About the 4th week of every school year there is a ritual. It goes on in schools all over the world and has been happening for decades. Parents pick out nice clothes for their children to wear, and the kids gather for a class photo. They usually line up in rows with their teacher standing nearby. I am including a picture of my son’s class from first grade. I won’t point out which one he is as that would cause undue embarrassment and resentment from my now teenage, taller-than-me son.
Here is my class photo from first grade. I’m the girl all the way on the right with the long pigtails and my eyes closed.
Here is one of my mother’s class when she was 7 years old. Mom is in the third row. She is two places away from the teacher. Big smile, chubby cheeks, white collar. She looks quite happy to be at school that day. Just like my son and I each look in our class photos.
What is different about the picture of my mom’s 1942 class and my 1968 class and my son’s class is the dress code. My son had to wear a collared shirt. The girls in his class had to wear collared shirts if they wore pants, or they could opt for dresses or skirts instead. No blue jeans allowed. My class photo also shows no blue jeans. All the girls are in dresses. My mother’s female classmates are all wearing dresses with collars. Most have bows in their hair. The boys have collared shirts and a couple even have on a tie.
There is something else. Did you notice? (You can click on the picture to get a closer look). My mom and all her classmates and her teacher are all wearing a six pointed star that says JOOD. The nazi’s forced all Jews in Amsterdam to wear these stars when they were in public — even the children. They also forced the children go to all Jewish schools so as to keep them separate from the other Dutch citizens.
There is one more thing that is different from my mother’s class picture and the others. I know where most of my son’s classmates are. Most still live in the same home as when this picture was taken. Some are at the local high school. Some have opted for prep school. Many of my classmates I have been in touch with in one way or another in the last few decades. I have found them on Facebook or seen them at class reunions. We are all about 50 years old.
Most of my mother’s classmates didn’t live to see their 10th birthday.