This morning I accompanied a Year 5 (age 9 and 10 years) primary school trip to The Jewish Museum in London. This was my first visit to the museum which is a bit embarrassing especially considering that my father-in-law is one of the exhibits! (There is a video montage in the entrance of different Jewish Londoners and he is representing the stereotypical Jewish London taxi driver.) The Year 5 children are learning about migration and so the theme for the visit today was Jewish EastEnders around the turn of the 20th century and centred around the fictitious Jablonsky family, recently migrated from Poland to London and the kids learnt about how life was back then. No ipads! No television!
While the children were learning about life without running water or electricity I sneaked off for a few minutes to see the Holocaust section of the museum. If you haven't been then let me describe the museum to you in one word - tiny! So it literally did only take me a few minutes to see all the Holocaust related exhibits, many of which were connected to the Kindertransport, so not relevant to my research, but interesting none the less.
The Year 5 children did not visit the Holocaust section and it made me think of a debate my husband and I often have - what is an appropriate age to tell our children about the Holocaust? Should we let them enjoy their childhood and keep them innocent and protected for as long as possible (my reasoning) or should they grow up learning about what happened to the Jewish people (my husband's reasoning as that is how they do it in Israel where he grew up). Learning about the Holocaust is on the National Curriculum in the UK for 13 and 14 year olds, although worryingly the National Curriculum does not apply to Academies (independent state funded schools) which account for 55% of all secondary schools today, or for other independent schools.
I often try to remember how old I was when I learnt about the Holocaust and when I was told about what had happened to my mother and her family during the war, but I cannot remember when it was. My youngest daughter is one of the Year 5 children on the school trip today. She knows I am writing a book inspired by her grandma but when someone asked her recently if she knew what my book was about she replied, “Yes, the French Revolution!” I love that innocence, and for the moment I am happy that she retains it, for a while longer at least.