The Boy in the Striped Pajamas ‘Could Fuel Dangerous Holocaust Mistakes’ | Holocaust


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas can “perpetuate a number of dangerous inaccuracies and errors” when used to teach young people about the Holocaust, according to an academic report.

According to a study by the Center for Holocaust Education at University College London, more than a third of teachers in England use the bestselling book and film adaptation in their lessons about the Nazi genocide.

A study, which will be published soon, is based on to research conducted five years ago with high school students who found that John Boyne’s story regularly aroused misplaced sympathy for the Nazis.

According to the new survey, 35% of teachers have used The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in class. However, its use occupies a “somewhat contested position as a potential educational resource,” the center’s report says. Drama and English teachers were more likely to use it than history teachers.

Boyne’s book is about a friendship between the son of an Auschwitz commandant and a Jewish boy incarcerated in the Nazi concentration camp. Published in 2006, it has sold over 11 million copies worldwide. A film version was made in 2008.

The center’s report states, “While most of the young people who participated in the study recognized the story as a work of fiction, and many were able to identify and critique its most egregious historical implausibilities and inaccuracies, they nonetheless overwhelmingly qualified as ‘realistic’ and/or ‘truthful’.

He added that many students, after studying the story, came to conclusions that “contributed significantly to one of the most powerful and problematic misconceptions in this story, namely that the” Ordinary Germans “had little responsibility and were generally “brainwashed” or totally ignorant”. of the atrocities that are taking place”.

Some of the comments from teachers collected during the research include that “students come to us and literally think the Holocaust IS the boy in the striped pajamas”; “They come with…ideas that nobody knew about the Holocaust, that people were completely in the dark about it”; and “They have pity on the German guard”.

Stuart Foster, the center’s executive director, said he had no criticism of Boyne for his fictional work, but using the novel in lessons about a historical event could be problematic. “In an age of fake news and conspiracy theories, it is very disturbing that young people harbor myths and misconceptions about the Holocaust.”

Boyne, who has previously defended his work against similar criticism, told the Guardian: “The boy in the striped pajamas is deliberately subtitled ‘A Fable’, a work of fiction with a moral at its centre. From the start, I hoped it would inspire young people to begin their own study of the Holocaust, which in my case began at age 15 and continued in the decades that followed.

“As a novelist, I believe that fiction can play a valuable role in introducing young readers to difficult subjects, but it is the teacher’s job to impress on their students that there is a legitimate space between fantasy and reality.By relating to my central characters, however, by caring about them and not wanting to hurt them, the young reader can learn empathy and kindness.

“While no work of fiction is perfect, I remain immensely proud of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and grateful to the millions of readers who have embraced it over the past 16 years.”

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