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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  • Comment number 42.

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

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    Comment number 41.

    25 Swerdna

    True...I don't think that it's an anti-semitic comment to gently remind people that the murdered also included millions of Roma, Russian POWs, resistance fighters, forced labourers, homosexuals, the disabled, the mentally ill etc.

    People getting into competitions over suffering, especially when they were not even born at the time, seems to so completely miss the point!

  • Comment number 40.

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    Comment number 39.

    I would hope the children would also be taught that the Holocaust came about because some people thought they were better than other people and so the other people were lesser people. In some countries children are still taught this. I'm a better colour than you, or my god is better than your god so you're a lesser person, this is the creed of many around the world, it seems we never learn.

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    Comment number 38.

    @Barko I am a queer, disabled woman, raised as a Christian. I am also the descendant of German Jews, as well as Jewish people from other nations.
    Rather than accusing any group of hijacking the whole Holocaust issue, and risking undermining the positive messages they produce, I wish people would acknowledge the truth in what has been said and add a gentle reminder to not forget the others who died

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    The Holocaust is of course a terrible part of Jewish history, But 67 million other people died during WW2 and the span of the Holocaust. And it is not a part of Israel's history, The Holocaust should of course be part of history lessons but as part of the history of the time. A great deal of the middle eastern problems are due to all sides in the regions inability to see history for what it is.

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    Comment number 36.

    All genocides are holocausts to the victims. If you do not teach the Jewish holocaust within the context of mans inhumanity to man, then you must explain why the victims were targeted? IMO this is a very dangerous road to take, because you could begin to justify it based upon some inherent quality of the victim that separates them. And there is no such defining factor for any peoples. We are one.

  • Comment number 35.

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    Comment number 34.

    Are Primary School children too young to be taught about paedophilia too? Some would say yes but we all know the term 'stranger danger' and such-like from a very young age! It's about educating children in small steps that they can take in, rather than a sudden bombardment of scary information as soon as they reach secondary school. We live in a harsh world and children need preparation for this.

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    Comment number 33.

    I remember my mother telling me when I was very young - perhaps around 7 - that my grandmother had been gassed in a concentration camp. (Since new information has become available, I now know she was transported to the Kalevi-Liiva killing fields in Estonia and shot.) At the time I was surprised rather than shocked. I think I was too young to understand the horror of what had happened to her.

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    Comment number 32.

    Anti Semitism is still ingrained into parts of our culture.

    Christians at school and church are often taught about the, reforming Martin Luther - I remember that he was one of the greats of history.

    But this same man dripped Anti Semitism; his writings were horrific.

    While we still wont admit the Anti Semitism in our own culture, we need the Holocaust to remind us how destructive we can be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The Holocaust was a uniquely savage and horrific act by the standards of any generation.
    I disagree that it was unique, sadly, genocide seems ubiquitous throughout history.

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    Comment number 30.

    What is not mentioned about the "Holocaust" is that it would have continued far beyond jews/Gypsies, disabled & the numerous other demographic victims.

    Even those in Britain who supported nazis would have eventually been victims of their own stupidity & ignorance because they were not of Germanic bloodlines so only had limited usefulness until the master race had bred enough to replace them

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    Comment number 29.

    Not a problem provided they do not go into loads of detail and do not use it to brainwash the young about the Jewish faith.

  • Comment number 28.

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    Comment number 27.

    The Holocaust was a uniquely savage and horrific act by the standards of any generation. The mechanics of it are shocking and simply unsuitable for teaching to young children. It's taught at Year 10 level these days but when I was at school it was considered to be too extreme to be taught at all.

    The ultimate act of prejudice and cruelty....let children be children a little longer?

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    Comment number 26.

    As a teacher and a parent, I can't see anything wrong with teaching children simple facts at an appropriate level and building on them as the child and therefore their understanding grows. In the same way the answer you give a 4 year old about "where do babies come from?" Will be very different from what you tell an eleven year old.

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    Comment number 25.

    Children should not be protected from the horror that Man inflicts in Man. They must be told that these horrors are very wrong as well as all sides of the reasons why the horrors happened. As for the "holocaust" remember that although it is estimated that the Nazis murdered approx 6M Jews, the total number of prisoners murdered is estimated to be nearer 14M. Let us not forget the other 8M.

  • Comment number 24.

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    Comment number 23.

    Too young to understand death is too young to learn about the Holocaust. Kindergartners are borderline on that: recognition of death as the permanent ending of life may not come to children until they are a couple of years older.


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