How to explain World War Two to children - life for soldiers, and the Holocaust

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 11:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 11:01 am

Help children to understand why we celebrate 75 years since VE Day, with more useful information about World War Two from PlanBee’s online resources;

Soldiers in the Second World War

When the war started, men willingly joined the army to fight Hitler and Nazi Germany. However, Britain needed many more men in order to fight, so in 1940, two million more men were ordered to become soldiers.Some men were also conscripted and ordered to join the RAF or the Royal Navy.

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Those in certain professions did not have to sign up. These included farmers, railway drivers and miners, as theirs were considered crucial jobs.

Men who were too old, weak or young to fight, as well as those in important professions, became members of the Home Guard. Their main duties were observing and reporting, and the defence of roads, villages, factories and vital points in towns.

What was life like for soldiers in WW2?

Once trained, men called up as soldiers could be sent anywhere around the world. A soldier’s experience in the war depended on what rank of the armed forces he was in, and where he was posted.

For most soldiers, life was very difficult. They had rationed food, but rations did not always get through to them. If they weren’t at an army base, they lived in tents or in holes dug in the ground. They often had no access to heating, hot water or other comforts.

Some soldiers were captured by Axis troops and sent to prisoner of war camps. Not everyone survived these camps, although many were released once war ended.

What was the Holocaust?

Hitler and the Nazis believed that people with blond hair and blue eyes, known as ‘Aryans’, were a ‘master’ race and that anyone else was ‘lesser’. It was Hitler’s plan to get rid of as many of these lesser races as possible.

He wanted Germany to be a pure Aryan race, and to remove all Jews from Germany. Hitler called this ‘cleansing’. He considered Jews to be the ultimate enemy.

As soon as he came to power, Hitler started making life difficult for Jews living in Germany. People were encouraged to avoid anyone or anything associated with Jews, including Jewish businesses.

In 1938, a Jewish boy murdered a German officer in France. This was used as an excuse to attack the Jews. In one night, over 1000 synagogues were burned, and Jewish homes, schools and shops were vandalised. Many Jews were killed.

The next day, 30,000 Jews were arrested and taken to a concentration camp, just for being Jewish.A concentration camp was where the Nazis placed those they wanted to remove from society.

Life in such camps was miserable. People were given very little food and water, and were forced to carry out hard labour.

Many Jews in concentration camps were murdered by the Nazis. They were taken in to a chamber where they were told they would have a shower. But these were gas chambers that the Nazis used to kill dozens of Jewish people at a time.

By the end of WW2, more than six million Jews had been killed in the Holocaust.

How do we remember the Second World War today?

It is thought that 75 to 80 million people died during World War Two. Some died on the battlefield, some in prisoner camps and others as civilians.

Every year, on November 11, Remembrance Day has been observed ever since the end of the First World War, to remember members of the armed forces who died in service.

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