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06th Jan 2020

Auschwitz Memorial advises “avoiding” The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

Carl Kinsella

Auschwitz John Boyne

Auschwitz Memorial believes the book should not be used in an educational context.

Irish author John Boyne became embroiled in an online spat with the Auschwitz Memorial over the weekend after he questioned the marketing behind books set in the notorious concentration camp in Poland.

Boyne is perhaps best known for his bestselling novel The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, about an unlikely friendship between the son of a Nazi soldier and a Jewish boy in a concentration camp.

In a tweet on Saturday, Boyne criticised the use of similar titles and book covers for books about Auschwitz.

In response to Boyne’s tweet, the official Twitter account for the museum noted: “We understand such concerns, and we have already addressed inaccuracies in some ‘… of Auschwitz’ books published.

“However, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” should be avoided by anyone who studies or teaches factual history of the Holocaust.”

The Auschwitz Museum also linked to a critique of the book posted on a website called Holocaust Learning, which argues that: “In an educational context it is important however that this book is only used as a piece of fiction and that teachers make clear to young people that historically the book is not factual.”

Criticisms of the book include inaccuracies surrounding protocol at Auschwitz, which the essay argues brought children to their deaths or for medical experimentation upon their arrival.

Boyne responded by claiming that he didn’t read the piece linked by the Auschwitz account, citing factual inaccuracies in its opening paragraph.

Pushed for an explanation as to the factual inaccuracies, Boyne said: “(1) the film was 2009, (2), by 2016, it had sold 10 m copies (3) there’s no such thing as a “best-selling film”. These may be small, trivial points, but if someone is going to write an article about inaccuracies in my work, shouldn’t theirs be without blemish?”

Boyne’s own account of this is incorrect, as the film was first released in September 2008, not 2009. The criticism of Boyne’s book can be read in full here.

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