Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany on January 30th, 1933, 75 years ago this week. This grim anniversary was acknowledged in Germany in a variety of ways. I’ve noted before here that I’m the daughter of German Holocaust survivors. I lived and schooled in Germany as a child, am fluent in German, and go often to visit family and friends. You see, the broad story of Jews and the Holocaust is not as one-dimensional as may appear. There are numerous stories; my family’s is one.
But this post isn’t about my family. It is about Germans and their efforts to inform and educate their youth about their dreadful history. This is something I’ve been interested in for decades. I have some articles in German and friends have told me that sometimes it did seem that it was overdone. (I sometimes wonder if young Germans view the lessons and speeches on this topic the way some young Americans may view slavery and the civil rights era — events long ago that haven’t as much to do with them as the adults think).
Today I came across an interesting new resource in this Guardian piece, “German Children Taught Graphic Truth About Nazis.” Evidently the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam has published a graphic novel, A Family Secret with a second one to come (already evidently available in German and Dutch), The Search. Some of the images are available here.
I know how hard it is to teach history to children. Right now I’m exploring forced immigration with my fourth graders, the horrific history of slavery in America. This year’s class is eager and curious, some are already well-prepared. Other years I have had to tread more cautiously with students shocked and prone to nightmares with all this new information. And so because of my family history and my observations of children learning history I’m always curious how Germany in particular handles this particular part of their history with young people. These books seem like an interesting direction to try.