Auschwitz (with children) Question

Nov 11th, 2011, 04:29 AM
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Auschwitz (with children) Question

We are planning to visit Auschwitz with our 11 and 15 year-old children during our spring 2012 holiday to Krakow. Our 11 year old has a mature understanding of the Holocaust for her age, has read age-appropriate stories, and has toured the Anne Frank house. We've explored Daniel's Story at the Holocaust Museum in DC, as well. On this trip we are not planning to tour the museum on the grounds with her, so my question is whether touring only the grounds will be appropriate? I know ultimately this is a "you know your child best" question, but if anyone has taken their children and can comment I would be appreciative.

fourfortravel is offline  
Nov 11th, 2011, 05:01 AM
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I went to Auschwitz this year with a 14 and a 7 year olds. Going round the vast ground at Birkenau (Auschwitz 2) was no problem, and it served to reinforce the enormity of the crime committed against humanity more than any amount of photographic display and exhibition at Auschwitz 1. Children laid some flowers at the memorial at the far end of Birkenau beyond the railway sidings, which we thought was very appropriate. They behaved immaculately with sensitivity. At the museums in Auschwitz 1, we deliberately kept the children out of more harrowing displays like mounds of human hair and toys (check with guidebook or leaflet where they are), or the reconstructed gas chamber.

We also went to the Schindler's factory in Krakow, which is now a fine museum of the city under the Nazis. The children saw all the displays, and certainly the older one got a good grasp of what it must have been like living through those dark days. We went there before Auschwitz, which served to put the camp into historical context.

So I suggest you go ahead, prepare them beforehand by telling them what the place is and stands for but without giving any gory details. And be sensitive to their needs while there, and you should be fine. Perhaps the older one can benefit by watching the DVD of The Schindler's List, which was filmed on location in Krakow.
Alec is offline  
Nov 11th, 2011, 05:33 AM
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We did Auschwitz with a 14 and 11 year old last summer. My daughter was 11 and we had prepared her much like you have your child. She was nervous about the visit before hand. We saw all of the grounds at both Auschwith and Birkenau and did one of the tours where we did see the hair, shoes,and the gas chamber. I had told her ahead of time, that if she was getting upset or couldn't continue at any point, we would sit outside and wait for the other half of the family. She did not have any problems. The exhibits were not nearly as graphic as many newsreel footage or many of the pictures in Washington DC at the Holocaust museum were. The visit was powerful and both of my kids talk about it now but they were not traumatized by it.
We too saw Schindler's List and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas ahead of time.
I would suggest going and taking a break if and when it is needed.
livetoroam is offline  
Nov 11th, 2011, 07:18 AM
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We have not been there in many years. We lost distant cousins there and the author of Schindler's List is former teacher of mine.

The most emotional moment for most is not the train siding or the gas chambers, but the cases of glasses, hair, and suitcases. It is grotesque in its simplicity and humanizes the victims, more than the actual means of killing.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2011, 07:27 AM
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And don't forget the toddler clothing in one display. I think I'd think twice about letting a child see that.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Nov 11th, 2011, 10:10 AM
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I went to Auschwitz in 1968 when I was barely 17 years old. I was on a day trip from Krakow with several adults, but my parents were not traveling with me that summer. The day made a huge impression on me, partly because the parents of my first BFF in elementary school were concentration camp survivors.

This was decades before global terrorism, serial child molesters/abductors and all manner of graphic crime became daily topics of TV news ("Film at 11!"). Sadly, I think kids today are much more exposed to and aware of evil in the world, but obviously you know your kid/s best.

Believe me, if you go, your kids will never forget the experience and hopefully will carry the lesson of tolerance with them for the rest of their lives. If your kids have grandparents, great-grandparents or other relatives who fought in WWII, particularly in the European theater, the visit to Auschwitz could become part of a larger discussion.
Jean is offline  
Nov 12th, 2011, 03:03 PM
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Thank you, everyone, for your very informative and insightful comments. Livetoroam, I like your approach--we'll approach every exhibit with care, and instruct our 11 year-old to let us know when she feels uncomfortable. (That's probably sage advice for all of us.) And thank you to everyone who suggested watching Schindler's List; we are planning to visit the factory, as well.

A family member was imprisoned at Auschwitz and because he had technical skills, he was transferred to Buchenwald; this is my connection to the Holocaust. I think this trip will be important for our children as part of their heritage, but I want to make sure we visit sites appropriately.

Thanks again.
fourfortravel is offline  

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