Daily Conversations – Yertle the Turtle, Adolf Hitler, and Anne Frank

It started with a simple question and it ended with me crying. Yeah, that’s how we roll around here.

Emily asked me the other day, “Mama, is Yertle the Turtle real?” This has been a recurring theme recently and is a primary reason why this may be the last year that Emily will probably want to believe in Santa Claus. She is hitting that age where she is heavily invested in dividing what is real from what is pretend.

“No, Yertle the Turtle is not real.” I told her, “But the man who wrote the story, Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Ted Geisel, apparently wrote Yertle the Turtle with a real man in mind.”

Wikipedia sez…”Seuss has stated that the titular character Yertle represented Adolf Hitler, with Yertle’s despotic rule of the pond and takeover of the surrounding area parallel to Hitler’s regime in Germany and invasion of various parts of Europe.”

“Really?” Emily looked interested, “Who was he?”

I told her of a terrible man who had helped to convince a nation that a certain group (well, actually multiple groups) of people were evil and had to be killed. I told her of the murder of more than six million Jewish people and later both her father and I shared stories of our grandfathers who had served in World War II, risking their lives to stop a terrible war.

“How did you learn about the bad man?” Emily asked.

“I read about him in our history books in school,” I told her, “But I also read several books from people who were there in the war. Some who survived the concentration camps, and others who didn’t.” And pretty soon I was telling her about Anne Frank, and crying, at the thought of such a talented girl, and so many others who had lives and futures, wiped from the face of the earth. I explained that although Hitler was a terrible man, that he couldn’t have done it without the help of many, many others. We even touched on the darkness in the souls of every man, the capacity that each of us has for both amazing beauty and terrible evil.

We started the day with Dr. Seuss…and we ended with The Diary of Anne Frank. And at the end of the day I realized, after a week or so of being back on the ‘doubt train’ and wondering if I was teaching her anything, that this was the quintessential example of what homeschool can be like.

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