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dbsam
03-12-2014, 01:46 AM
At what age did you take your children to a Holocaust Museum?

My children are supposed to attend with a mixed-age group (9-14). My husband and I want them to learn about the Holocaust and we realize it’s impossible not to get upset while learning about it. But, we are concerned the images and stories at the museum may be too troubling for their age. (They have some knowledge of the Nazi occupation from books and plays.)

We have decided to keep them home from the trip and take them when they are older. We have been accused of sheltering them in the past...so I start to doubt myself. It is difficult for me to handle many things so I cannot imagine how they can deal with it. Our children are 9yo. My son is very sensitive and gets upset easily. Both children dwell on things and have anxiety issues. Even though we think the teacher who is planning the trip is great, we would prefer they go to the museum with us when they are older.

Are we over-reacting? Is this something to which most 9yo's would be exposed?
TIA

murphs_mom
03-12-2014, 02:06 AM
I think a lot depends on the sensitivity of the child more so than the age. KWIM? If you've got super-sensitive kids who'd be deeply upset by the images and stories, then it may be better to wait until they're older.

We were reading a book that had Wernher von Braun in it and some of the other characters were upset by his role in WWII Germany. DD was 6yo at the time and she didn't understand why he was such a controversial character, so we had to have a WWII/Holocaust discussion. She wasn't happy with him at all by the time we were done with the discussion. Because I was able to control the amount of information and the way in which it was delivered, we had a pretty honest (but carefully phrased) discussion about what happened in the concentration camps, who was affected, and what happened to them. It was an auditory experience and, for DD, it made it MUCH easier for her to deal with. I don't think she would have been able to handle a scenario that involved visuals. It would have been too much back then. Now, she 'might' be able to handle it, but I think I'd ease her into it by reading through some kids' books on the topic before going to the museum. Afterward, I'd ask her if she was interested in learning more by going to the museum. If she said yes, we'd go. If she said no, we'd skip it.

When I was living in NY, I went to an exhibit that consisted of huge (2'x3') portraits of Holocaust survivors w/their prisoner #'s and next to each portrait was their written story and there was an audio recording of their story in their own voice. I had a hard enough time just reading the stories. I knew I couldn't deal with listening to the audio stories...their voices would have been too much for me. Perhaps your children would know what to examine and what to avoid, too? Have they expressed any feelings about going?

dbsam
03-12-2014, 02:32 AM
ugh...I typed a response and it disappeared.

Murphs_mom,
Thank you.
I agree with you that the personality of the child is more important than the age. I wasn't sure any 9yo would be equipped to handle the horrors.



Perhaps your children would know what to examine and what to avoid, too? Have they expressed any feelings about going?
I do not think they would know what to avoid.
They want to go but I think it is for the wrong reasons. They want to go because the other children in the group are going. I do not think they are knowledgeable enough about the Holocaust. It w/b better for them to go when they have learned more so they are better prepared and the experience will be more meaningful.

murphs_mom
03-12-2014, 02:43 AM
Hmm, can you do a quick cram for before the trip so they know more about what 'might' be in the museum AND/OR could you go on the trip with them?

FWIW, I hate disappearing answers, too. Happens. All. The. Time.

dbsam
03-12-2014, 03:03 AM
Hmm, can you do a quick cram for before the trip so they know more about what 'might' be in the museum AND/OR could you go on the trip with them?


They have a lot to learn about the subject - not sure I can cram in time. My children's knowledge of WWII and the Nazis is very minimal. e.g. My son is currently reading ‘Milkweed’ for book club and they have seen the play ‘Number the Stars’. The students at the teacher's house include children who are JW so my children have heard about the purple triangles. They also learned about Anne Frank last year. We were planning to start 'The Boy on the Wooden Box' this week. That's about the extent of their knowledge.

I am going to talk with the teacher tomorrow about the details. They go to her house 1-2x's/week. The group is run in a democratic manner and today, at the weekly meeting, was the first my children heard of the trip to the museum.

hockeymom
03-12-2014, 07:41 AM
When I was 9 I went to the house where Anne Frank and her family hid out during the occupation in Amsterdam. I had already read her diary several times and knew the situation well, but to say it was powerful and emotional would be a huge understatement. My mother grew up in Germany during and after the war, and although our family isn't Jewish, a cousin of hers was and spent time in a concentration camp. My grandfather was forced to work in the German army, though I have been given no further details. Images of the Holocaust have lived inside me my entire life.

You know your son best and whether he can handle it or not. I think 9 does seem young--images and voices and the uncensored truth would be tough for anyone to handle, I'd think, never mind a sensitive child. I don't think I could make it through now, myself.

I wouldn't worry that keeping your kids from going would be sheltering them. The emotional health of your kids is your responsibility and if you think it's too much, go with your instinct.

farrarwilliams
03-12-2014, 09:50 AM
Can you just do the children's exhibit? Or maybe let the kids self-select into two groups for the children's and main exhibits? We're studying WWII right now and we're planning to go within the next few weeks and that's my plan for my 9 yos. I haven't been in so long, but I remember the children's exhibit was informative and sad, but not as traumatic as the main holocaust exhibit. Also, I happen to have just checked and you don't need passes for it like with the main exhibit.

I do feel like the holocaust is something that most children can and should be exposed to... I think much of the study of history is filled with evils, and while this one is particularly gruesome and horrible, it's something I want my kids to know about... It's more that the details come at different ages.

Teri
03-12-2014, 10:35 AM
I definitely would not send a kid who had not been exposed to the events. We studied WWII a few years ago and I decided they weren't ready to go to the museum yet. This year, we are studying it again and I think they are definitely ready. They are 11, 12 and 13.

dbsam
03-12-2014, 02:17 PM
I definitely would not send a kid who had not been exposed to the events. We studied WWII a few years ago and I decided they weren't ready to go to the museum yet. This year, we are studying it again and I think they are definitely ready. They are 11, 12 and 13.

I agree. I decided their lack of knowledge about the events is even more of a reason to not send them than their age and sensitivity.

Avalon
03-13-2014, 12:15 AM
Well, I was 12 years old before I had even HEARD of the Holocaust. It was the 40-year anniversary of the end of WWII (now you know how old I am), and there was a big section on it in the newspaper. I read the whole thing and I was absolutely SHOCKED and horrified. I didn't know a thing about it until I read the paper that day. It was very upsetting, and that was just a newspaper article, let alone a museum trip.

Personally, if I had a sensitive 9yo, I would totally opt out of that field trip and save it for when he/she was 12 or 14.

ejsmom
03-13-2014, 12:32 AM
I have a very sensitive almost 11 year old, who struggles with anxiety, and I know he'd be unable to process the images he'd see at the museum. He's very mature in some ways - deep, and thoughtful, and wants to know everything and all the details when he gets into something. Yet, in other ways, emotionally, he's much younger and sort of innocent. He has a really hard time understanding when people hate and hurt others. He understands that out of carelessness or thoughtlessness he sometimes says something a bit not nice, without thinking how it sounds, or if he loses his temper, but from hate and on purpose? He just can't come to grips. He has learned a lot about history and understands that people have done horrible things (often in the name of their God(s) and/or religion). But the gruesome details are too much for him, sometimes. He's been in therapy for years and years for some anxiety and PTSD type issues due to medical trauma when he was quite young. So for us, this would be a no brainer to skip for now. When he is older and we have talked about it in more detail, then we'll see.

I remember watching a film about the Holocaust in high school. I may have 15 or 16 and was just horrified and terribly disturbed by those images. Which, any sane, reasonably caring human being SHOULD be. Yet I could process it without becoming traumatized. I think it is just a matter of determining when your particular kids will be able to handle that.

dbsam
03-13-2014, 12:41 AM
Well, I was 12 years old before I had even HEARD of the Holocaust. It was the 40-year anniversary of the end of WWII (now you know how old I am), and there was a big section on it in the newspaper. I read the whole thing and I was absolutely SHOCKED and horrified. I didn't know a thing about it until I read the paper that day. It was very upsetting, and that was just a newspaper article, let alone a museum trip.

Personally, if I had a sensitive 9yo, I would totally opt out of that field trip and save it for when he/she was 12 or 14.

We are keeping them home.
I spoke with the teacher today. She is planning to discus WWII and the Holocaust with the students between now and the trip in May. I explained my concerns about the museum and she did not agree - she thought 9yo was old enough. I really like and trust this teacher, we just do not agree on this. She has the following planned - Eva Kor, a holocaust survivor who as a twin was subjected to human experimentation under Josef Mengele, will give the children a 1-2 hour talk. Afterwards, they will tour the museum - it is a small museum - and she will answer questions. I spoke with a friend who heard Ms. Kor speak several times when she came to our area to speak to the PS. My friend said she believes the talk is too much for any 9yo and knowing my children she really thinks it would be too much for them to handle. My children, who are twins, recently heard that the Nazi's did experiments on twins. They did not know the details but asked if that could happen again. My friend who heard Ms. Kor speak said she goes into detail of the horrors she endured through the experiments.

My children will be hearing about the upcoming trip at their weekly meetings and when they are with the teacher's group. Really, they are more upset about missing the other parts of the trip - stopping at state parks to hike on the way down and back. They are not mature enough or informed enough to go. My children at age nine are the youngest of the group. There are two ten year olds; I have a feeling they will not be going either. I think it will be a great learning experience for the older children and a wonderful opportunity to hear Eva Kor speak.

Thanks for all the responses.

dbsam
03-13-2014, 12:47 AM
I have a very sensitive almost 11 year old, who struggles with anxiety, and I know he'd be unable to process the images he'd see at the museum. He's very mature in some ways - deep, and thoughtful, and wants to know everything and all the details when he gets into something. Yet, in other ways, emotionally, he's much younger and sort of innocent. He has a really hard time understanding when people hate and hurt others.

You have just described my children.
I know them best; not sure why I doubted myself when we first decided to keep them home from the museum visit.

Jeni
03-13-2014, 02:27 AM
I agree with you, it's probably not appropriate for most 9 year olds, but what a fascinating experience from an adult perspective. I would love to go, you folks that live close enough are awfully lucky to have that kind of resource. My grandpa was a WWII historian, went to South America to interview former Nazis for his books. I remember sitting with him in his basement and looking at all the pictures and notes and listening to his stories. I don't remember how old I was when I learned about the Holocaust in graphic detail, but I think I was in late middle/early high school. I remember watching Schindler's List when in aired on TV uninterrupted, so I was like 15 maybe. I read my grandpa's book around that time too.

Starkspack
03-13-2014, 08:03 AM
I'm going to vote in the camp of sheltering. I totally agree that kids should learn about the evils of history, including the Holocaust. However, I don't think it needs to happen in detail until at least the teen years. I see no reason why we can't teach the overview when we hit that part of history in the first round (elementary), then go more in-depth the next two times we hit it. (I'm referring to the popular 4 year cycle of history that is repeated 3 times.)

As a 19 year old, I was living in Germany and went to visit Dachau, and I can't really say I ever recovered from it. Do I think I would shelter my DD from EVER knowing about this? Heck no. But would I want to shelter her for as long as possible - absolutely. We have talked from time to time about there being bad or evil people in the world, and/or that sometimes people do really bad things to other people/animals/the environment. But I really steer away from specifics at her young age.

Lastly, I think you just need to follow your own gut instinct. If you think it is not appropriate for YOUR kids, don't do it. Others might have kids ready for it. Good luck!

sells_kate
03-13-2014, 08:17 AM
I would love to go as an adult, but I completely agree with you not sending the kids. My mom kept me pretty sheltered, and I do the same with my kids. You know best! Don't worry about what other people say. You're obviously doing great job with your kids, as we can all see here.

Something you could do while the others are on the trip- just dive gently into a small portion of the holocaust. You know what they are capable of handling. As they get older you can add in more detail and they will be ready to visit the museum without it being a complete shock.

hockeymom
03-13-2014, 09:04 AM
Well, I was 12 years old before I had even HEARD of the Holocaust. It was the 40-year anniversary of the end of WWII (now you know how old I am), and there was a big section on it in the newspaper. I read the whole thing and I was absolutely SHOCKED and horrified. I didn't know a thing about it until I read the paper that day. It was very upsetting, and that was just a newspaper article, let alone a museum trip.

Personally, if I had a sensitive 9yo, I would totally opt out of that field trip and save it for when he/she was 12 or 14.

Even though my mother grew up in Germany during the war and came of age in its aftermath, she learned more about it after she moved to America in her early twenties. They didn't teach it in the schools, history just stopped at a certain safe point and then started the cycle again (classical schooling). I cannot imagine her horror when she discovered truths about her country as a young woman, and all that was kept from her. An entire generation--her parents--simply didn't talk about it all.

Some years ago DH and I found ourselves in a small historical museum in a tiny village in northern Ialy. We were fascinated by the medieval history and the changing of hands the area had experienced up until quite recently. And while the second world war was mentioned (how could it not be?), there was zero mention of Italy's role in it. It was a glaring and jarring omission, obviously intentional and very striking.

Surely no country is exempt from withholding information from its citizens, but sometimes it's amazing how easily they can do so.

Gummers
03-13-2014, 09:58 AM
Well, you know your children best so go with your gut. I don't see the big deal with just going later if you have the opportunity.

I learnt about the holocaust early - I don't remember ever not knowing about it. I grew up on a military base in Germany. I don't recall seeing graphic images though until I was in grade 9 and in Canada. I don't know if that's because I had never seen them or if I had and it just didn't phase me enough to remember. I recall going to many different war museums as a child - I wasn't disturbed, mostly bored.

pdpele
03-13-2014, 12:29 PM
Hi Dbsam - Interesting thread here. I've got DS 6.5 so no real kid experience with this. But a couple of thoughts.
I am sure you know your kids best - so I am not in any way questioning your decision. The twin issue and experimentation just adds to this!

But I am not sure I agree that 9 is too young to learn about this and other horrible parts of history.
I think it's one thing to learn about it from media that is not so visual - discussions, books, etc. Another to go to a museum with a live person talking and lots of powerful visuals. In public, if their reaction is emotional, that would be even harder.

My first 'experience' of the Holocaust was class discussions, Diary of Anne Frank and then Anne Frank Remembered - I was in 4th grade so 9 - 10. Heard a survivor talk in 6th grade. I think the impact would have been much more difficult to deal with if the media was more impactful.

But I wouldn't keep your kids from learning about the Holocaust now - at the class or at home. Just in ways that respect their limits.
And I think we need to think about what exactly we are hoping to accomplish by delaying kids' learning about emotionally difficult topics. Just avoiding the pain? Might be important, especially with sensitive kids. But surely we also want to send our kids the message that they can handle themselves and the world? And help them learn how.
Of course, thinking clearly about what we'd like to accomplish about telling them about the Holocaust and other things like it and at what level of detail and how seems important too.

Teri
03-13-2014, 01:56 PM
From my perspective, when we didn't go to the Dallas Holocaust museum a few years ago, it wasn't because they didn't know about it. We had studied WWII, they KNEW about what happened to Jewish people and other groups that didn't fall into Hitler's favor, it was the graphic images that I was concerned about. And, it wasn't necessarily that I thought they would be scarred forever. I wanted to make sure that when they did see it, they would be old enough to understand and be respectful of the situation. At 7, 8 and 9, I don't think they could grasp it at that level.
They had read Number the Stars, seen the made for tv movie based on that story and watched the documentary "Paperclips". All of those dealt with the Holocaust in a kid appropriate way, without graphic imagery.
Slavery was handled much the same way that year.

Now, however, they are much better prepared to handle the imagery associated with the time period.

banjobaby
03-13-2014, 04:29 PM
I would not bring a kid who had no exposure to the topic, but with a Jewish husband, my kids heard stories about the Holocaust and the Pogroms before they weaned. On the other hand, even though there was a Holocaust museum walking distance from my children's doctor, we never went. Even the children's section at the Holocaust Museum targets tweens more than my kids, which to me suggests how inappropriate the general museum would be for my kids. I think there's an appropriate way at pretty much any age to talk about the Holocaust, but most Holocaust museums are not really directed at children.

farrarwilliams
03-13-2014, 05:03 PM
When I answered, I stupidly thought only of the big museum here. I don't think I even realized there were so many Holocaust museums - plural - all over the place. Are they really that common and accessible? That's actually really cool, I just didn't know.

The big museum here in DC has an exhibit that's interactive that's about a single child (IIRC, he was a real child) and is designed specifically for children - supposedly with lots of input from child psychologists. It's not a cheery story with a happy ending, obviously, but there aren't really disturbing images as part of the exhibit. While taking a child as a first introduction might be too much, it's really fine for all but super sensitive 8 or 9 yos with minimal context - as in, after a lesson or two about the war and the Holocaust, though obviously, as with all things more context is better. It sounds like exhibits like that are not part of the set up of most Holocaust museums, which is too bad.

rebekahmay
03-27-2014, 03:21 PM
At what age did you take your children to a Holocaust Museum?

My children are supposed to attend with a mixed-age group (9-14). My husband and I want them to learn about the Holocaust and we realize itís impossible not to get upset while learning about it. But, we are concerned the images and stories at the museum may be too troubling for their age. (They have some knowledge of the Nazi occupation from books and plays.)

We have decided to keep them home from the trip and take them when they are older. We have been accused of sheltering them in the past...so I start to doubt myself. It is difficult for me to handle many things so I cannot imagine how they can deal with it. Our children are 9yo. My son is very sensitive and gets upset easily. Both children dwell on things and have anxiety issues. Even though we think the teacher who is planning the trip is great, we would prefer they go to the museum with us when they are older.

Are we over-reacting? Is this something to which most 9yo's would be exposed?
TIA

Hi! I've just joined this forum but I came across this and thought I'd throw in my 2 cents. When I was in 5th grade we focused a LOT of the holocaust, which is of course very important, but there was a lot of stuff that was too much for me. I am a very sensitive person and my mom (also a teacher at the school) wouldn't even let me attend the museum trip that everyone was going to because she knows its too much for a young sensitive child. I still think I'm rather deeply scarred by all of the stuff they taught us in 5th grade. It's of course important for people to know the horrors of the holocaust, but I remember talking about all of the torture and science experiments and that hitlers wife made a lamp out of jewish children's skins and stuff that still haunts me.

I think easing into it as they get older

dbsam
03-28-2014, 12:39 PM
Hi! I've just joined this forum but I came across this and thought I'd throw in my 2 cents. When I was in 5th grade we focused a LOT of the holocaust, which is of course very important, but there was a lot of stuff that was too much for me. I am a very sensitive person and my mom (also a teacher at the school) wouldn't even let me attend the museum trip that everyone was going to because she knows its too much for a young sensitive child. I still think I'm rather deeply scarred by all of the stuff they taught us in 5th grade. It's of course important for people to know the horrors of the holocaust, but I remember talking about all of the torture and science experiments and that hitlers wife made a lamp out of jewish children's skins and stuff that still haunts me.

I think easing into it as they get older

Thank you for sharing your experience.

As they learn more about the Holocaust, I think they are relieved they are not going. They are having a difficult time with some of the things they've heard and other things are too close to home. This particular museum focuses on the twin experiments and the ways children were affected - my children are twins. They also learned that children with medical issues, like epilepsy and cerebral palsy, were killed. My children have several medical conditions including CP and epilepsy. They are already worriers and I do not need them worried about this at their age.

farrarwilliams
03-28-2014, 01:34 PM
We actually just went to the children's exhibit here yesterday. It was so gentle in relation to the topic... It basically breaks off after the ghetto and just tells you that the conglomerate child you're follow lived but his mother and sister died. But I was glad we went and glad we skipped the main museum.

crunchynerd
03-29-2014, 11:47 AM
I was also traumatized by a lot of stuff they exposed us to, in school, that really should have waited until high school. They even showed us "The Color Purple" in 8th grade! Seriously.
We read the diary of Anne Frank in 8th grade also, and any earlier would have been way too much for me, even though (perhaps in part because?) I had been exposed to violence and bad things in life from an early age.

I often felt traumatized by the graphic, horrible things they exposed us to in school, with their assumptions kids these days have no innocence left to protect, or that the protection of innocence is some antiquated notion with no current relevance. I think the repercussions for not protecting innocence are being seen all around us. True, life sometimes rips innocence from our children, but that is always a tragedy, not something to be normalized or accepted. Children's innocence is not protected in warzones, but that doesn't mean that we should all seek to raise our kids as if in a warzone. The harm done to kids who are, is well studied, and another great tragedy.

I'm leaving subjects like torture, psychopathology, cannibalism, infanticide, genocide, and details about the atrocities of war, until my kids are over 13 at least, and probably closer to adult, for some of it.

But it's also really hard to decide how to go forward with history learning: do you skip the ugly stuff til later, and risk the kids feeling a bit lied to, that things weren't nearly as rosy as they were taught at first? My thought is that natural history and the bare basics of the formation of nations from kingdoms, is enough for now, and that detailed looks at politics, the seedy underbelly of greed, Machiavellian reasoning applied wholescale to the Western Expansion including justifying genocide, and things like that, are best left until my kids are teens, and can also study the great philosophers, and will be wrestling themselves with existential questions on a more adult footing.

I don't want them growing up ignorant of the true nature of the evil of groups, of why basically decent people can and most often will engage or be party to hideous acts that, on their own, they would not be willing to consider. It's really vital that this coming generation truly grasp the nature of persuasion, of mob psychology, of branding, of political influence and motives that translate so easily into horrors, and how governments and individuals rationalize, to enable such great evil to take place.

But that kind of deep philosophical and historical examination can wait until they are old enough to truly delve into it, and access all the philosophical arguments dealing with the nature of evil and good, of whether the ends justify the means, and so on. And that will likely be no sooner than their teens.

alegre
03-29-2014, 07:03 PM
Such a hard question... We have a relevant family history, albeit with a different genocide, so we've had to deal with this WAY before we might have otherwise.

I think it's important for children to learn about the painstaking (and often successful) efforts that have gone into ensuring that justice be done for these heinous crimes. Not that it takes away from the horror of the crimes, but knowing about and participating in the pursuit of justice can help children (and adults) process the past and find hope and healing.

It's also important to point out that even in the midst of terrible crimes, there were always people who helped others to escape and survive.

Misha
03-30-2014, 12:01 AM
I asked my husband about this and his opinion, like mine, is that it may be a bit too rough for a nine year old, especially a sensitive child.

I don't have much else to write, because I feel so strongly about this topic. I understand that probably doesn't make much sense, but the atrocities of persecution is something that I can go on and on railing against. It's best not to get me started.


I will add this - besides 'The Diary of Anne Frank', another story, 'Maus' by Art Spiegelman (http://www.amazon.com/Maus-Survivors-Tale-Art-Spiegelman/dp/0141014083), in the form of graphic novel, is more suitable toward older teens. It won a Pulitzer and is beautiful while being an incredibly painful read.

Teri
04-18-2014, 11:36 AM
I wanted to come back and update this thread.
We got to the Holocaust again in history and went to the Dallas Holocaust Museum yesterday. My kids were well prepared. They visited the National Holocaust Museum's website and looked at some of the exhibits online, they had some assigned reading to do, we watched Escape from Sobibor. This is in addition to what we did a few years ago, including reading Number the Stars (and watching the movie), watching Anne Frank and the documentary Paperclips and the assigned reading for that level.
They were very respectful and attentive to the exhibit. It could not have gone better. They are 11, 12 and 13.

However, the first thing you are told when you walk into the museum is that the curators recommend it for 12 and up, but they leave it up to the parents.

OreMom
04-26-2014, 04:11 AM
You know your children best, go with what you think is right for them.