I was six when I was introduced to World War Two. I had listened to stories from my old nan about the ‘Jerries’ and the bombs they dropped, enthralled before this. They could hardly be real!
My grandad took me to the Imperial War Museum in London, with the great ship guns sitting proudly and victoriously outside. I looked at the planes, the cars, the bomb shells and then, on the second floor, we stopped outside the cinema room. I wasn’t that bothered about going in until the man at the door shook his head and told my grandad: “I wouldn’t, mate. It’s a Holocuast film,” and he looked at me.
I couldn’t go in and now, I was desperate to see why. What kind of film was being shown in a museum of all places that I couldn’t see? Aged six, my preconceptions of museums were that they were interesting but sometimes dull places, not places with things that I was too small for.
Nineties children couldn’t run home and boot up (literally) the internet as easily and readily as children now and so I begged my nan to take me to the library, I didn’t say why. We walked to the library, all the while I was trying to work out how that word I had heard in the museum just days earlier would be spelled.
The children’s section of the local library had worn out red and yellow carpet with brightly coloured book shelves. The history section was minimal- vikings, Henry VIII (my interest in him would come later) and Romans- and I felt a little disappointed. I kept looking and looking until I found a large, hard back book with a colourful drawn picture of a girl with brown hair and large smile. It wasn’t the girl who made me pull the book from the shelf but the little writing in italic under the title which read: ‘A girl’s story of the Holocaust.’
The girl was of course Anne Frank. I suppose a lot of children are introduced to the Nazi’s and their prejudices through Anne Frank, probably because she was a child herself. The book which I opened eagerly however was not her diary but a simplified story of her life. Drawn pictures and shiney black and white photographs filled the pages. I didn’t have time to read it before I checked it out but I know I was so pleased to have found it. My nan was surprised that I should choose such a book but it was for children after all and so I nearly ran home.
I can still remember that book, I’ve tried to order it but I can’t find any good versions. It turned my interest into obsession and since then I have devoured every book, article and website that I could find. The Holocuast, the Nazi domestic regime, the Nazi war front- everything and anything. At the beginning I think I was trying to read as much as I could to understand then I turned fifteen and realised I would never understand because Hitler and his party’s actions and beliefs are incomprehensible.
I’m not a historian in the qualified sense. I boast no degree or anything like that (except both a GCSE and an A-Level in the subject) so I know that whatever I post, it won’t be as academic as what some may want to read. The reason why I’ve decided to start this is because I do know a lot and I am still so interested. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how so many of both the perpetrators and the victims are getting older and older. Eventually, and very soon, there will not be any witnesses and there is the very real chance that people’s knowledge and interest will fade.
It is imperative that this does not happen. Everything to do with Nazi Germany is still relatable to events today- dictatorship, propaganda, genocide, war- it still happens everyday. We have not learnt from this horrific period of history and if it is forgotten then we never will. It should never be forgotten.