Visiting Aushwitz with kids??

Oct 15th, 2007, 11:05 AM
  #21  
 
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I visited Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem) at age 18, shortly after graduating from high school. I had been keeping a journal of the entire trip in Israel and Jordan. Here are pieces of my entry from that day:

July 7, 1998

"How? and Why? HOW and WHY!!?? These are the two questions keeping me awake tonight." ........
"I fear but also hope that today will haunt me for the rest of life... somehow it seems like such horror should be and must be remembered so that it can't happen again."


Looking back nine years later, I can say that I didn't come close to fully comprehending what I saw and what it meant. That said, I think that age 16-18 is a perfect time for most teenagers to learn about the dangers of hating what is merely different, the dangers of facism, and the dangers of remaining silent in the face of terrible things. If your 15-yr-old is exceptionally mature, you might want to take him/her. I'd leave the little ones behind though.





TexasAggie is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 11:54 AM
  #22  
ira
 
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Hi TA,


Very moving.

>...somehow it seems like such horror should be and must be remembered so that it can't happen again."

Amen.

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Oct 15th, 2007, 11:55 AM
  #23  
 
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I went to Natzweiler-Struthof, the only Nazi death camp located on French soil, when I was 10 and I totally and completely understood the terrible things that had happened there. But then again, my family was from the region, and I grew up with stories of the war from my earliest childhood.
kerouac is online now  
Oct 15th, 2007, 12:02 PM
  #24  
 
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Second thoughts: Why hide Auschwitz-Birkenau? What do you tell the child about 9/11? And a day ago about Crandon, Wisconsin? Is his/her TV free of Africa? Iraq?
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Oct 15th, 2007, 12:04 PM
  #25  
ira
 
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Hey G,

Have you visited any of

* Auschwitz-Birkenau
* Chełmno
* Bełżec
* Majdanek
* Sobibór
* Treblinka
ira is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 12:19 PM
  #26  
 
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Thanks everyone for sharing about this. I happened upon this thread by chance. I have been thinking about visiting Dachau with my 13-year-old. Now I think I will not do it.

We lived just outside of NYC on 9/11 - the girls were 7 and 10 at the time. I told them a little about what happened but kept the TV off. Lot's of my friends thought their kids could handle the media reports. Lot's of the children later ended up in therapists' offices with anxiety problems...

In fact, at the time many professionals warned parents about exposing children to such violent scenes... I know I had a number of vivid nightmares in the months following 9/11.

I visited the Anne Frank House in May and there was a large number of middle-school-aged kids in line ahead of me on a class trip - I believe they were Dutch - on the way in they were silly and noisy and I found them kind of annoying - on the way out they were completely silent and lingered a long time in the bookshop and in the special exhibit in the museum. I didn't have the heart to do anything else after the house but go and sit on a bench...yet, I think my kids would be ready for this experience now...I'll save Dachau and Auschwitz for later...

thanks... BTW, I hear Krakow is a great city - if you go please share your trip with us!
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Oct 15th, 2007, 12:48 PM
  #27  
 
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Hello Ira..
My wife and her family survived Majdanek and a German work camp. My step-son's wife's mother was a teen aged prisoner in a camp north of Łódż. A grandfather watched the Radigosz fire. A daily trip to the city center passes the Łódź ghetto site. The new Manufactura Mall is just across from it. 3,500 new (almost) cars are in the parking lot most days. No one has forgotten or ignores the past. Our local library showed copies of pictures detailing child labor in the ghetto. Poles today are aspiring to a bigger car or a new house, and they are getting them. Oświęcim and the Salt Mine are on our tours with USA visitors.
GSteed is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 12:49 PM
  #28  
 
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It's a wise choice not to go there with kids. They can go there themselves later, if they want to. It may be that they handle it well who knows, but if not you're responsible.

I can still remember the pictures of piles of dead bodies shown on TV without warning many evenings when I was young (and unprepared). Our fathers fought a war for this regime and while being traumatised themselves for their lifes (remember Viet Nam) were shown the evils Germans ghad done again and agin. How much can someone bear? Be considerate and don't take your kids there! Let them decide when they're older!
logos999 is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 01:46 PM
  #29  
 
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In 2005 I went to Dachau with my children ages 9 and 11 and they were quite moved. They did not experience any trauma from the sights. While Dachau is not on the same scale as Auschwitz I would however recomend going unless you have already planned to go back to Europe in the future. A good web site for information is www.ushnm.org
This is the site of the US Holocaust museum. By going thru the education tab you can get information to help prepare for your trip. There is a good training section called Remember the Children: daniels story.
tlemkuil is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 01:47 PM
  #30  
 
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Thank you ira.
I was moved by your post about you and your LW's experience with the teenagers in Prague as well, in that is was similar to my experience. Petting camels in the morning and laughing on a big bus with friends on the way to Yad Vashem like a typical teenager... silence, tears, unanswerable questions and a horrible knot in my stomach on the way home.

I am happy for those teenagers that your LW was there that day.
TexasAggie is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 02:11 PM
  #31  
 
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I think 9 is too young. We took our 18, 16, and 14 year olds to Dachau.
Gretchen is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 11:30 PM
  #32  
 
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bcohen, you are a wise and sensitive parent to ask this question. I have raised 3 children and the youngest is now 21. Here is my advice. A child or young teen is too young to see Auschwitz until he or she has enough experience and understanding of the world so that he or she TRULY understands, on every level, what Auschwitz is all about, and can make a fully informed decision about whether he or she is ready to visit or not.

A 9-year-old is NOT capable of making a fully informed decision about what it really means to go to Auswitchz. A 13-year-old may or may not be capable, depending upon their experience and understanding. A 15-year-old is old enough to make an informed decision, as long as you spend the time and effort it takes to discuss it all with him or her and make sure he or she really understands what it means.

I know, for example, that when I visit Auschwitz, I may have sleepless nights, filled with horror. I may experience temporary depression or panic attacks (I am very sensitive.) I know what good or what pain the experience might bring to me. I am able to weight the risks versus the benefits. I know the horror that is in the world and I know how much it can haunt you. I am making a fully informed decision about whether I can handle Auschwitz or not. A 9-year-old is DEFINITELY NOT ready to make such a decision.

For me, the answer is that I am unsure whether I am ready or not. We are planning to visit Auschwitz in September 2008 ("we" are my husband and I and 2 college-age daughters.) Last night I was awake all night, unable to sleep, after just reading a guidebook about visiting Auschwitz. For me, the question of whether I am ready will depend on whether I can visit Auschwitz and still believe that good is greater and stronger than evil. Is love always stronger than hate? I have a year to work on these questions. A 9-year-old cannot understand how such questions cut deep into your heart, soul, mind, and memories.
Melissa5 is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 11:48 PM
  #33  
 
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Most people on this thread instinctively understand that a child must be protected and taught about life, at the same time. Other people seem to forget that a child needs to be protected.

If someone tortured and killed a puppy, would you feel you need to show the gory remains of the puppy to your child, in order to teach the child...what kind of lesson? No, I think you would want to protect your child from the gory remains of the cat. Instead, you would explain to your child that someone did something very wrong, and they killed that cat, and it was wrong.

If this example of a tortured and dead cat seems upsetting...imagine how a vulnerable child would feel when confronted with Auschwitz.

Also, I recall from my own childhood...don't assume you can tell how a child is feeling just by looking at that child. The situations from my childhood which traumatized me the most, and which still trouble me, were never the ones I screamed or complained about. They were the ones which left me without any words to express what I experienced and couldn't understand.
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Oct 15th, 2007, 11:49 PM
  #34  
 
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Most people on this thread instinctively understand that a child must be protected and taught about life, at the same time. Other people seem to forget that a child needs to be protected.

If someone tortured and killed a puppy, would you feel you need to show the gory remains of the puppy to your child, in order to teach the child...what kind of lesson? No, I think you would want to protect your child from the gory remains of the puppy. Instead, you would explain to your child that someone did something very wrong, and they killed that puppy, and it was wrong.

If this example of a tortured and dead puppy seems upsetting...imagine how a vulnerable child would feel when confronted with Auschwitz.

Also, I recall from my own childhood...don't assume you can tell how a child is feeling just by looking at that child. The situations from my childhood which traumatized me the most, and which still trouble me, were never the ones I screamed or complained about. They were the ones which left me without any words to express what I experienced and couldn't understand.
Melissa5 is offline  
Oct 15th, 2007, 11:56 PM
  #35  
 
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Sigh...sorry that "puppy" in the story above turned into a "cat". I tried to correct the typo and ended up with 2 versions of the story. I was deciding whether to use a puppy or a cat as an example and ended up with both at once.
Melissa5 is offline  
Oct 16th, 2007, 12:13 AM
  #36  
 
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Even young teens can have unexpected reactions to situations. It is not always possible to predict in advance how each child or young teen will react.

We had an accident in our family where my son's pet snake got out of its cage and ate my daughter's pet hampster. The kids discovered the snake with the lump of a hampster inside. Even though it was my daughter's pet, my son, who was a young teen, was the most traumatized! He was angry at his pet snake and was horrified. It calmed him when I explained that the snake didn't set out intending to do evil. The snake found the hampster and thought it was meant to be his lunch. It didn't realize it was "wrong" to eat the hampster. This explanation calmed my son, and it certainly was the truth.

There was a second hampster which was killed and not eaten. My daughter was comforted by a "funeral" which the 3 kids had for the hampster.

I know this is only about pets, and Auschwitz is far more serious, but my example is meant to show that even an older child or teen can react in unexpected ways.

Forgive me for using pets as examples. I cannot bring myself to address the full extent of the horrors at Auschwitz.
Melissa5 is offline  
Oct 16th, 2007, 12:39 AM
  #37  
 
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Sorry, but it is hard to understand the concern about Oświęcim and its effect on young visitors. Perhaps, this death camp is the epitome of what humans are able to do to each other. As a benchmark of behavior how does it compare with Darfor? Sugarcoating the world for some children will not help stop or prevent such horrors.
GSteed is offline  
Oct 16th, 2007, 12:56 AM
  #38  
 
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We have visited Auschwitz and discussed it with others as well. All were most moved and effected by the room with the glasses, hair brushes, and suitcases. It is quite haunting. The train siding bunk beds, and entrance with the words "Arbeit Mach Frei" were eerie because of the previous knowledge.

A visit without seeing the personel effects may be acceptable.
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Oct 16th, 2007, 01:39 AM
  #39  
 
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I think there may be a difference of opinion about what is deemed appropriate for a child depending on one's origins. European children have grown up with war stories and visible ruins for hundreds of years. European television rarely flinches from showing atrocities, even though warnings are given before the images are shown. Basically, children are told about or shown many things as soon as they show an interest in it.

Unfortunately, the interest is fading on the eastern side of the Atlantic as well. After all, when one sees 20,000 murders on television series by the age of 10, death camps are less impressive.
kerouac is online now  
Oct 16th, 2007, 02:11 AM
  #40  
 
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I would like to share my experience of visiting Auschwitz with my three girls 10,14 and 15 on my return trip to Poland (I am Polish) with my Australian-born family.

Yes, Auschwitz is terrible, an atrocity against humanity and how the child or young person will react depends on your parental guidance and the child himself/herself.

The staff at Auschwitz are very clear that it is your decision. (equally if you choose to visit Pawiak in Warsaw and many other concentration camps in Poland and Germany)

We spent about 1/2 hour to 40 minutes at Auschwitz.We did not walk into all areas not nor did we look at all exhibits. At the end we had some food in the cafeteria to do the 'normal' thing.

We did walk into one of the barracks and talked about how people were crowded on to the slabs and kept there with no attention to their health, hygiene or any other basic requirements we so take for granted.

We did go into a room piled high with the victims' suitcases and another of shoes and another of hairbrushes and we talked about preciousness of human life and how important it was to learn from atrocities so that they were never repeated.

We walked along the grassy areas between the barracks and explained how the grass did not exist then, because it was eaten by people who were so very hungry.

We stood under the sign " Work makes you free" and explained about the cruelty of the slogan

Some time later I asked my older girls (now 20 and 21) about the visit and they expressed it thus:

"you can't help being affected by it - there is so much pain and suffering and it is on display- but we need to know it happened and that it shouldn't again".

We kept my younger daughter from several of the exhibits (although not the ones mentioned above),and we took turns walking around with her and explaining that she was too young to see some of the things because they were too painful and yucky and she needs to be older to see and understand.

Again, some time later I asked her what she had felt at the time about her visit to Auschwitz and her reply was " I thought it was lonely and I felt out of place; there was this huge historical thing there and so many people were killed" and in reply to my question whether she thought children should not see it she said( she is turning 14 this Sunday) she said " it depends on how mature they are, they don't have to see everything" and " you can't protect kids from everything, they need to know"

So, all in all you need to make your own judgement and decide according to your childrens' intellect and sensitivities as well as YOUR comfort with interpreting it all to your children.

I hope that sharing my experience and my childrens' comments are helpful.
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