I don’t actually remember not knowing about it - I read a lot of books above my age level as a kid - but I think they started teaching about WWII and at least the general idea of the Holocaust in 4th or 5th grade. So about 11 years old.
16 years old: 1974 - PBS was showing Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man and one episode had him at Auschwitz, running his hands through the sand, saying that this is possibly his descendants (or something like that). A year later as a junior in high school, our history class section on WWII ended with the atomic bombs, but didn’t mention the Holocaust. I asked the teacher, who seemed impressed that I knew about it, and he dug out some 8-by-10 pictures of the death camps he had in a folder. It seemed like he didn’t want to start the discussion but felt relieved that he could share what he knew.
A few years later (1978) I was in a college “World Religions” class, and the section on Judaism ended with the professor (a Protestant minister) asked if there were any questions. I asked “are we going to discuss the Holocaust” and a similar reaction occurred. No one else in the class knew what I was talking about - in fact the professor had me describe what it was to the class, just to be sure I knew what I was talking about. We then had an interesting discussion for the rest of the period.
Fairly young; I knew about it long before it became a common term (in the late 70s). Being Jewish, we learned about it through osmosis, though it was referred to as concentration camps, and I even learned the difference between them and extermination camps before I heard the tem “Holocaust.”
Probably 3 or 4? It was before kindergarten
There’s a difference between hearing about something happening, and actually comprehending it.
I expect most people have heard about the Holocaust by the time they are in grade school. At least they hear that the Germans killed a lot of people during world war 2.
But gaining a real understanding of what it means to comprehensively try to wipe out an entire international society on an individual basis, isn’t something that most American adults REALLY understand.
It’s similar to all of the truly horrific episodes and vile acts of human beings. Everyone “knows” that the US once had slavery, but the vast majority of people don’t really understand what it was to be a slave, or what it was to own one, or to live in a society that accepted it. Most of us have barely more than a sort of cartoon notion of it all.
That’s why all the deniers CAN get away with their insane claims. Trying to get a new cartoon into people’s heads to replace another older one, isn’t all that difficult. All you really have to do, is have your spokes people dress reasonably well, and pretend to be deeply caring.
Most of us don’t have a realistic idea about death itself. I remember when I was a kid, I must have seen thousands of films and tv shows with people being killed, without even ONCE truly understanding anything other than that I wasn’t like to see that character until I changed the channel, or got to the next movie.
So to those who say they knew about the Holocaust as kids, I suggest that no, you really didn’t, any more than I did.
I just looked it up and the Holocaust mini-series was aired in 1978 so that means I was 11. I know I had heard about it well before that but that’s the first time I remember hearing specific details. Parts of that show still stay with me.
I know I read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” when I was 13. I read Herman Wouk’s novel “The Winds of War” in about the same timeframe. I don’t think I knew much if anything about it before that age.
Since it happened during my lifetime, I guess I learned about it when everybody else did. Later on, they started calling it a holocaust, which gave a new meaning to a word I already knew
I don’t remember when I first heard of it, but when I was in 7th grade, I had a teacher who thought it would be prudent to traumatize the more sensitive among us for life. She passed around 8X10s of Holocaust victims, focusing especially on those disfigured by torture and medical “experiments.” I left the room fairly early on. It’s one of the things that still keeps me awake at night.
According to the Ngram viewer, the capitalized use of the word Holocaust began in the early 1960s, when I was about 25. Before that, it was a generic word that had a significantly different meaning from the historic-specific connotation it has now.
Sometime when I was a kid. Anywhere from 5-8 years old, I would say. A close friend of the family had the number tattoo on her arm and I asked about it, and was somehow, over time, introduced to the idea of what happened. Plus we visited Auschwitz when I was a kid on one of my early trips to Poland.
I knew about it osmotically, as articulated above. I first delved into it by reading While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy when I was perhaps 10.
That’s a tough one. I think it falls into the category of: Things you always knew about, even if you only learned all the details over time as you grew up.
I guess it was around 1955, my first year of junior high. The students at the school, like my elementary school and high school, were almost all Jewish, and William Schirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich had just come out.
Since I was born just weeks after the end of the war, and raised Jewish, I don’t remember not knowing about it. One of my uncles had the tattoed numbers on his arm, and I remember asking about it at a very early age. Then, when I was in kindergarten in Sunday school, we saw a film about the concentration camps. They didn’t hold back the details because of our age. But at that time, it wasn’t called the Holocaust.
I honestly don’t remember: other than – it would seem – later in life than most people responding here. I was born in 1948: am British (and not Jewish). Much stuff heard / read about World War 2 during my childhood (not from my parents – they said little about it); but this was, overwhelmingly, about the parts of the war directly affecting the UK.
I must have learned of the Holocaust some time in my teens – it would have been via random chance reading (don’t think it was ever mentioned in school; and my youth was largely television-less). Without meaning, here, to belittle the sheer horror of what was done to European Jewry; I have no specific recollection of finding out about it and being appalled thereby. Consider that from early on, I was fairly well aware that lots of unspeakably awful stuff of various kinds, happened in World War 2 – could be that the Holocaust struck me as “horribly evil, but basically more-of-the-same”.
This reminds me of one my earliest exposures: Judy Bloom’s children’s book Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself which was published in 1977 but takes place in 1947 in Miami. It’s about a young Jewish girl born in the US who (among other things) has nightmares about Hitler pulling her fingernails off, and is convinced he lives next door to her. Hitler is really just a phantom in her mind based on all these stories she’s heard from her family. That book prompted questions about who Hitler was because I had never heard of him. But at that age, it would have still been very abstract. It was not the central theme of the book, just this undercurrent of anxiety running in the background of her life.
I was born in 1983, long after this horror had a name and a historical context. At that age ‘‘1940s’’ and ‘‘1540s’’ were basically synonymous in that they were both far removed from me or my own life experience. I remember the moment (not the age) when I realized that WWII and the Holocaust were co-occurring events, moreover, these events had ‘‘just happened’’ in the historical sense. It was much like learning my mother had grown up in the time of racial segregation. It blew my tiny mind.
As someone upthread mentioned, it’s hard enough to wrap your head around the Holocaust as an adult. I was so disturbed by that 7th grade experience I avoided thinking about it and dealing with it until maybe high school, when I read Schindler’s List. I remember once we had a Holocaust survivor special speaker (who hated Oskar Schindler, actually, and accused him of atrocities.) At times, I still find myself bowled over by the sheer magnitude of it.
On further thought – I think it must have been for me, early teens: I learned of Anne Frank, I think in a Readers Digest article; interest aroused, I read the “Diary” proper. Was, I now recall, indeed consequently moved; and shocked at finding out about that part of the Nazis’ agenda.
Probably 6 or 7. Being raised Jewish, I’ve sort of always know about it. But it’s not until your older that you learn of the impact the Holocaust had and still has.
When I was 9 I spent a week with my grandparents in Florida. One day, I’m in the pool and nice old lady was talking to me. “What’s your name?” “Who are you visiting?” That kind of stuff. I noticed she had numbers tattooed on her arm, but didn’t say anything about it to her. When I got upstairs, I mentioned it to my grandmother. She asked if I knew what the numbers were, to which I replied that of course I did. Then she td me there were several survivors in her condo complex. Grandma told me I wasn’t allowed to just start asking questions out of thin air, but it was fine if I was invited to ask by one of the survivors.
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I don’t remember ever not knowing about it.
I remember the TV series “The World at War”, when it was first broadcast. I was nine years old.
I also remember watching a mini-series QB VII, and remember it sparking my ten-year old curiosity to find out more about the whole thing, and going to the school library.
By the time the “Holocaust” mini series was on when I was 14, I already knew all about it.