Talking to Your Kids About the Holocaust

Monday, April 20, 2020


This year Yom Hashoah comes at a time when most of us are at home, obeying shelter-in-place orders with our children. While discussing the Holocaust with your children can seem a little daunting, especially during all the uncertainty we are currently facing, it is still incredibly important to take this time to remember and perhaps impart some related life lessons. Many do not consider themselves historically literate enough to do it justice and, therefore, do not even broach the topic. While understanding the history is certainly important, there are other pieces of the genocide puzzle that are much easier to teach from home and can increase your child(ren)’s empathy and cultural awareness.  


Below you will find resource recommendations that are from Holocaust education organizations or based off their teaching methodology and organized by grade ranges. While these resources are mostly meant for educators, they are extremely accessible and can easily be adapted for your needs. 


First Through Fifth Grade 

Even though your child(ren) might be too young to learn about the Holocaust as a historical event, they already understand behaviors and attitudes that laid the groundwork. Depending upon the age of your child(ren), antisemitism and racism might be too complex, but bullying and stereotyping are all too familiar themes found in their daily lives. Framing the discussion in this manner lends to an exchange of why people choose to put down others based on a specific characteristic, as well as how your own child(ren) can become an upstander in the face of bigotry. There are two resources that provide excellent information for both the parent and child(ren): Stop Bullying and Bullying. No Way! Each provide background on bullying, outlines roles that both parent and child play, and offers activities for your child(ren). 


Sixth Through Twelfth Grade 

The above listed age range might seem too broad, but the discussion themes can be understood by all ages in this group and modified depending upon maturity. While you can certainly begin to delve into the history a little bit with this age group, creating a better understanding of antisemitism, us versus them, and the universe of obligation is just as important. Biases, antisemitism, racism and us versus them mentality created a foundation for the Holocaust years before the mass killing of Jews and others deemed “undesirable” even began. The Anti-Defamation League offers incredible resources for educators and parents on the topics of antisemitism, racism (middle school) and biases (high school), which includes the Pyramid of HateFacing History and Ourselves offers exceptional resources taken from their Holocaust and Human Behavior curriculum. While they offer an entire unit on the topic of us versus them, you can easily choose which sub-topic you wish to discuss with your child(ren) depending upon interest and maturity level.  The discussion of us versus them directly links to the universe of obligation (those we deem to be in our personal “in” and “out” groups), as well as how to expand that universe.  


Hopefully you and your family find these resources to be helpful in discussing the Holocaust with your child(ren); however, I would challenge you to continue to utilize these resources and have these conversations throughout the year. Raising more empathetic and culturally aware upstanders takes more than a single conversation. 


 Posted originally from Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis