How to Explain Germany’s History to Children
When I told my eight-year-old daughter that I was researching a holiday in Berlin, she asked me where that was. When I told her it was in Germany she looked at me horrified, ‘Weren’t “we” at war with Germany?’ she asked. ‘Didn’t “they” do really bad things?’
‘Yes’ and ‘Yes’ was the answer, ‘but…’
How do you explain that ‘but’?
The more recent war in Iraq, the continuing saga in Afghanistan and the anger that is building up against North Korea has, and is, largely passing our little ones by. They are not distant enough to be included in their history lessons and most parents hide any references to terrorist events on our shores in order to shield them from images or thoughts that they might find too disturbing.
World War II, on the other hand, is far enough away to make it safe enough to discuss, and so horrific that it’s memorable in even the youngest minds. How do you distinguish the Germany of today from Hitler’s Germany?
You can offer the explanation that many countries in the world have inflicted horrific atrocities on other countries and races in the past. You’ll probably find an example in your own country. You can show them how these countries have gradually repented for these actions and learned how to create a better place. But, the best way to show them is to go there. Take them to Berlin and show them how a ‘bad’ place can become a great place again.
Things To Do in Berlin with Kids by Age
Babies and toddlers are, of course, too young to comprehend any of the history of the place, so try to dip in and out of museums and art galleries whilst they nap in their pushchairs. Germany is fantastic if you need family-friendly options as there are plenty of parks, playgrounds and indoor soft-play centres to keep little ones busy when they’re awake. If they only remember the city when they are older as a fun and friendly place, then they have taken something valuable from their visit.
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I’d be wary of exposing anyone under ten to the full horrors of the holocaust. So for primary school age kids, put the emphasis on Berlin as a city that is full of exciting places to go and lovely people. If you’re staying in a HouseTrip apartment, for example, spend some time interacting with your host or neighbours, most are very friendly and happy to stay and chat.
Some may even be able to share personal experiences if they are old enough to remember the War, Post-War rebuilding or Cold War period that cut the city in two. Many will be able to discuss what it was like to be separated from friends and relatives – but they will also remember the joy of being reunited in 1989. They should also be able to highlight some good local events that the kids might enjoy and great family restaurants.
Children that are hitting high school age are ready to start learning more about Berlin’s complicated and grueling past. These subjects still need to be handled sensitively though and it is worth employing a guide who can use personal stories to really bring places such as Check Point Charlie to life. Pen at Berlin Private Tours is particularly adept at guiding children around the city. She will take them around sites such as the Jewish Museum and carefully explain monuments such as the Stolpersteine or stumbling stones to them.
Housetrip Accommodation Options for Families in Berlin
This centrally located HouseTrip apartment is almost on the doorstep of one of Berlin’s largest parks, Volkspark Friedrichshain. Situated in the baby and toddler focused Alexanderplatz area, it’s perfect for those with very young children. At the top of the street you’ll find child-friendly restaurants, beautiful children’s clothes boutiques and upmarket food stores.
Whilst, this other HouseTrip apartment option is a perfect base for visiting all the major sites of Berlin. It’s two minutes walk from a train station and surrounded by restaurants and bars. The host is a font of information and at the ready to point you in the direction of a good food market or park. Ideal for families with school-age kids.
This mews style house facing on to a private courtyard can be booked with interconnecting properties on either side, making it perfect for a large family gathering. It’s in a quiet neighbourhood, but it’s close to public transport, a supermarket and a great food market.
Click here for a full list of HouseTrip properties in Berlin
Where to Eat in Berlin with Kids
KaDeWe: Berlin’s smartest department store, might not seem the obvious choice for a family lunch, but its food halls, which take up a whole floor will make everyone’s mouths water.
Whether you fancy sausage, sushi or salad, you’ll find a booth selling everything here. You might want to pay the toy department a visit whilst you’re inside too.
Prastergarten: This is one of Berlin’s largest and most popular beer gardens and what makes this extra special is its children’s play area. Swig on a locally brewed pint, munch on an organic hot dog and then chill whilst the kids play in the sandpit.
Kiezkind: Prenzlaur Berg has one of the highest birth rates in Europe and you will find child-friendly cafes on nearly every corner, but this one, is extra special. It’s next to an adventure playground and offers paddling pools and ride-on toys in summer and a heated sandpit in winter. The food’s yummy too.
Fassbender and Rausch Chocolate Shop: You can’t come to Berlin with children without visiting its most famous chocolate restaurant, stay for a hot chocolate or delight them with a three-course chocolate-themed meal.
This trip to Berlin was sponsored by HouseTrip. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Anna Tobin