from the past help to create the “acute urgency of this moment,” once said Martin Luther king – a tangible connection with morality that our children understand the abstract.
A few months later I asked his son why he decided to look at the photo of Emmett till. He told me that he felt my desire to protect him from viewing this photo, that’s why he moved away from me and kept close to the guide. “I wanted to be brave, he said. – I wanted to see what happened, to be able to fix it.”