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The Disaster That Could Have Been My Son’s Holocaust Board Game

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It’s the end of the school year and teachers are assigning their final projects for students to complete. Last week, my son came home with his last 5th grade book report of the year. The assignment is to make a board game based on a historical fiction novel. The parameters are as follows:

1. Create a pathway from start to finish including the main events of the story including conflict and resolution.

2. Incorporate facts from the book. Remember clothing, homes, speech, food, work, play and transportation are all a part of the story.

3. If the event is a happy occasion, add lines such as “Go ahead 2 spaces.”

4. If the event is unhappy, send players back to “Start” or “Lose a Turn.”

5. Decorate the box for the game board.

6. Make sure your game moves forward so that someone will win.

Sounds like fun, right?! It was until I asked him what period of history he selected.

“The Holocaust, Mommy,” he replied.

READ: What I Won’t Teach My Kids About The Holocaust

Alarm bells start to go off in my head. Wait! What?! My child wants to create a board game based on the Holocaust?

On the plus side, I am proud he was paying attention in Sunday School on the day his teacher spoke about Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). Knowing my son, I’m sure he took the phrase “Never Forget” to heart and had a strong desire to share stories of the Holocaust with others. Very admirable.

On the other hand, what would this game board even look like? Is the object of the game to flee from the Nazis before players are sent off to the concentration camps? Are the game pieces little yellow stars vs. red and black swastikas like in Stratego? Do we come up with a way for players to go into hiding like Anne Frank, or maybe secure a place on Schindler’s List to win the game? Should some players be captured, forced to board a train, and move backwards 10 steps? And how in the world would I decorate the box to depict such a tragic time in history?

READ: How I’m Teaching My Sons About the Holocaust

This board game about the Holocaust has “bad idea” written all over it.

I am usually supportive of any school project my children bring home, but I just couldn’t get behind this one. I explained to him how this would be a difficult period of history to create a game around. I tried to leave out that it would be completely inappropriate as well. I know his heart is in the right place, and while I’m all for Holocaust education, I just can’t imagine him demonstrating the game to his classmates. Or worse, allowing his teacher to put the game on display for everyone to see. OY VEY!

READ: How to Talk about the Holocaust

No. No. No. I suggested we pick another book and perhaps find a way to incorporate the Holocaust into his bar mitzvah project next year. At first, he resisted my suggestion–wanting to know why he couldn’t create a board game reflecting an important part of his own religious background. After explaining how challenging it would be to follow his teacher’s instructions (i.e. to show a happy occasion or a way to win the game), he understood and agreed to find another book

Over the weekend, we went to the library and picked out a story about Paul Revere and his famous midnight ride to Lexington to warn the colonists that the British were coming. A much better selection–don’t you think?

What would you have done?

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