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Holocaust

To know about anti-Semitism and how it can lead to disastrous consequences.

by Jude Scrutton

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To know about anti-Semitism and how it can lead to disastrous consequences.

Preparation and materials

  • A copy of Anne Frank’s Diary (Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl).

  • Images of swastikas, images and videos of holocaust available on many websites: just use any popular search engine.

Assembly

  1. Hold up a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary, and ask children if they know about the book. Ask children what the book is about. (They may also have come across The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, by John Boyne. There is also a film of the book.)

    Make a list of what children know about Anne Frank’s life.

    Ask children why Anne Frank and many other people, particularly Jewish, had to hide away.

    If children haven’t used the word persecution, direct them to this word and ask what it means.
  2. Briefly discuss Hitler and his beliefs.
  3. Introduce Memorial Day: 27 January 2011.
  4. Tell children you are now going to read them a story written by a young boy before he was executed at a concentration camp:

    I am so scared I don't know what to do. I don't know what is to become of me, or my family, and I fear for them.

    I don't know why we are here, or what we may have done to have upset the people who are in charge of this camp. Ever since we came here, we have been treated very badly, and all I have heard since we have been here are people yelling in a language I don't understand, or people screaming or crying as they are separated from loved ones. I haven't seen my mama or my papa in days, and I am worried about what may have happened to them.

    I have also been treated very badly, and I have been made to lie on this hard, cold table, while strange men examined me thoroughly and have taken away my crutches and my braces. (I was born with weak legs.) I haven't been able to get about since except by dragging myself around, and when I don't come when they call, they beat me repeatedly, and they laugh when I cry out for help or ask for my braces and crutches, or when they strike me with a thick stick. On bare skin it hurts so horribly, and I am covered with bruises and cuts it's a wonder I have any skin left after they have beaten me! They call me an ‘undesirable’ (whatever that means, but it can't be good!), and they keep telling me that they have ‘plans’ for me. Whenever I ask what they are going to do, they just laugh and speak in that ugly, guttural language of theirs, and tell me to shut up and to mind my own business.

    I have had to have my hair shaved off, and I wear ill-fitting clothes; and I also have had to go around naked; and with other people looking at me, it is uncomfortable, and it makes me very unhappy. It is very cold here in these camps, and people have got sick. Disease has run rampant, and people have got so bad they have died. There is typhus about, and I am scared that I will get it next (that is, if I don't get beaten to death or whatever plans the Germans have for me)! I have eaten but very little, and what I HAVE eaten has tasted nasty!

    Life has been very hard for all of us, and every day, and it is all very scary, especially to a little boy like myself. (I am only eight years old.) It is during these times when I wish I could see my mama or papa again, and I wish I were still at home in Warsaw! I wish I were still at home in my little bed or safe in mama's arms while she would sing to me; I still can remember her telling me that she loved me so much, and that I was her angel! I also remember papa's strong arms and his big, booming laugh; but then the War came, and it changed everything; and now I am here, and I don't know what I may have done to deserve being here at Oswiecim [Auschwitz, as it is known by today]! I am only a little boy; I didn't ask to be born a Jew, and I certainly didn't ask to be born handicapped! Now it seems that is exactly why I am here, at Oswiecim, at this camp, and I am so scared!! 

    All I can do now while I wait is pray for God to take me now to Heaven or to ask Him to stop all these killings; I don't know if I can take much more of all the screaming or crying or the sickening smells that fill the air or my nostrils!
  5. A day after this was written, Ruben Abraham Ostrowicz was gassed to death. He was just eight years old, an innocent young victim of the Holocaust.

    In just three years, over 1.5 million people died at Auschwitz; but a total of between 6,000,000 and 12,000,000 people perished in the Holocaust.
  6. Discuss children’s feelings about the story. Ask them to think about their lives and how it would feel to be suddenly taken to a camp like this.

    Impress on them that this is not a story of fiction but true.

    Continue to impress on them that it is not a story from ancient history but of only 70 years ago.

    Ask children if they think it could happen again.

  7. Explore the slogan ‘Lest we forget’. Explain that it means that we must have memorials and days of remembrance to make sure we don’t forget the atrocities of recent history.

Time for reflection

Light a candle and play some classical war music (Barber’s Adagio for Strings is a good piece).

Prayer
Help us to be tolerant towards all of those who are different to us. Help us to respect people of different religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and physical ability. Help us to remember children and adults who were taken from their homes and packed into concentration camps like the ones in our story. Make us strong enough to prevent history from repeating itself.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Imagine’ by John Lennon (widely available to download)
Ask children to think about the lyrics.

Publication date: January 2011   (Vol.13 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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