Too young for the Holocaust?

Lego artwork of Zbignew Libera Many tweets used dark humour to disagree with the new policy

Who is too young to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust? A new law in Israel means kindergarten children will be taught about the Nazi genocide for the first time, triggering an acerbic response on social media.

On Monday at 10am sirens blared out across Israel, as they do every year, marking the start of remembrance for those who perished in the holocaust. Each Holocaust Memorial Day, for two solemn minutes, businesses grind to a halt and motorists stop their cars on normally busy streets to silently stand by their vehicles and remember the dead. The day is undoubtedly sacrosanct but the way the holocaust is explained to Israeli children is changing. And the change is controversial. On Thursday the Ministry of Education announced that the holocaust, for the first time, would now be taught to five year olds at kindergarten.

In response, the hashtag "teaching Holocaust in kindergarten" began trending on Twitter. Most of the tweets opposed the new policy, often with pointed and black humour. One shocking tweet features a picture of a lego model from Polish artist Zbigniew Libera of what looks like skeletal figures marching towards some grey barracks. The caption reads: "Who likes Lego? Today we will be building a concentration camp". Another speaks of a bleak imagined dialogue in the classroom. "Teacher: Danny, what did you build using the cubes? Danny: It's a neighbourhood. Teacher: From now on it's a ghetto".

Beyond Twitter, Israeli parents are divided about the best way to teach children about the horrors of the past. Rona Avissar, a mother of two young children from Jerusalem, told BBC Trending that by the time they start school, children already have an idea of the horrors of World War Two. "Kids hear the memorial sirens like everyone else so it is no problem to explain," she says. "I told my son about it before he started school. It is not such a huge problem." But Rona's husband Rafi disagrees: "I think it will be better if it is taught at an older age," he says. "We can talk generally about the war but they are too young to hear about gas chambers!"

It is undoubtedly a sensitive subject but Dr Gila Matzliah Liberman at the Israeli Ministry of Education told BBC Trending that the policy was enacted in part because many children question their teachers about it. Israelis have nothing to fear, she says. "We are going to teach children the broad concepts of the holocaust, not, what we in Israel call the Nazi 'Industry of Death'. Mothers and father have no reason to be anxious about this new ruling."

Reporting by David Lewis and Emad Naseraldin

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  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Young children wouldn't understand it, so why tell them about it? The powers-that-be here go on about video nasties etc and the harm they can do to young minds - surely teaching about the Holocaust should come into the same category. To understand it properly you need a certain level of maturity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Will they also be teaching the children about Israels own form of ghettos and segregation towards the Palestinians ?

    Will this comment pass the mods ?

    Who knows .

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I find it interesting that as soon as anyone mentions teaching about the Holocaust, someone says 'but they will only mention the jews, not the gypsies, christians, disabled, etc.'. Really? Because I read the same article and I saw no mention of CONTENT, just the IDEA being discussed. If you're going to post anti-semitic or anti-israel stuff, could you at least keep your assumptions relevant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    The concept of right and wrong can be shared at a very early age.

    You don't have to tell them how hot ovens need to cremate bodies, nor how many calories it takes to sustain life but they need to know eventually that some people have been extremely nasty to some others in the human race and why it is unacceptable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I only hope that the children will learn who were the Nazis! Most of the camps were in Poland and some people (not educated) think it were the Polish ,,idea''. Well call it as it is : German Nazi Camps!

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The teaching of the Holocaust to children can only ever be an overview and nothing more. You could never teach the real truth of the horrors (dismemberment, vivisection, torture, soap making, violence, etc., ect) as it is too graphic for most decent adults let alone children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Should any education of the Holocaust include the hypocrisy of the West, who turned away Jewish refugees, sending them back to concentration and extermination camps where many perished?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    @1. Barko

    I think for you to claim that Israel has "hijacked" the subject of the Holocaust and is insensitive to others shows a contemptible lack of understanding.

    Yes, many other groups were targeted by the Nazis and there have been other horrific genocides throughout history, but SIX MILLION Jews - do you really get what that means to Jewish people?

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Considering it's all around them it needs explaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Children today could be forgiven for thinking that it was only Jews that died in the Second World War. What about the other 54 million people that died? The Jewish lobby has hijacked this conflict for their own ends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    This week I watched the documentary Defamation (2009, directed by Yoav Shamir) and was rather appalled by the misinformation Israeli children are given on escorted trips to Poland about the extent of anti-semitism. The holocaust is one subject that should definitely be taught, but let's do it because children have the right to know, not to terrify them or make them feel guilty or hateful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Children should not be too shielded from human wrongdoing.

    Hopefully they will then grow up determined not to repeat the horrors and mistakes of the past.

    I can remember from a fairly young age being taught that Hitler was evil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    The subject of war is vast and complex. Kindergarten children haven't the mental capacity to understand it. Children twice their age don't have that capacity. In fact many adults don't have that capacity as they have never lived through it. I don't think I do and I am over 50.

    Please let children have their innocence and be children. Don't make them adults before it is necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    It should be mandatory from the earliest possible age, and in this country for ALL children regardless of race, religion or creed - appropriately tailored for the very young and then expanded upon until the full story can be told to young teenagers as an example of just how cruel the human race can be to its fellow species.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    this is far better than allowing the holocaust deniers to gain traction.
    why can't this be taught in England?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Surely any age is not too young for some filtered education on the Holocaust. After all, babe in arms to centenarians were its victims so it is an inter-generational experience and topic. If we are warning infants "beware the bogeyman" offering sweets we must be able to advise them 'beware' the 'messengers of hate' no matter how extreme/absurd they may seem they too, tragically, have their aims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    When my daughter was 5, she came home from school in November asking for money to buy a poppy "To help a soldier" - that's an appropriate level of understanding. At 10, I showed her my grandfather's WW1 medals and explained a bit more about war. She cried. You don't load the evils done in the world on young children all at once, you tell them about them gradually.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Sad I think. The machinery of the industry continues to turn. Hopefully it will be taught without raising these kids to believe that the world owes them. Will they teach that the Jews killed the Messiah Jesus Christ and should forever be beholden to Christians? That would be equally sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Kindergarten (from the German, garden of children) exists in the modern world because many people cannot devote the time needed to young children as they need that job outside of the home if they are lucky enough to have one. Kindergarten as a caring spot not a given, nor the individual teacher (or parent) who often lacks ability to explain the horrors of the world. Can UN declare WRLDHLCSTDAY?


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