The Auschwitz Museum has become embroiled in a spat with the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, after it told its 900,000 Twitter followers that the children’s novel “should be avoided by anyone who studies or teaches about the history of the Holocaust”.
The memorial and museum struck out at John Boyne after the Irish author criticised the number of recently-released books on Auschwitz, with titles such as The Saboteur of Auschwitz, The Mistress of Auschwitz and The Librarian of Auschwitz.
“I can't help but feel that by constantly using the same three words, & then inserting a noun, publishers & writers are effectively building a genre that sells well, when in reality the subject matter, & their titles, should be treated with a little more thought & consideration,” he tweeted on Sunday.
I can't help but feel that by constantly using the same three words, & then inserting a noun, publishers & writers are effectively building a genre that sells well, when in reality the subject matter, & their titles, should be treated with a little more thought & consideration. pic.twitter.com/Vun9utLZol— John Boyne (@john_boyne) January 5, 2020
The Auschwitz Museum then replied to say it understood Mr Boyne’s concerns and had addressed inaccuracies in a number of works on Auschwitz – most noticeably in its criticism of Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
But it then went on to urge members of the public to “avoid” Mr Boyne’s 2006 novel, which follows the story of a German youngster who befriends a Jewish boy through one of the camp’s fences and was adapted into a major film in 2008.
We understand those concerns, and we already addressed inaccuracies in some books published. However, "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" should be avoided by anyone who studies or teaches about the history of the Holocaust. https://t.co/dVJ9kf9dtz— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) January 5, 2020
Its criticisms of the novel include its portrayal of Jewish victims as one-dimensional, passive and “unresisting”. It has also urged readers not to see it as “a fable”.
In response, Mr Boyne said the museum could "recommend some books and to discourage the reading of others", but said he not read the article the museum tweeted because it was itself inaccurate.
While I absolutely respect your right to recommend some books & to discourage the reading of others, it's worth pointing out that the opening paragraph of the attached article contains 3 factual inaccuracies in only 57 words. Which is why I didn't read on.— John Boyne (@john_boyne) January 5, 2020
One tweeter replied: "John is now lecturing the Auschwitz Museum about Auschwitz."
John is now lecturing the Auschwitz Museum about Auschwitz.— Ben Walsh (@bwalsh) January 5, 2020
Mr Boyne called this "a completely inaccurate representation of what I said".
He later told the Guardian: "The Auschwitz Museum was linking to an article... that addressed supposed inaccuracies in my novel which, of course, was a work of fiction … and therefore by its nature cannot contain inaccuracies, only anachronisms, and I don’t think there are any of those in there.”