We ended our study of the Second World War by reflecting on war generally; on whether war can ever be justified; and on whether, as individuals, we think that we might ever be prepared to fight in a war.
Although the Second World War is now part of history, we discussed the terrible fighting currently taking place on the edge of Europe (images of Aleppo in Syria that we looked at were similar to many of the images that we had studied of cities destroyed in the Second World War). We agreed that, although we are fortunate to live in a stable part of the world, we should not think of war as something that only happens in other places to other people at other times, and that it’s important to develop our own views and understanding about issues of war and peace. Here’s a selection of the reflections.
Ignas said: “I’ve learned that “the Second World War was a horrific time of death and anger and that we should try to prevent war in the future.” Jim similarly: “..war is unimaginably awful and scars people for life”. Nell said, “I have learned how lucky we are to be in a safe part of the world and how we should be grateful for our health and homes.”
Ellie wrote: “I’ve learned that war is about blood and bravery, right and wrong, and great and evil leaders. War is life changing and always life ending. My views on war haven’t and will not change. I believe that if you start a war out of choice your innards are ugly and black and you are inhuman to be so cruel.”
The children reflected on what had helped them to understand the nature of war. Sarafina said: “I’ve learned that the Second World War was a cold, dark, dangerous time in history…. What helped me understand was family history, other people’s points and perspectives , and stories of what happened to them.” Nina: “The family histories made me understand war from different perspectives. Images of war helped me see what was going on. The Silver Sword makes me realise that children go through dangerous times too.”
There were lots of different points of view on whether war could ever be justified. Ignas: “I think that we have to be prepared to fight but we have to try every resort before we do… we are fighting for peace not for fun.” Temmyyaa: “I have learned that war isn’t about yourself, it’s about people you care for…. I would be able to fight for my country, the people I care for.”
On the other side, Caspar: “I’m an absolute pacifist, because I hate the idea of killing.” Sylvie: “I think I am a pacifist. I just think it’s wrong and I couldn’t bring myself to kill people living who have feelings and families who care for them. And if it wasn’t war, we could have been friends.” Sarafina: “I am an absolute pacifist. I would never, ever go out to fight in a war. People don’t understand what they’re doing. As soon as they sign their name, their life has changed.”
Nell tries to take a balanced view: “ I don’t feel war is a solution but in a way I understand why we had them because the Nazis needed to be stopped.” Jim says, “War can be justified and can bring out good leaders. Also we can learn from it and make sure it never happens again.” Do you think Jim’s right? Can we learn from history?