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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Starting Wednesday night and leading into Thursday is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  As we consider that many survivors are now in their 80s at least, if not their 90s, it’s sometimes hard to remember… why it’s important to “remember” what happened during those dark days.

Having been immersed in Holocaust Studies in university, I understood the various responses of families desiring to talk about their experiences, or wishing to forget.  I knew about small children, as well as grown children, hoping to hear more, or wishing they could just be “normal” and not have this dark cloud hanging over their heads for a least a minute or two.  It was not odd to be surrounded by older folks with tattooed numbers on their forearms, but now I had to think about our own children.

As Russian orphans with traumas of their own in the past, I weighed when it would be wise to introduce the Holocaust.  They knew the basic facts from our schoolwork, and any family conversations, yet, how much they truly comprehended was an unknown factor.  And anyway, how was it possible to comprehend the incomprehensible?  As teens, and one preteen, was it time to introduce more of the topic?

Well, it turns out that the topic came and found us.  Visiting Benedetto’s sister one day, our kids saw their younger cousin, age 10, reading “The Devil’s Arithmetic”.  Upon occasion, the cousin had shared with them other reading books that were not the best in terms of uplifting subject matter, but were all the rage in their school library.  It was not until we were about to leave that my niece asked if I had heard of the book.

“It’s set during Passover and the girl goes back in time,” she explained.

“To the Holocaust,” our kids filled in the blanks.

It suddenly sounded more interesting.  I googled the book (released in 1988) when we arrived home and found there was a film by the same title that had been produced in 1999.  Never heard of either of them.  This was with a young Kirsten Dunst who appeared more of a mid- to- older teen than the 12-year-old written about in the book.

The general gist of both is a girl who is bored with Passover seders, too much talk by relatives about the Holocaust, and views the extended family get-together as the perfect opportunity to drink too much wine and get a little tipsy. It’s when, as part of the seder, that she opens the door to Elijah the prophet, that she suddenly steps back in time to a Polish village of 1942, a Jewish wedding, and Nazis invading the tiny hamlet.  How did she get there, and how can she make her relatives understand the facts about to happen… which she has trouble remembering herself, because she never paid attention in her real life?

Very, very well done.  We all sobbed.  I would recommend the film for teens, and although the Jews are taken to the concentration camp, there is nothing beyond a PG rating here, from what I could see.  The actual subject matter is terrible enough.  Without giving away every twist and turn, there is death and also bare shoulders depicted as people strip down to head to the gas chambers.  Different from other Holocaust films, it’s not all about death, but about life.

This film is outstanding and helps kids (or adults) understand the Holocaust from a human perspective that makes sense, and why it’s still vital for the world to remember.  We will never forget.





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4 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Nancy Baumann says:

    An excellent resource for remembering the Holocaust is the new book Storming the Tulips. Written by a survivor who at one time went to school with Anne Frank, Storming the Tulips is an intimate encounter with history, as told by twenty former students of the 1st Montessori School in Amsterdam. They were children—contemporaries of Anne Frank—and this book is a companion to her Diary of a Young Girl. While Anne’s story describes her sequestered life in the Annex, Storming the Tulips reveals what children on the outside endured—on the streets, in hiding, and in the concentration camps.
    Their friends disappeared. Their parents sent them away. They were herded on trains and sent to death camps. They joined the Nazi youth. They hid Jews. They lost their families. They picked the pockets of the dead. They escaped. They dodged bullets. They lived in terror. They starved. They froze. They ate tulip bulbs. They witnessed a massacre. They collected shrapnel. And finally, they welcomed the Liberation. Some lost their families, most lost their homes, but they all lost their innocence as they fought to survive in a world gone mad.
    In August 2011, School Library Journal recommended Storming the Tulips as a teaching resource to accompany Anne Frank’s diary. http://ow.ly/4DyKo

    • avatar admin says:

      Thank you, Nancy, for bringing that one to our attention! Many of our kids are Russian orphan “survivors” in their own sense. If it makes any sense, our kids I think found a sense of comfort to know that bad things had happened to other children who had done nothing wrong. There is an entire segment of the population who truly identifies with the Holocaust and will not let the lessons be forgotten… if any sense may be made out of the senseless.

  2. avatar Sybil says:

    At our house we have been watching Holocaust related videos for the past several years. I was born during WWII and the Holocaust has been a part of who I am my whole life. It is vital to me that I do my part to help that those who died and those who survived are never forgotten. The survivors were left with horrific burdens to learn to live with. Some excellent videos (we get ours through Netflix) are:
    Paper Clips
    Inside Hana’s Suitcase
    My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransport
    Four Seasons Lodge
    Steal a Pencil for Me
    Au Revoir Les Enfants
    Mother of Mine
    Shanghai Ghetto

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