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How to talk to children about the Shoah?


This post is taken from the weekly newsletter “Darons Daronnes” on parenthood, sent every Wednesday at 6 p.m. You can register for it for free here.

Some time ago, in a Parisian square, my eldest daughter, aged 7, came across a monument to the memory of the little ones deported during the Second World War – children who were not yet of the age of to be educated. We see 133 first and last names, followed by their age: 1 year, 3 years, 18 days, 10 months… She read it, then asked her father what it was about. He replied that they were children killed during the war. “But they were very small, did she say. What had they done? » He told her that they had done nothing, that they were innocent, then he told her about the Nazi regime, the collaboration and the fate of the Jews. “How did they die? », she then asked. His dad repeated that they had been killed during the war. “Yes, but how did they die? », she insisted. My companion then understood that she wanted to know not the context, but the instrument of their assassination. After a moment of hesitation, he replied: ” I don’t know. »

Right after, he came to talk to me about it. I was a little relieved, I must say, that it fell on him. And I thought to myself that I most certainly would have answered the same thing. It just seemed impossible to me to explain to my granddaughter that these children had been led into a room under the pretext of taking a shower, then gassed, then burned. First, I’m not sure that those words could have crossed the threshold of my mouth, second, I didn’t want to open forever, in his mind, an abyss concerning what the human being was capable of doing.

“Speak true”

But my companion and I also know, of course, that we must avoid lying to children – in any case, their quasi-extraterrestrial sixth sense leaves us very little room for maneuver, since they burn us at the slightest omission. Françoise Dolto popularized the idea of ​​“truth speaking”; which obviously does not mean that everything should be told to the children.

In other circumstances, I also had the impression of having said “too much” to my three little ones (3, 5 and 7 years old). I answered thus, when they asked me how Kurt Cobain had committed suicide: “With a gun. “A water gun?” »asked my 3-year-old son. “Yes, with a water gun”, hastened to answer my eldest daughter, as if she had undertaken to protect him on her own, since I was not doing it. I also told them that Amy Winehouse had died from drinking too much alcohol, causing them great anxiety every time a beer was uncapped, and that Claude François had electrocuted himself in his bathtub, causing him a recurring figure in my 5 year old daughter’s psyche. Result: my three children have a strong aversion to fame, which according to them can only lead to death, more or less in a straight line.

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