Scrapbookpages Blog

May 27, 2013

Holocaust fiction for children, and Holocaust poetry for children…a new literary genre

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:54 am

I was shocked to learn recently that there are books of fiction about the Holocaust that are deemed suitable reading material for children in the third grade. Holocaust fiction for young children is a whole new literary genre, replacing the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, that children used to read.

What’s next?  Baby’s first Holocaust ABC book?

Children in the fourth grade in American schools are required to read fictional books such as Number the Stars before listening to a Holocaust survivor speak in their classroom.  I always thought that Holocaust education began in the fifth grade in America, but now it seems that children are being indoctrinated at younger and younger ages.

What really got to me was when I learned about the poetry of Paul Janeczko, for example, his Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto  which was written for children.

Terezin is now a town in the Czech Republic, but Janeczko’s poems are about the ghetto for Jews, named Theresienstadt, which was set up by the Nazis during World War II.

According to Wikipedia, Janeczko’s Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto was the recipient of the following awards:

·       CYBILS’ Poetry Award Winner for 2012
·       Children’s Books of the Year 2012
·       Notable Books for a Global Society 2012
·       Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts 2012
·       Teachers Choice 2012

This quote is one of the poems, spoken by the fictional SS Captain Bruno Krueger, in Requiem:

We herded all the Jew swine
close to the gallows
where the old Jew stood on the wagon
noosed.
I ordered my Jews closer.
Close enough to hear
the twig snap of his neck.
Close enough to smell
when he shit himself in death.
Close enough to see his face darken,
his tongue poke from his mouth.

The speaker in the poem (fictional SS Captain Bruno Krueger) then forces a different Jew to throw stones at a boy until the boy dies.

In another poem, the manager of the camp’s crematorium describes, in graphic detail, what happens to a human body as it burns.
The following quote is from this blog:

Requiem, written in free verse, is a valuable asset to the collection of Holocaust literature and gives a courageous voice to the 140,000 European Jews who suffered unspeakable and inhumane treatment by Nazi guards. Although Hitler hailed the Czech collection and transport camp, Terezin, as a haven for artistic and intellectual Jews, it was little more than a pit stop en route to the gas chambers. In “SS Captain Bruno Krueger” an older Jewish man and a young boy tried to escape but were dragged back for “the lesson.” Captain Bruno narrates their fate: (We herded all the Jew swine/ close to the gallows/ where the old Jew stood on the wagon/ noosed./ I ordered my Jews closer./ Close enough to hear the twig snap of his neck.) These harrowing poems are sure to fill readers with undeniable feelings of sadness, anger, and confusion about how something this despicable could happen.

This quote, which includes another poem in the SS Captain Bruno Krueger section, is from the same blog:

Spotlight Poem
Excerpt from: SS Captain Bruno Krueger
As he hung and finished his death dance,
a guard brought forth the other man.
Man? Was he old enough to shave?
No matter.
He will be a teacher,
playing his part in today’s lesson.
He was, perhaps, saving other Jews
who dreamed of freedom.
Hands tied behind his back,
kneeling in the mud
he looked at me with defiance.
I enjoyed the chance to show him,
to show all,
the impracticality of defiance.
Another Jew fetched a bucket
filled with paving stones.
I selected a stone,
carefully,
looking for one with sharp corners.
The only way that poems like this should be taught to American school children is in a class about Jewish propaganda. The class should learn, at the same time, the truth about the Theresienstadt ghetto.