B.J. Epstein: No Happy Endings: Holocaust Memorial Day and Children

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Are Children's Books About The Holocaust Too Happy-Ending?

B. J. Epstein in The Huffington Post


many books about the Holocaust for children show the main characters escaping from the havoc and danger wreaked by the Nazis and sometimes even saving others from it too. A good example here is Morris Gleitzman's well-written and entertaining - if one can use that word about the Holocaust - trilogy Once, Then, Now. The main character makes so many bad decisions and yet manages to survive unbelievable situations.

So immediately, readers are getting a false idea about the war, because as much as we would like to believe that lots of children managed to wriggle out of the Nazis' grasp, this simply did not happen.

Furthermore, many - but definitely not all - children's books have happy, or at least resolved, endings. But the Holocaust didn't have a happy ending; it simply couldn't have, because of the sheer number of innocent people who were tortured, victimised, and/or murdered. And yet nearly all of the children's books about the Holocaust end with the protagonist surviving, frequently together with his/her friends and/or relatives.

Once again, then, children are not seeing the reality of the Holocaust. Child readers are being led to believe that many, perhaps even most, children survived the Holocaust. And, obviously, we know that this is not true.

A novel for children that does end unhappily is John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. But this book is so implausible that it really can't be recommended. Unfortunately, however, a number of teachers have told me that they use it in class because a) it features a male protagonist, so it "gets boys reading", and b) there is a companion film, which they can show in class. I wish those weren't teachers' main considerations.

I wish instead that teachers were concerned with plausibility and accuracy. Of course, one could argue that fiction doesn't have to portray reality. But if teachers are using fiction as teaching material, then it behoves them to make sure that the material they use is fairly realistic and historically accurate.

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This page contains a single entry by achuka published on April 18, 2012 7:04 AM.

Has Kindle Killed the Book Cover? - Betsy Morais - Entertainment - The Atlantic was the previous entry in this blog.

Announcing the shortlist of the Independent Foreign Fiction Award 2012 - Books - Arts & Entertainment - The Independent is the next entry in this blog.

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