Monday, November 19, 2007

Difficult Subjects Indeed

Betsy wrote a great article on her Blog Ness Monster blog regarding how to talk to children about the 2nd world war and Hitler. In other words how to discuss difficult subjects (which I stole for part of my title here).

After my attempt to add a comment went on into the 6th or 7th paragraph I decided I should just do a blog reply. This comes partially from my major in college, which was German. It seems like the major could have been renamed, German and the 2nd world war. The topic was pervasive throughout all of the courses that we took.

How does one deal with that war as an American living in Germany. How does one explain the atrocities, difficulties, etc. of that time. I remember the story of Anne Frank being a great start for younger kids. I still think that is a great story and worthy of telling.

Here are some of my other thoughts for dealing with the 2nd world war with our children.

For younger kids the TV program Sendung mit der Maus produced an excellent episode about how children lived after the war. Only found one site that sells the episode (VHS). Seems like they could make a ton of money off of selling the episodes, on DVD? But, anyway, the episode tells the story of living in post war Germany outside of Cologne (Köln), Germany. One of the actors on the show grew up during that time and describes his life outside of the city. Very well done. Hope they get it onto DVD some day. It's in German of course.

For older children I really enjoyed the film Saints and Soldiers. Our first German exchange student and I really loved watching that one together. It captures the emotion of longing for peace and friendship in the midst of the war.

Another idea I've had, and plan to work on over the next years while we are here to have individuals who lived in post war Germany talk to our children. I have spoken to several of our neighbors and heard many intriguing stories about their childhood memories of living in post war Germany. I plan to invite them into our home to tell my children about their own childhood, about the walk from East Prussia to Germany for instance; about the life they lived with meager supplies and housing. I hope that some will be willing and able to share their experiences with our children. One good reason to do this is that that generation won't be around much longer. The children of the war (the 7, 8, 9 year olds) who walked from East Prussia to Germany are now in their 70's and 80's.

And one final note on Betsy's experience with her Russian landlord who lived through the war.

In the states I worked with a fellow who would lick his plate clean after meals, including meals in semi-public places. I asked him about that and he credited his father, a German immigrant to the United States. He said his dad always did the same thing and always told his children basically the same thing as the Russian landlord said. You don't know what it's like to go without food. Be thankful for every bit of food you have.

That war changed our world forever and is worthy of discussion, study, contemplation, and reflection. And it is worthy of re-telling. How to re-tell the story is another question and I hope my thoughts help the cause.


Betsy said...

I'm really glad you wrote this post rather than just leaving a short comment! This is such a complex topic and really deserves the extra attention.

I love the Sendung mit der Maus-- will definitely look up that episode you mentioned.

I also thought it was interesting to visit our Heimatmuseum. The women who direct it have lived here their whole lives and it was fascinating to hear about their post-war experiences. (fascinating but also a bit uncomfortable. at least for me...)

We are trying to raise our children to be compassionate individuals and living here provides a great opportunity to explore this difficult subject and see that everyone suffered because of the war regardless of which side they were on.

Your story about your colleague gave me a chill. And it reminded me what a blessing it is to live in a safe place with plenty of healthy food. Which is very appropriate for today--

Happy Thanksgiving! :-)

Gardner said...

Thanks for the post and follow-up comment.

The museum is a great idea.

The Petrini Post said...

My Dad and I just visited the Holocaust Museum here in DC last week, and I was amazed and horrified at what really happened and all the photos and images that were preserved. It's most frightening how easily the german people bought into whatever Hitler told them (i guess it came from fear too) but that no one tried to stop him before his evil plan was played out.

I know I will never be the same after visiting there, but it makes me more curious about the history of Germany and the people. I would love to visit there someday.

Anyway, I thought I would put my 2 cents in.

Kay's Puppy said...

I was impressed to mention to you that Daggo Kline in our ward here also lived through the war. I believe he was born in Austria but lived in the post war years in Germany where the gospel became part of their lives. I am sure Tammy remembers Annette Kline (Her daughter was a friend of Coleen's).. He hasn't said much to me about it though.

Love Ya'll
Dad Johnson

Sh said...

Greetings from a random fan of "Living in Germany" - I appreciate the insight as my wife and I plan our move to Germany.

I wanted to point out that I have been watching Sendung Mit der Maus on my iPhone via podcasting. You can check them out at:


Thank Wheelers for all of your fantastic sharing!

Gardner said...

Thanks for the sweet comments everyone. I found Die Sendung mit der Maus on iTunes.

It is good. The stories are informative, interesting, and you learn a ton, but it is just not as good without the little Maus/Elefant cartoons in between segments. Maybe someday.

March 2007