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Finding an age-appropriate way to teach the Holocaust

Former head of Clore Tikva was inspired by visit to Ghetto Fighters Museum to write a play for the classroom about the Warsaw Ghetto

    King Solomon students depict life in the Warsaw ghetto (photo: Zachary Cohen)
    King Solomon students depict life in the Warsaw ghetto (photo: Zachary Cohen)

    Lenna Rosenberg retired in summer from Clore Tikva in Redbridge after 13 years as headteacher of the cross-communal school.

    But she was back this week for the first performances of a play she has penned to help teach about the Holocaust.

    Aimed at 10- to 12-year-olds, it depicts the life of a Jewish child who endures the Warsaw Ghetto. The idea came after a visit to the Ghetto Fighters’ Museum in Israel where she “saw a play about a young girl who survived. It was so amazing, it inspired me to write my own play.”

    Based “on testimonies from a number of Jewish children in Poland,” she said, it “is divided into life before the War, the prohibitions and restrictions — what it was like to wear a yellow star — and what happened afterwards. There is nothing too horrific. I was mindful to make it age-appropriate for year six. There is no mention of concentration camps or gas chambers.

    “It was to give children understanding of the emotional side — what it was like to live hidden and scared.”

    The 15-minute drama, sponsored by Yad Vashem UK, was staged for Clore Tikva’s year-six classes and a visiting group from Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary and acted by year-9 pupils from Kantor King Solomon High School.

    “The King Solomon students were very emotionally involved and took their characters seriously,” she said.

    After the performance, children explore their feelings in workshops with the actors. Clore Tikva pupil Joseph Westbury, after seeing the play, wrote: "Lost in a world of destruction/like a broken vase,/ smashed into a million pieces,/My heart is booming like the bombs outside,/unbearable hunger,/not much space,/depressed,/depressed like being alone,/anger lurks inside of me,/like a fire breathing dragon,/we are ants to an army."

    Mrs Rosenberg said, "We have relied on survivors for Holocaust education but there needs to be other media to send out the message."

    Next week it will be seen by year-7s at King Solomon, while filmed clips will be shown at the Redbridge Holocaust Memorial Day event in Valentines Park next Friday. 

    “I hope to take it to Jewish schools in North-West London in the summer term and to extend it to non-Jewish schools next year,” Mrs Rosenberg said.

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