Using Yad Vashem’s “No Child's Play” Exhibition with Students:

An Age-Appropriate Approach

This online material has been developed to help teachers prepare their students’ visit to view the Yad Vashem’s  “No Child’s Play: Children in the Holocaust – Creativity and Play” traveling exhibition, including two videos, in their respective communities.

Teacher’s Note: It is highly recommended that educators become familiar with the contents of the seventeen panels of the exhibition (texts, photographs and artifacts) before they work with their students. In addition, it is recommended that educators guide their students through the exhibition so as not to create a situation where their students guide themselves without proper preparation or wander around.

Educators who would like to access the online version of this exhibition, should consult the Yad Vashem website in English at:

Pedagogical Goals

During this activity, students will:

·         Learn about the world of Jewish children before, during and after the Holocaust

·         Focus on personal stories

·         Become familiar with primary source materials, such as photographs, artifacts and testimonies

·         Develop empathy for the victims

·         Think about children's unalienable, universal rights that must be protected

Grade Levels

This exhibition may be suitable for different grade levels. However, it is very important that educators be careful to develop an age-appropriate approach according to their students’ cognitive and emotional levels.

In this resource, age-appropriate activities are outlined for both pupils of elementary schools (grades 6-8) as well as for high school students (grades 9-12).


The Holocaust radically changed the course of the lives of Jewish children in most European countries.  As their “normal” childhood abruptly came to an end, Jewish children often had to grapple with insurmountable circumstances, especially constant hunger, despair and danger.  Many times Jewish children were thereby forced to assume adult responsibilities as well. This exhibition highlights their daily struggles to survive and their efforts to preserve their childhood despite the harsh realities that surrounded them.

During the visit to this exhibition, educators should focus on the hardships of Jewish children during the Holocaust, especially highlighting the victims’ “stolen childhood,” exposure to constant terror as well as the drastic changes in their family life.

This exhibit highlights Jewish children’s toys and drawings, which often took on different meanings during the Holocaust period.

It should be noted that children’s games are traditionally designed to entertain youngsters and contribute to their cognitive and emotional development.  Children’s toys often provide comfort as well. Toys during the Holocaust often represented happy times in the eyes of Jewish children before their lives fell apart – a link to their past.

Drawings are often windows into the inner world of children, expressing their feelings and dreams. Their illustrations often denote how children process their experiences with the world around them. During the Holocaust, Jewish children sought to preserve their memories on the one hand, and contend with their changing realities on the other hand.

Exhibition Overview

These 17 panels focus on Jewish children’s lives before the war, during the Holocaust, and in the aftermath.

Before the Holocaust: Teachers should focus on how Jewish families lived before their lives were destroyed. Students will develop empathy for the Jewish children who lived normal lives, enjoyed security and thrived in the warmth of their families.

During the Holocaust: Teachers should highlight the changes Jewish children faced as well as their efforts to be connected with their former realities. Students will learn about the victims’ childhood toys as well as their imagination in the world of chaos.

After the Holocaust: Teachers should pose discussion questions to their students, such as: How do young people rebuild their lives despite formal education? What happened to Jewish children who survived the Holocaust after the war? Students will become familiar with the personal stories of child Holocaust survivors who re-entered western society and started families – often against all odds.

Suggestions for Guiding Elementary School Children (Grades 6-8)

Before viewing the exhibition, teachers should ask their students to bring with them a childhood toy or a drawing on the day of the visit.

Before entering the exhibition space: Children should sit in a circle so that each one can say a few words about the picture/toy that they brought.

Teachers should ask their pupils to share their childhood memories by discussing some of the following questions: What is this toy/drawing? Why is it important to you? Do you remember a special story related to it? Did you lose a toy or an important object from your childhood? If so, how does it make you feel? What did that toy mean to you then –and what does it mean to you now?

Guiding the Exhibition

Panel 2: Before the Holocaust

Here teachers should give their students a brief introduction about the life of Jewish children before the Holocaust.

Suggested Discussion Question:

What do you share in common with the children in these photos?

Panel 3: In the Shadow of War

Suggested Discussion Questions:

Here teachers should compare the photos on this panel with those from Panel 1 taken before the Holocaust. Teachers should explain that not a lot of time passed between these photos and the ones we saw beforehand.

On this panel, there are photographs of German-Jewish child refugees.

What do you notice about these photos?

What is the difference between the photos of these two panels?

Teacher’s Note: In Panel I, the children are holding their toys and seem happy and safe. In Panel 3, the boy is holding the toy like a shield. The toy is not being held in a “natural position,” but rather has become a protection device. The role of the toy in essence has changed as the child encounters persecution.

Panel 5: Terezin/Theresienstadt

Here teachers should provide their class with some background information about the Terezin/Theresienstadt Ghetto, focusing on the children’s newspaper, Kamarad. In the newspaper published by and distributed by Jewish children in Terezin, the young “journalists” focused on their experiences in the ghetto as well as the world that they knew before they were deported from their homes. If students ask how children in Terezin obtained art supplies, teachers should explain that in this ghetto there were painters who were forced laborers for Nazi Germany who had access to art supplies.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

How would you describe the story in the children’s newspaper, Kamarad, that was written by children living in the Terezin ghetto?

How would you describe the comics published in Kamarad?

Why do you think Jewish children published drawings in the ghetto?

Panel 8: Children’s Homes

Here teachers should explain about Janusz Korczak, and his role as an educator in Poland before the war as well as his work in the Warsaw Ghetto. They should also focus on the theme of music as showcased on this panel.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

Are you a musician?

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

What place does music have in your family life?

In times of hardship, how can musical instruments encourage people’s will to live?

Panel 9: Children’s Homes in France

Here teachers should explain how some Jewish children were successfully hidden during the Holocaust. Normally, hiding is related to playing a game. However, during the Holocaust period, hiding was a means of survival and constant danger. Teachers should remind their students that the majority of Jewish children were murdered during the Holocaust and did not survive (approximately 1.5 million).

Suggested Discussion Questions:

What comes to your mind when you think about hiding?

How did Jewish children pass their time in hiding?

How did they keep track of time?

Poem:  During the Time We Brushed Our Teeth

Here teachers should read the poem aloud with their students.

Brushing teeth is described as a routine activity, part of everyday life.

The language of the poem is rather playful, but the underlying message to the children is to act with great caution while in hiding.

Suggested Discussion Question:

According to this poem, what are educators trying to teach children in hiding?

Here teachers should also focus on the personal story of Herbert Odenheimer, today called Ehud Loeb. In this exhibition, he is presented as Herbert – not as Ehud. Teachers should explain that during the Holocaust, names of Jewish children in hiding were often changed to protect their identity.

Ehud/Herbert was born in Germany and was later deported with his parents to France as a small boy. Ehud’s chessboard, that he made as a child, later became part of Yad Vashem’s exhibit “No Child’s Play.” Today, Ehud is a proud father and grandfather. He lives in Jerusalem and devotes a lot of his time at Yad Vashem to tell teachers and students about his personal story.

Suggested Discussion Question:

Ehud/Herbert’s name was changed a few times during his life. What kind of effect do you think changing someone’s name has on a young person?

Panel 11 A: In Hiding

Max Heppner and His Drawings in Hiding

Here teachers should focus on the story of Max Heppner. Max and his friends are standing at the entrance to a chicken coop, the hiding place of his family during the Holocaust. On the right side students can see the drawings he made while in hiding.

Max’s drawings focus on the Biblical story of David and Goliath. In this well-known Bible story, David, a young boy, defeats the giant enemy, Goliath. The underlying message of Max’s paintings is that just as David defeated Goliath, Max wishes that the Jewish people will overcome Nazi Germany.

Teachers should also explain that despite the harsh reality that Jewish children faced in hiding, many times they continued to be creative and use their imagination.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

Does it appear as though Max lives in a pleasant place?

Have you ever seen a chicken coop? If so, how would you describe it?

What do you see in Max’s drawings?

What is the message of Max’s paintings?

Panel 13: Escape

Here teachers should focus on the story about Claudine Schwartz-Rudel and her doll Collette. Claudine Schwartz-Rudel was seven years old when she and her parents fled Paris for the south of France. Before they left Paris, Claudine’s parents gave her a doll named Collette. During the war, Collette “gave Claudine strength”.  Her parents cautioned Claudine again and again not to break or lose the doll. Only later did Claudine realize that her parents were hiding the family’s valuables inside her doll. Today, Claudine lives in Jerusalem and works at Yad Vashem.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

Do you have, or have you ever had, a doll?

What does this doll mean to you now?

What did Claudine use the doll for before the war?

How did Claudine’s parents use her doll during the Holocaust?

Suggested Homework Activity:

Students may be asked to write a letter to Claudine, reflecting on their impressions after reading about her personal story.

Suggestions for Guiding High School Students (Grades 9-12)

Panel 2: Before the Holocaust

Here teachers should focus on the 1939 coffee advertisement from France, featuring a child model, a young Jewish girl, Regine (Rivka) Gartenlaub-Avihail. Teachers should point out to their students that even before the Second World War, children were used as commercial tools in advertising campaigns.  

By being showcased in this advertising campaign, it can be clearly understood that Regine, and other Jewish people in France as well as throughout Europe, were part of modern society. Regine was a child model, and her photograph clearly was marketed to promote coffee sales to all members of French society – young and old from a wide range of social circles. This advertising campaign was undertaken in 1939, approximately a year before Nazi Germany invaded France.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

What do you notice in this photograph?

In your opinion, why was a young girl asked to hold coffee and a doll at the same time?

What is the message of this advertisement?

Panel 3 - The Eve of the Breakout of the Second World War

Teachers should place an emphasis on the fact that in a short time after Regine modeled the product in this advertisement, Jewish people in France were being racially persecuted. Regine who was once a model in French society suddenly became a social outcast. Although she may have been proud of her status before the war, during the Holocaust, Regine - like many other Jewish children - became very self-conscious about their Jewish identity, especially when they later had to wear the yellow star in public.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

Compare between the photograph of Regine in Panel 2 and this picture in Panel 3?

What function did toys and dolls have during the Holocaust in comparison to that of the pre-war period?

Panel 4- Ghettos

Here teachers should explain to their students about how Jewish youth lived in the ghettos, smuggling for survival, and the changing roles in family life as a result of ghetto conditions. Teachers should explain that young people often had to assume the roles of adults amidst grave danger in order to help support their families.

Teachers may also wish to focus on the poem, “Dream,” by Avraham Koplowicz who lived in the Lodz Ghetto as well as on the drawings by Nelly Toll who lived in the Lviv Ghetto.

Teachers should explain that children during the Holocaust used their imagination to escape the harsh realities that they faced as well as to enrich their own lives by being creative. Ultimately, the message of Nelly’s drawings is rooted in hope for a better future – as well as a longing for life before the war. Avraham’s poem describes his dreams for the future, hoping for a world in which he will be able to control his own destiny.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

What do you think is the meaning of Nelly’s paintings during the Holocaust?

What reality is depicted in Nelly’s drawings?

What did Avraham dream about?

Panel 6: In the Camps

Here teachers should focus on the story of Eva’s doll and her letter to Gerta written decades later.

During the Second World War, Jewish people were deported from their homes to concentration camps, forced labor camps and killing centers.  In some camps Jewish people were imprisoned and forced to live in terrible conditions, whereas others were murdered upon arrival. Eva Modval-Haimovitz, who was an only child, was deported from her home in Transylvania (a border region between Hungary and Romania). Before the war, Eva’s father gave her a doll, Gerta, who later acted as her trusted companion.

One night in 1944, when the Hungarian police came to her family’s house, Eva recounts, “Gerta, and I were scared and cried…it was lucky that Gerta was with me! I hugged her as tight as I could and then I wasn’t scared.”

During the whole time they were imprisoned, and through all of the hardships, Gerta never left Eva’s side. Eva’s doll, Gerta, comforted her and was a symbol of warmth and security that her family enjoyed before the war. Ultimately, Eva’s father did not survive the Holocaust. Eva moved to Israel in 1950, rebuilt her life and raised a family. In 1998, Eva donated her doll, Gerta, to Yad Vashem. It was not easy for Eva to part from her, especially since it was a link to her father and her lost childhood. Toys can symbolize loss. Even in adulthood, some Holocaust survivors found it difficult to separate from humanized objects that helped them cope during inhuman circumstances.

Teachers should read Eva’s letter to her doll, Gerta, with their students and discuss it.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

After the war, Eva had grown up, but she still kept her doll. Why?

Why was it hard for Eva to donate her childhood doll to Yad Vashem? 

Why do you think that Eva wrote a goodbye letter to Gerta?

Panel 15: A Child after the Holocaust

Here teachers should highlight the fact that there is no clear information about the child in this photograph. It is uncertain where the photograph was taken or what name was given to this little child. Ultimately, this photograph denotes the situation at the end of the Second World War: People wandered around alone and detached, out of the chaos and debris. Every child during the Holocaust had a different fate.

Teachers should point out that words in the context of the aftermath of the Holocaust often take on a new meaning; for example, the word “alone.” After the Holocaust, most survivors were left without their families, friends, homes, neighbors and communities. Holocaust survivors were often completely alone in the world, facing many dilemmas as well as grappling with their pain and loss.  

Suggested Discussion Questions:

Why do you think that the curators at Yad Vashem chose to conclude this exhibition with this photograph?

After the Holocaust, does the word “alone” take on a new meaning? Explain your answer.

What messages can we take with us from this travelling exhibition?

Suggested Homework Activity:

Review the below Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted on September 26, 1924, by the League of Nations.

Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child

By the present Declaration of the Rights of the Child, commonly known as "Declaration of Geneva," men and women of all nations, recognizing that mankind owes to the Child the best that it has to give, declare and accept it as their duty that, beyond and above all considerations of race, nationality or creed:

1.      The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually;

2.      The child that is hungry must be fed; the child that is sick must be nursed; the child that is backward must be helped; the delinquent child must be reclaimed; and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succored;

3.      The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress;

4.      The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation;

5.      The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of fellow men.

Suggest that students write about what each of the above five principles means and give examples of ways that these principles were violated during the Holocaust, as denoted in this exhibition. Ask students whether they are surprised by the fact that the Declaration was drafted before the Holocaust, explaining their answers.

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