5 things to keep in mind when talking to young people about the Holocaust: International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2024 

Story is the most basic way we humans make sense of the world around us. It is how we preserve our memories, create our own identities, and imagine our futures. The retelling of our shared narratives and histories is how we create cultures, families, and communities. Telling the story of our history is how we learn from where we came, so we know where we are going. Especially the hard histories that make us want to look away.  

One quick scroll through your TikTok for you page, or a quick Google search for the day’s news will tell you that we have forgotten our histories, and we are reliving the lessons our ancestors before us have already learned. Even though there is more content being created and shared than ever before, our shared narratives are being lost in translation. How do we learn from those who came before us if we do not know how to share our histories? 

For Camp Fire, connection is at the root of our mission. Humans are designed for connection. It is how we make sense of the world. How we grieve. How we heal. How we create. How we grow. How we find comfort. Connection is how we survive. And it is our most powerful tool for healing and creating change. Sharing our stories, and understanding our shared history is one of the most powerful ways we connect. Across generations. Across cultures. Across differences.  

January 27th is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.   

The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27th–the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau–as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). 

The Holocaust is one of those shared memories that we so easily lose touch with when we don’t continue telling the story. The last Nazi concentration camps were liberated in 1945, almost 80 years ago. Yet antisemitic incidents have been on the rise since 2016, with a 400% increase since the October 7th attack. 

We must not forget the awful path that hatred takes us down.  

“And I got to thinking about the moral meaning of memory, per se. And what it means to forget, what it means to fail to preserve the connection with the dead whose lives [we] want or need to honor with our own.”

June Jordan 

That is why we must remember and tell our stories. We must have honest, real conversations with young people about the horrors of genocide, and also share the heroes that fought against fear through connection and bravery. Stories like that of Marianne Winter, a 16-year-old Jewish girl whose family needed to flee Nazi-annexed Austria, and her American Camp Fire Girl pen pal Jane Bomberger, whose family signed an affidavit of support that enabled Marianne’s family to escape to the United States. 
Quick note: first, prepare yourself around this topic. Before approaching such a vast and difficult subject with a young person, try to educate yourself on the subject as well as you can so you are ready with answers and insights. There are some great websites out there that can help you do this, such as the Holocaust Educational Trust at www.het.org.uk or the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance at www.holocaustremembrance.com. It is also worth mentioning that you should prepare yourself emotionally. When looking into the events of the Holocaust, there are so many facts that are upsetting beyond our imagining, and it will help you to be ready for the young person’s emotional response if you have ensured that you are as emotionally prepared as possible yourself. 
So let’s talk. Here are five things to keep in mind today when talking to young people about the Holocaust: 

  1. Start slowly. In the beginning, keep it brief. If you go slowly and listen, young people will let you know how much information they want. Gradually introduce the topic using age-appropriate language and scenarios. Young children won’t understand geopolitics or statistics. Instead, start with concepts that relate to their everyday lives like bullying. It might be hard for a young person today to feel that events from eighty years ago have any relevance for them. Equally, the horrors are so great that it could be hard for them to grasp the facts in a real way. By talking about the effects of peer pressure or discussing their understanding of bullying and why people might be drawn to certain types of negative behavior, you can help make the issues relevant and relatable for them, and this can be a good way to gently open the wider subjects of the Holocaust. 
  2. Learn together. If the young person you are talking to has done their own research or has their own stories, be open to listening to them. To learn together, go to the library and look up books on the topic. Read stories about the Holocaust, both fiction and non-fiction, that are age appropriate. Here is a list of books from the Jewish Book Council for middle schoolers about the Holocaust. Visit a memorial museum or watch an age-appropriate documentary. 
  3. Be honest. Affirm the hard reality in an age-appropriate way. You don’t need to tell young people more than they need to know but don’t sugarcoat the truth, either. Young people are sensitive to evasion and will be reassured by straightforward honesty. It helps them feel more secure in a dangerous world if they feel they can trust you to tell them the truth.  
  4. Encourage engagement. Seek out organizations that focus on sharing survivor’s stories with the next generation and host events at your local schools and community centers. Another great way to educate young people is to bring them to a museum or exhibit focused on the Holocaust. 
  5. Expect to have more than a single conversation. As a young person grows, revisit the topic, adding age-appropriate details that are relevant to their lives at that time. Discussions will become easier the more practice you have. 

What has your experience been in remembering? 

Learn more about this day:  



Talking to young people about hard things:

A lot is happening in the world right now. And young people have a lot to feel and say about it all.

We have gathered resources for you to help start the conversation at home, in your classroom, and in your programs. To create space to connect. You don’t have to know the perfect thing to say, but our kids need us to reach out to them. They are processing so much violence, misinformation, and hatred online. They need safe spaces to ask questions, to feel their emotions and to know they are not alone.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/going-beyond-intelligence/201811/how-should-you-talk-your-child-about-the-holocaust  
  2. https://www.scld.org/how-to-talk-with-children-about-the-holocaust-expert-tips-suggested-books/ 
  3. https://www.parents.com/kids/education/how-to-teach-your-children-about-the-holocaust/ 
  1. https://www.booktrust.org.uk/news-and-features/features/2021/january/five-tips-for-talking-to-young-people-about-the-holocaust/  

January 26, 2024

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