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Three Films to Help Teach Children About the Holocaust

An eight-year-old boy befriends another child living on the other side of a fence behind his home in the movie The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas.

Photo ©2008 Miramax

January 27 marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which takes place on the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation.


“January 27 marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day”

At a United Nations Holocaust Memorial Service in New York, filmmaker Steven Spielberg told the audience that people cannot be paralyzed by the past horrors of genocide but must act against future bloodshed.

In a Presidential address to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, President Barak Obama said, “We commemorate all the victims of the Holocaust, pledging never to forget, and recalling the cautionary words of the author and survivor of Auschwitz Primo Levi, ‘It happened, therefore it can happen again. . . . It can happen anywhere.’ Today we come together and commit, to the millions of murdered souls and all survivors, that it must never happen again.”

For many families, this dark and horrible period of history can be a difficult one to talk about with your children. Some of the following movies can be an introduction to the events that occurred during WWII depending on the age of your family.

The Book Thief is a sanitized version of what happened during WWII. While the concentration camps are only discussed in this movie, one family puts themselves in danger when they agree to hide a young Jewish man. This film depicts the war from the perspective of a little German girl and may be a appropriate introduction to events for older children.

The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas is also told from perspective of a child. The young son of a military officer has to say good-bye to his friends when his father is re-stationed. At their new home, the child has no one to play with until he makes friends with a little boy in stripped pajamas that lives on the other side of an electrified fence. This movie ends with a bit of a twist so parents may want to watch it before deciding if it is suitable for their children.

Life is Beautiful may be a better choice for older teens and adults. When Guido Orefice and his family are sent to a concentration camp, this loving father tries to shield his son from the reality of what is happening by telling him they have been chosen to play an elaborate game. Their goal is to get 1,000 points so they can win a real tank. Roberto Benigni who wrote, directed and starred in the movie has been criticized for using humor in this holocaust depiction. But the real point of the movie may be how love and our attitudes help us endure unimaginable challenges.

Take an online tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C..


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