How the Montreal Holocaust Museum is teaching kids through stories
Published Sunday, January 26, 2020 8:50PM EST Last Updated Sunday, January 26, 2020 8:50PM EST
MONTREAL -- With Monday marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz the Montreal Holocaust Museum is using literature to teach children about one of the darkest chapters in human history.
On Sunday the museum was visited by Anne Renaud, author of ‘Fania’s Heart.’ The book tells the tale of a birthday card in the shape of heart that was made for a young girl while she was imprisoned in Auschwitz.
The Holocaust is a weighty and disturbing topic but Renaud said there are ways to write about it that are educational for kids.
“You can write on pretty much any subject for kids. It’s really dependent on how you present the material and also the fact that every story needs to be preserved somehow,” she said. “Every story needs a voice and is important. I felt this is the story I need to bring to young readers.”
Parent Natasha Doyon brought her child to learn and make her own heart-shaped card.
“We can sit around the table and it’s very casual but there’s also a story attached to it,” she said. “She can make her own thoughts around it but around something that’s very innocent as well. She can engage with a human story.”
Some recent studies show a troubling ignorance among young Canadians when it comes to history. One study showed 22 per cent of Canadians between 18 and 34 were unaware or unsure if they’d heard about the Holocaust. A Leger poll found more than half of Quebecers didn’t learn in school how many Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
Foundation for Genocide Education founder Heidi Berger has been preparing a guide for Quebec teachers on how to teach about genocide. Berger, who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors, said many people aren’t learning history as they should.
“When I go into schools and tell them my parents’ story and my story growing up in Ste-Agathe and telling them about anti-semitism there, they’re shocked,” she said. “They come up to me after or put their hands up after and say they had never heard of it before. Teachers are shocked, they don’t know anything about it.”
Renaud said Holocaust education is more important than ever, pointing to parallels in the present.
“What happened is very relevant now. The tendency of trying to separate people and distance themselves from others is very present in today’s society,” she said. “We need to be reminded of what can happen.”