When is it appropriate?

The boy and I got into a conversation the other day. We had just come from Terazine, in the Czech Republic and were in Krakow.

Now I don’t know if you know but Terazine was a former Concentration Camp used in World War Two (as well as a Military Fortress and Prison) and Krakow is just an hour away from where some of the most horrific scenes during World War Two happened.

The conversation we had was regarding not sights we saw but the people we saw at the sights.

I will say now that I know each person has a different reaction to being in places like this, and also that every person thinks and has different opinions about the way they act and think but I’d like to know your thoughts.

We saw a group of adults, but that contained one child no older then 10. At what age is it appropriate to start taking children to view places like these and to see the conditions that people lived in? 

-A couple of the most interested group I did see there were teenagers, however we had one boy in our tour (about 15) with his mum whose only addition to conversation was, “but if you were on the bottom bunk, the sh*t would drip down on you” and also how new the toilets were. Another boy, about the same age, was really interested in building on what he already knew and asked question that even I found interesting to listen to.

I know that maturity and understanding play a role in the decision to how appropriate it is. 

The same mum and son from before proceeded to take a selfie with a smile plastered on her face, in front of the ruins of a gas chamber. Of course she wasn’t the only one. There was the woman who sat posing as she sat on the railway lines, but she wasn’t smiling, Does that make it better? There was the two who came together as their friend took a photo of them in front of the train carriage, after inspecting the photo they decided to get another one, this time with a hair flick and even bigger pout. I may not have been taking selfies but I was taking photos of what I saw. When is it appropriate to take photos? 

Like I said before, we all think differently, and we all choose to remember differently, but when and what do you think is appropriate?


Edit:On twitter I was messaged by Megan who pointed me in the direction of this article about theAuschwitz Selfie. Should a selfie (even in a place like this) really need to result in death threats?

I’d still love to hear what you think about it.

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19 thoughts on “When is it appropriate?

  1. themayfairy says:

    Hmmm. I know I’m late on this, but….I don’t think see anything inherently wrong with taking a selfie. With visiting a place and having an emotional reaction and a want to record yourself in this space. In feeling a little lost and not knowing what to do, so retreating into habit. In visiting a place where people were killed, maybe your own family members, your own people, knowing they wanted to exterminate more of you and putting a smile on your face to say a big “F*£k you. You’re gone, we’re still here. We survived. We live on.” I can see how that would be a mind set for (some) people.

    Of course, I wasn’t there. I didn’t see them. Maybe they were flippant. Maybe they need to grow the hell up. But they went. The experience will stay with them. They will continue to reflect upon it. Maybe they will look back on those photos and cringe in years to come, but the things they saw will stay with them.

    Also, I can remember learning about WWI and WWII in primary school. I think 10 is a fine age if his parents thought it was. It may have been his only opportunity to go (not knowing their family situation) and he may get more from the experience when he begins to learn more about it in high school etc.

    Just my (late) two cents. Hope that’s ok!

    • themayfairy says:

      Just clarifying, the “F*£k you” would be to the Nazis who built the camp – not the poor people who died. Now I’m cringing. I need to learn to write with more clarity! Ugh.

      • jennafrey says:

        There’s no such thing as a late comment.
        I think the thing that got to me the most about the selfie taking is that there was hair flipping involved and from the looks of it it was more about what they looked llike then where they were. I only say that because one of the girls kept handing the camera back after viewing the image then refluffing her hair and sorting her clothes

  2. thewanderblogger says:

    Personally, I think age is just a number. Choosing when to allow children to see things like this depends much more on their level of maturity, sensitivity to certain scenes, etc. In a situation like this, you have to think both of what your kids can handle AND what effect their reaction might have on other visitors. I’ve hesitated to visit places like this myself because I know how sensitive I am, and I know for sure my daughter isn’t ready yet. But as far as selfies in concentration camps – I can’t think of any situation where that would be acceptable. It’s disrespectful. I would likely take a few photos of the place itself if I thought it wouldn’t disturb other visitors, but never, ever would I do something that would make light of the history that happened there.

  3. GirlMeetsGlobe says:

    I’m chiming in late (very behind in my reading ;). I’d be bothered by people taking selfies in a place like this. I’d take pictures of what I’m seeing and I might try and capture a moment of a family member with a contemplative look on their face, taking in what they are seeing and capturing their emotion.
    As far as children, I think mine (at 8 & 9) are definitely too young and I’m not sure I would even take a 10 year old. I think 15 and older maybe, when they’re beginning to really dig into historical events. Of course, children mature at different ages and if I felt a child was ready for it, I’d take them when they were younger.
    My daughter (the 9 year old) has just been asking me to watch the movie “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.” A classmate has seen it and talked to her about it. I need to do a bit more research into it to see if I think she’s ready. It does look heavy!!

    • thewanderblogger says:

      Just my two cents – The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is pretty intense. I allowed Lexie to watch it when she was 10, but I watched it with her so I could answer any questions and explain things as the movie went along. The ending was pretty shocking, so be prepared for that. Maybe watch the end before you watch it with her just to be sure you think she can handle it. It’s a very well-done movie, but you know…these things hit hard for sensitive children.

  4. Rachael (@hookstitch) says:

    Interesting topic. I went to Auschwitz as part of our geography field trip while we were in Krakow and as were basically a group of 20 19/20 year olds who went from being snap happy to not touching a camera for the whole entire trip around the camp. Now this was back in 2007 so I guess the selfie was around then, but non of us wanted to take pictures of the buildings yet alone ourselves. There was a lot of younger, high school age kids and a lot of them were leaving in tears after visiting. It’s one of those places that stays with you, I didn’t take photographs but I can remember everything about the place. I certainly wouldn’t take any photographs again if I was to visit, either of myself or the place in general.

    • jennafrey says:

      The different attitudes of people was quite evident. And it was some of the younger people who seemed really interested in it. However you did then have the ones who looked like they were forced to go

  5. Emily Ray (@emilyraylondon) says:

    This is something I often think about. I went to Auschwitz as part of my A Level studies with the college, and the reaction of different students was so varied.

    I also visited Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, and so many people were having their photos taken, while smiling, outside the front door. For me this just did not feel right, but I guess everyone reacts differently.

  6. Sophie says:

    I haven’t been to see any of the awful sights of WWII, but I can’t imagine taking a sexy pouty selfie when I do go. If being in the place where all of those atrocities happened doesn’t knock a bit of respect into a person, I’m afraid nothing will.
    I do think the age of Instagram and Twitter and social media in general has given us this feeling of needing to have ‘proof’ of everything, to show everyone how much we’re travelling, how much we’re learning, what we’re seeing … and in most cases it’s been socially accepted to create that proof: Instagramming pictures of your meal out with family/friends, for example, and documenting your travels, so I guess for some people the line really just blurs?

  7. Samantha Minny says:

    I find this topic incredibly interesting.
    We recently found out we have Jewish ancestry so when we were in Miami, we went to the Holocaust memorial. I have always been fearful of this kind of cruelty towards others and I’ve lived with a lifelong phobia of wartime so it was something quite daunting for me even without the family ties. I found it incredibly disturbing and upsetting when reading the stories on the memorial and the list of names next to the ever burning flame. I can’t imagine why anyone would make light of such an awful situation and even further why they would want such a young child to be exposed to this.
    I think history has a time and place and I think it’s important for children to learn the lessons it can teach us but perhaps not at 10. At that age, they should be enjoying life, not burdened with the pain of a nation.

  8. Pinky,RunLaughEatPie (@pinkypie) says:

    Yeah… I ask myself these kinds of questions often. I, too, have been to Terezin and there is nothing there to smile about. NOTHING. It’s hard because you want to go to these people and say “do you understand what you are looking at? do you understand how horrific this is???”

    but as for age, I think 10 or so is a fine age personally. 10 is old enough to have developed compassion for people and animals for example, and while it’s not an uplifting experience, it’s an important one. (of course if you are mum with kid taking selfie, then it kind of cancels the message and lesson of life out)

    • jennafrey says:

      You’ve got to wonder about what that mum was putting impedance on especially since the was another mum and her son and she was really keen to get him books to further his understanding.

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