In Israeli Kindergartens, An Early Lesson In The Holocaust : Parallels Israeli schools on Thursday carried out a standardized lesson plan for the first time to teach kindergartners the meaning of the country's annual Holocaust Remembrance Day.
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In Israeli Kindergartens, An Early Lesson In The Holocaust

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In Israeli Kindergartens, An Early Lesson In The Holocaust

In Israeli Kindergartens, An Early Lesson In The Holocaust

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Israel, the county's has a nationwide curriculum for discussing the Holocaust in schools. But this year, it was expanded to kindergartners as they try to understand the events around them. NPR's Emily Harris reports.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: One big reason Israel wrote an official Holocaust curriculum for kindergarten is this.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR RAID SIREN)

HARRIS: Every year on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, an air raid siren wails for two full minutes.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR RAID SIREN)

HARRIS: When that happened today, people stopped driving, as they do every year. They stopped working. They stood still and remembered. Last night, TV shows were canceled and shops closed up early. Kindergarten teacher Nava Ron says 4 and 5-year-olds know something is up.

NAVA RON: (Through interpreter) You can't ignore it. It exists. There's the siren. But our job is to keep them calm and not give them too much information. They'll have enough years to learn the real history of the Jewish people.

HARRIS: This morning, Ron held a special conversation with just a few of her older kindergartners.

RON: (Speaking Hebrew).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Speaking Hebrew).

HARRIS: She told them Holocaust Memorial Day relates to a war that happened long before they were born and far away. One child says Israeli soldiers protect them now. Another piped up and said then, the whole world was at war. That's right, Ron said, and talked about other ways to solve conflicts. Then all the children gathered. Before the real siren started, teacher Ron invited them to make the siren sound.

RON: (Speaking Hebrew).

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Imitating siren).

HARRIS: They all knew how. During the real one, some children came to her for a hug. Then when it finished, she said, OK, now back to our routine. This is exactly the type of Holocaust lesson Israel wants in kindergarten. Educators standardized the kindergarten material in part because some teachers were saying too much.

YAEL RICHLER-FRIEDMAN: One of the mistakes is telling them everything.

HARRIS: Yael Richler-Friedman helped write the kindergarten curriculum.

RICHLER-FRIEDMAN: Telling them about the gas chambers, telling them about the horrible person who wanted to kill all the Jews. And if he would live today, also he would want to kill all the Jews, and some think that that is very, very frightening - and even sometimes using pictures, horrible pictures.

HARRIS: Another problem she regularly sees, she's an educator at Israel's Holocaust center, Yad Vashem, is kindergarten teacher avoiding the subject entirely.

RICHLER-FRIEDMAN: Saying that the siren is an ambulance or something like that, it's not an educational act. It's lying.

HARRIS: She believes the struggle kindergarten teachers face is the same one many people do. How do you explain the Holocaust, not just to little kids but at all? Emily Harris, NPR News Jerusalem.

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