formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Light in the Dark...

Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and to your children's children.

This verse from Deuteronomy is carved into the marble wall in the Hall of Remembrance in the Holocaust Museum in Washington. I visited the museum a couple of months ago and knew that I wanted to make known what I saw there to my child... and so I took her today. Being there hurts my heart and I wrestled with the idea that Ryan might be too young to appreciate the message... or face the horror... and when I was there last, I saw few children her age. But she is mature for nine, so I took a chance. And I'm glad I did.

We started with the childrens' exhibition, Daniel's Story, which is excellent. It's a very visual and hands-on telling of the Holocaust experience from the viewpoint of an 11-year-old Jewish boy. She took it all in, quietly and thoughtfully. We moved on to the main exhibit after that. The details of the history were too much (and too complex), for her to process, as it covers 1933 to 1945, but the details weren't what I wanted to focus on anyway. We walked slowly through and I pointed out various things to her, including the photos of the non-Jewish people who were also targeted by Hitler. She realized that although I would have been 'safe', given my whiter-than-white heritage, she, with her dark skin and Hispanic and Native American blood, would have been someone Hitler considered inferior. That generated wide eyes and a look that went from disbelief to horror to anger. It's not something she'll soon forget... of that, I'm certain.

Afterward, I asked her how she felt about what she saw. She told me she was sad and so sorry for the people who suffered and died just because they were born Jewish. She said it didn't make sense to her and it made her so angry. I told her I was glad she felt that way because that's how all good people should feel. I explained that there are still people, people in the US even, who believe Hitler was right. There are people who are so angry and afraid of anyone who is different from them and that sort of anger and fear can cause people to do awful things to one another. And I told her that's why I keep saying that we have to live our lives unafraid, embracing diversity, exhibiting tolerance, expressing love... we simply cannot live in the same dark place where so very many people live today.

I wanted Ryan to finish The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (a book about the unlikely friendship between a Jewish boy and the son of the Commandant of Auschwitz) before our visit to the museum. She did (last night, under the covers, after she was supposed to be asleep!). On the way to DC, I asked her what message she took from the story.

She answered, "That people learn how to hate and fear. Seems like those people can learn to love, too, if they just have someone to teach them."

Well. That's what I call a light in the dark.

And here she is... my little light in the dark (and her proud mom).

13 comments:

Shanna said...

What a great way to teach something SO important! Thanks for the book title, I think I'll have to see if our library has it - I'm betting my oldest would like to read it.

Ronda's Rants said...

I saw the previews of this movie in the theater...I am going to look for the book. When my daughter was 10 she read The Diary of Anne Frank...she is blond and blue eyed like her father's German ancestors..while her brother's take after my more ethnic background...
she had nightmares of her brothers being taken from us. It is important that we all remember and speak of it! Thanks for speaking.

Diane said...

Shanna... thanks :). It's an amazing and powerful book. You do have to explain a bit about the war/Holocaust if your daughter doesn't know about it yet, as the story is told from the perspective of a 9-year-old who didn't understand what was really going on around him. Adults reading it would know, of course, but a child might not. It's WELL worth a read, but I'll warn you that the ending is difficult to take (Ryan called it 'brutal').

Ronda... I think it's so important to talk about, too. Given what we're witnessing now in the news and during this election campaign, it's clear that fear, hate, and intolerance are running rampant in the world AND the US. I don't want to frighten her but I want Ryan to understand that it doesn't have to be that way... and that we have to be able to see how it was and how it can be again in order to avoid the backslide. She's young but she understands a lot.

Protege said...

Diane, you have a smart and eloquent daughter, who is just like yourself.
It seems to have been a very important day in many ways, which you shared.
I love the picture.

Heinous said...

A very important lesson taught in a great way. My son's a little young for that nwo, but I'll file that title away for later.

Diane said...

Zuz... thanks so much )

H... I was really worried that Ryan was too young, but in the last 6 or 7 months, she seems to have aged about 4 years :). She's about to start The Diary of Anne Frank now, and I think I was 9 or so when I read it, too. And I'm sure we'll do another museum visit when she's a bit older and can understand more.

Heather said...

Your daughter sounds wonderful. I know, like most children, she can probably give you a headache sometimes (I gave my mother MANY), but it sounds like she is very intelligent and has a very sweet heart.
She will remember this little lesson forever. :)

Mel said...

She's so smart. I don't even know what else to say. I'm very proud of her. She gets all of that from you, from what you've taught her and from your example.

Diane said...

Heather... thanks! She can absolutely be a pill some days. I told her Godmother recently that 90% of the time she's a joy... and 10% of the time I want to kick her butt into tomorrow :)

Mel... thanks. That means a lot coming from you.

The Odd Duck said...

"...if they just have someone to teach them."

Diane, your daughter is so very easily able to cut right to the quick of things.

I'm sure you're proud. I'm proud and I don't even know her.

- Kendall

Miss Caught Up said...

Your daughter is so cute and gorgeous! What a great post! :)

hautepocket said...

Love it.

swenglishexpat said...

You pointed me in this direction, so I comment. This was a very moving post. I used to teach children Ryan's age, so I know quite well how they think.
(I hope you spot this comment at this late stage.)