This year, my son is studying U.S. history. Last year’s history curriculum started in the 1600′s and ended with President William McKinley. We studied the famous painting, Signing of the Peace Protocol Between Spain and United States, where President McKinley stands presiding over the signing. That painting hangs in the Treaty Room at the White House. The history curriculum this year, 6th grade, began with the turn of the century and President Theodore Roosevelt. We have made our way through WWI, the Great Depression, and now the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Next, I have to discuss WWII. I have been dreading this era since we started school. How do I discuss Hitler and the Holocaust? It isn’t going to be easy.
Today, I began reading aloud WWII for Kids, and I explained that Hitler’s army invaded some European countries, including Austria. With the mention of Austria, I immediately thought of the movie, The Sound of Music. I thought about the scenes that depicted the Nazi Party and how it could relate to what we were discussing. I remembered the part in the movie when Captain von Trapp rips the Nazi flag to show his anger and disapproval of the new “leadership”. At the end of the movie, the von Trapp family, full of fear, fled Austria during the night to hide from the Nazis. That alone told me, even as an adult, that the Nazis were bad news.
A second movie that had historical references of Hitler’s regime came to mind, Schindler’s List. This movie is not for children to watch. Even for an adult, the movie is shockingly brutal. Knowing this, I told my 11-year-old that I would find some mild scenes where the [German] army invades the Jewish ghettos [in Poland] and then I would call him into the room. My intention was to show my son how clever the [Jews] were with making hiding places. My idea didn’t work. As I watched the parts where the German army invaded the ghetto, I noticed how often someone was shot, usually in the head at point-blank range. Even in black and white, the scenes were disturbing. The movie was so intense that I turned it off. I never allowed my son to see any of it. How on earth did I ever watch it before!? I guess looking at a movie through the would be eyes of a child puts things in a new perspective.
After today, I thought about Schindler’s List in a different light. I use to think films like it were brilliant for showing the ugly realities of war. Not anymore. I have realized that I don’t need to see a soldier mercilessly shoot a man in the head and then watch the blood soak into the snow on the road just to understand how horrible Hitler was [towards those who he thought were inferior]. Some people welcome that realization, but I don’t, and children definitely should not.
So, from my WWII lesson, I reflected on two movies that portrayed the evils that came from Hitler and Nazi Germany. What a contrast in depictions, from The Sound of Music to Schindler’s List! Call me sensitive or naive but Captain von Trapp’s ripping the Nazi flag says all anyone needs to know about Hitler.
Note-I have made a few corrections since posting this entry. There were some erroneous references that I didn’t catch it in my editing (it was very late when I wrote first wrote it and I was tired.) Glad I don’t get paid to blog. :-)