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Holocaust Memorial Day and Early Childhood

27th January 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and Holocaust Memorial Day.

Even in the dark context of this time, there are stories of educators, families and communities who we can learn from to inspire our practice in Early Childhood Education. These examples include a defiant pursuit of children’s rights; a commitment at all costs for the children in care; and reflecting on and implementing important values and principles in our work, even when wider society is at odds with this.

This year, I hope to post a number of reflections relating to the Holocaust and early childhood.

The statue at the top of this page is found in Yad Vashem in Israel. The statue below is found in Warsaw, Poland. Both statues depict Janusz Korczak. Korczak was a Polish Jewish educator and writer, and he lived from 1878-1942.

Image by Barak Broitman from Pixabay
Image by Barak Broitman from Pixabay

This statue shows Janusz Korczak going to the death camp, Treblinka, alongside the children he cared for in an orphanage he established. This orphanage was in the Jewish Ghetto established by the Nazis in the Second World War.

Although Korczak had been offered his own freedom, he declined this in order to stay with the children he loved and cared for. He was killed, alongside 200 children from the orphanage and the deputy of the orphanage Stefania Wilczynska, in August 1942.

Korczak’s death showed the extent of his love for the children in his care. Throughout his life, he fought for children’s rights. He carefully reflected on his own practice and his educational principles have shaped other settings since his life.

In their book, Early Childhood Education: History, Philosophy and Experience, Cathy Nutbrown and Peter Clough explain how important it is to learn from educators of the past, their experience and ideas. They explain that more than memorising facts and dates, we should reflect on past ideas and examples and translate these to affect modern practice.

There is no better tribute to those who have gone before than to remould, revisit and revise their ideas for a new today.

Nutbrown and Clough, 2014, p3.

Following on from this Holocaust Memorial Day, I will post a number of blogs about Janusz Korczak’s educational ideas which can be used to inspire practice today.

Comments and other ideas are always welcome!

Book referenced above:

Nutbrown, C & Clough, P. (2014) Early Childhood Education: History, Philosophy and Experience. Second Edition. SAGE Publications LTD, London.

Other sources I’ve found helpful as research for this post:

Efrat Efron, S. (2008). Moral education between hope and hopelessness: The legacy of Janusz Korczak. Curriculum Inquiry38(1), 39-62.

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