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Scholars Want To Use Harry Potter To Teach Kids About The Holocaust

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Religious scholars recommended that teachers use the “Harry Potter” book series to help children understand the Holocaust in a Monday book review.

Brigid Coggin, teacher of Holocaust presentations, and Vanessa Zoltan, research assistant at Harvard Divinity School, made their suggestion in an article for Tablet Magazine. The authors lauded the youth fantasy series as a capable allegory for certain elements of the Holocaust that children may not initially understand, given their limited frames of reference.

“The combination of the fantastical and the specific horrors meet children where they are to help them understand the insanity of oppression and the reality of trauma,” the article reads.

The authors suggested that a blind, beaten dragon forced to guard a bank vault could serve as an allegory for Kapos, prisoners in concentration camps forced to work as supervisors. The torture of Hermoine at the hands of the Death Eaters, according to Coggin and Zoltan, could help children understand suffering. The authors used various other examples of evil and suffering from the books to suggest that Harry Potter could offer a theodicy, an explanation for evil in life, to young students.

Coggin and Zoltan ultimately claimed that the titular character’s reliance on the past for the courage to face evil would be valuable in teaching youth about the Holocaust.

“Let us invite this next generation to honor and gain courage from our ghosts by sending them on a journey with Harry Potter, a boy plagued by generational trauma who rises and fights evil on his own terms,” the article reads.

Parallels do exist between the ideologies of the Nazis and the villainous Death Eaters, as well as the Nazi concept of race and the books’ concept of “pure blood” and “half blood” and “muggle.” The parallels were not intentional, according to the series’ author J.K. Rowling, who recognized the analogies in her works after visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

Teachers could use the analogies in Rowling’s works to explore the topic of the Nazis’ racist philosophy with children even if it isn’t a pure allegory, according to Susannah Alexander, an education officer at The Jewish Museum in London.

“Probably most children reading the books wouldn’t pick up on it. But I could see it being explored in the classroom, although it would need sensitive handling,” Alexander told The Scotsman.

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