Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Children in the Holocaust and World War II

The author who compiled these diaries states that this is the first book of this type from this time period. She introduces the diaries with a rather difficult statement:

Perhaps it is so painful to think about the impact of the war on children - particularly their mass executions - that we have not wanted to read about it, even when that has meant refusing to hear from the children themselves. Maybe it was as much as we could bear to designate Anne Frank the representative child of the Holocaust and to think, then, only of her when we thought about children in World War II. But, in some ways, Anne Frank was not representative of children in the war and the Holocaust. Because she was in hiding, she did not experience life in the streets, the ghettos, the concentration camps, as it was lived by millions of children throughout Europe. (p.xiv)

The diaries, written by children from age 10 to age 18, are arranged chronologically by the age of the child youngest to oldest. The countries represented are Poland, Holland, German, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Lithuania, Russia, Belgium, Englan, Hungary, Israel, and Denmark. The children wrote these diaries from many different locations and situations. Many wrote from the time they moved from their loving homes to a ghetto or a hiding spot. One young boy hid in a cupboard for five year, while another lived and died much like Anne Frank. Many of the children died at the hands of the Nazis in concentration camps, with only these written words somehow surviving to tell their stories. Others survived and published their stories so the world would know.

Selected by the School Library Journal Best Adult Book for Young Adults 1995, this book is a phenomenal resource for those interested in Holocaust history. Because it covers such a wide range of experiences, I think it could be used in middle and high school as a teaching aid with individual children, or small groups, reading the passage and providing their own expression of the child's experience. Some may argue that middle school age children are too young to read these diaries. The author addresses that beautifully:

To turn our eyes away and refuse to see, or to let children see, what prejudice and hatred lead to is truly to warp our collective psyche...The children teach us, by sharing their own direct experience of oppression, that nothing is more valuable than human freedom. This lesson alone is reason enough to rea, and to encourage children to read, these diaries. (p. xx)

TITLE: Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries
AUTHOR: Laurel Holliday
PAGES: 401
TYPE: compilation of Holocaust diaries
RECOMMEND: Excellent book