‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ set Holocaust education back decades. Now it’s getting a sequel. – Kveller

It is hard to imagine a worse response to a work of Holocaust fiction than an audience complaint from the Auschwitz Museum. Yet that is exactly what happened with John Boyne’s 2006 New York Times bestseller, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” aka The Boy Who Set Holocaust Education Back by Decades.

I can only imagine that the Auschwitz Museum is preparing for its next public outcry, with the news that the author will publish a sequel to the book later this year.

To sum up the plot of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” 9-year-old Bruno, the son of a Nazi commander at Auschwitz, befriends a Jewish boy named Shmuel through the camp’s fence. Bruno is unaware of the Holocaust (his mother and his sister are also unaware of the extent of the atrocities) and believes that Shmuel’s uniform is pajamas. After Shmuel’s father “disappears”, Bruno sneaks into the camp to help find him, but the two boys are taken to a gas chamber and killed. Wracked with guilt, Bruno’s father allows himself to be taken prisoner by the Allies when they liberate the camp.

Let’s start with some obvious issues. Clearly, Bruno and his family would have been fully aware of the Holocaust. Bruno, like all German children at the time, would have had a hatred of Jews at school, especially since his own father was a high-ranking Nazi. Framing all civilians as “unconscious” absolves them of any blame, when in reality most stood by and watched. Second, Shmuel wouldn’t have survived long enough to meet Bruno. Too young and weak to work, he would have been killed on arrival at Auschwitz: the days of talking to a Nazi child through a fence would have been impossible. It may be fiction, but it’s based on a real event. By teaching children that the Auschwitz inmates were unprotected and unaware of the constant danger they faced, this tragedy is minimized to an absurd degree.

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