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Young Kids and Visiting Concentration Camps?

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Jul 13th, 2018, 02:54 PM
  #1
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Young Kids and Visiting Concentration Camps?

There is a rather lively discussion going on in the following thread (Germany Concentration Camp) about appropriateness of taking young kids to Nazi concentration camps with graphic displays like Dachau, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, etc. Have you any experiences with taking kids there? And what general advice would you give families with younger kids about visiting these camps in general - all kids' maturitiy levels of course not being the same?

I have no experience taking kids there but would have taken my son if he were 12 or older and not dwelled on the most gruesome aspects as I find myself and many others doing. And there is no one right answer of course.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 01:32 AM
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When I visited Auschwitz a few years ago, there were parties of local school children being guided around the place and from what I could hear, no punches were pulled from the guide. These kids were 13/14 or so. Maybe it needs a hard hitting tour of these horrendous places to avoid a repetition of those atrocities. However, it seems that anti semitism is still rife in Eastern Europe (and not only Eastern Europe), so maybe it doesn't work. Depends on the kids.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 02:59 AM
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It is, IME. pretty hard not to "dwell" on any of the gruesome facts since the whole place is a gruesome fact. Figure it out: a "camp" in which people were worked/starved/tortured/medically experimented upon/immediately put to death because of their religious beliefs/sexual orientation/political leanings/ethnic background/eligibility as scapegoats.

What parts are not gruesome?
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Jul 15th, 2018, 04:44 AM
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Honestly, I don't think I could bear the atmosphere myself, let alone exposing a child to it. But obviously some people get something valuable out of the experience.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 05:05 AM
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The tour guide did not delete nor sanitize any of the gruesome history at Auschwitz.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 05:05 AM
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When I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, as an adult, I went to mourn/pay my respects to the victims, as a witness, and to report on the experience for my blog. It was much more draining than I, perhaps naively, expected and it took me several days to recover. I am somewhat sensitive to atmosphere, and I could practically feel evil seeping out of the ground, where little seemed to want to grow.

Of course, it is important that school children should learn wha happened, but I would want a child of mine to be well into their teens before visiting. The child in question on the other thread was, I believe, 11.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 12:07 PM
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Why not discuss it with the child first? Seems kind of obvious to me.
  1. Discussion helps the parent test the child's ability to deal with it.
  2. Makes them part of the decision
  3. Helps to prepare them if you do end up going.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 12:29 PM
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Even some, presumably adults, like thursdayds found Birkenau-Auschwitz a traumatic event - not sure young kids would always and it depends yes on things walkinaround mentions. I have gone to Auschwitz-Birkenau and though grisly the remains of say gas chambers and piles of false teeth and eyeglasses in showcases was sobering but yes I was prepared to be shocked so yes walkinaround's advice is spot on IMO.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 08:35 PM
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I visited Auschwitz / Birkenau as an adult. I found it profoundly disturbing. I hope that I am never able to visit such a place without finding it profoundly disturbing.

Extensive psychological research shows that children differ in their intellectual and emotional abilities to deal with disturbing information. Extensive psychological research shows that parents differ in their ability to help children deal with disturbing information.

Maybe we should acknowledge that there is no specific age before or after which it is appropriate to expose someone to a concentration camp? Maybe we should trust parents a bit, and encourage them to be responsive to their children?
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Jul 15th, 2018, 09:56 PM
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I visited the Natzweiler-Struthof death camp as a child. It was the only Nazi concentration camp on French soil. Naturally, it was a bit shocking, but life was not as sanitized in those days. WW2 was less than 20 years in the past, and there were still plenty of war ruins everywhere. Also, all of my French relatives had plenty of war stories to tell, most of them quite grim. Frankly, as I child I found it more disturbing when my grandparents told about returning to their home after the liberation and finding that their neighbors had stolen most of the furniture ("We didn't think you were coming back."). Photographs of starving prisoners and seeing crematory ovens just didn't have the same effect on me, but stolen furniture was something that my childish mind could understand.

Revisiting this same death camp a couple times as an adult has had a far more profound effect on me. So I would say one doesn't really need to worry about taking children to such a place -- it's the adults you have to be careful about.
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Jul 17th, 2018, 06:09 AM
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Schoolboys and schoolboys are taken to concentration camps. I went when I was 13. Quite educative. Yet many end up voting FN as adults.

Younger I liked visiting torture chambers in medieval castles. Blessed be the innocents I guess.
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