Students can first be exposed to the Holocaust through short personal narratives, both fiction and nonfiction, that are centered around children of the Holocaust. This allows students to relate to the content in a personal way as well as begin to understand the Holocaust through the lens of a child. Elementary school aged children should be asked about the value of diversity and the dangers of prejudice and bias. These themes will be an important foundation for later Holocaust education.

 

Books:

 

Friedrich by Hans Peter Richter: This novel examines the persecution of a young boy and his family during the rise of Hitler in Germany. The author is able to condense the mature and complex persecution of the Jews into simpler and more relatable content for smaller children.

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine: This small novel centers around the contents of a suitcase once owned by a small Czechoslovakian girl, Hana. The children’s book includes pictures of the contents found in the suitcase and the story behind the mystery of its owner and her experiences in Auschwitz. The narrative goes back and forth between Hana’s suitcases and the journey of its contents in Japan.

I Wanted to Fly Like a Butterfly by Naomi Morgenstern: Morgenstern tells the story of Hanna Gofrit, a Polish Jew, who survived the Holocaust due to a brave Polish family who concealed her.

King Matt the First by Janusz Korczak: This novel is written by Janusz Korczak, a Holocaust victim, who bravely went with the children of the orphanage in Warsaw that he oversaw into Treblinka where he was murdered. The fictional story of King Matt teaches children the importance of hope and good character despite evil, and when children are given the context of the author and history, the book comes to life as a lesson in the Holocaust.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry: Lowry’s acclaimed novel about the heroism of the people of Denmark is a classic for young students to read. Told through the perspective of a ten year old non-Jewish girl, whose family takes in her Jewish best friend, the tale of concealment and fleeing German deportation is one of true courage for kids of all ages and backgrounds to relate to.

Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren: Warren is able to combine the narrative of Jack Mandelbaum, a boy in the Nazi death camps, with actual photos from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum archives.

The Boy in the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible...on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson: This novel tells the story of one of the youngest people of Oskar Schindler’s list of Jews he saved from extermination during the Holocaust. Students who read this book not only get the narrative of a child close to their age, but also are able to understand the historical context of Oskar Schindler’s story of heroism behind the novel.

The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss: Reiss’ autobiography about her time in hiding during WWII provides students with a Holocaust narrative about hiding for two years as a child in a cramped space.

 

Films:

 

Paper Clips (2004): This documentary follows a rural Tennessee school as it teaches diversity and tolerance to its student body through a visual project of putting together 6 million paper clips to symbolize the 6 million victims of the Holocaust. The simple school project is a viral success and grows beyond what any involved truly thought was possible.