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And John Boyne is to be commended for tackling a frightening story that needs to be told to teenagers today in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas -- a fictional account of the Nazi era that uses the powerful device of a tale told from the perspective of its nine year old hero. Although the publisher insists that all reviewers not reveal its story, the back cover promises "As memorable an introduction to the subject as The Diary of Anne Frank." And indeed the writing is gripping.The style, sharing with Anne Frank the distinctive voice of youth, is extremely effective.Without giving away the plot, it is enough to tell you that Bruno, the nine-year-old son of the Nazi Commandant at Auschwitz (never identified by that name, but rather as "Out-With" -- a lame pun I think out of place in context) lives within yards of the concentration camp his father oversees and actually believes that its inhabitants who wear striped pajamas -- oh, how lucky, he thinks, to be able to be so comfortably dressed --spend their time on vacation drinking in cafes on the premises while their children are happily playing games all day long even as he envies them their carefree lives and friendships!
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But the bottom line is this: I accept the invitation. What I'm going to do is - I think you're going to like this, Roy. And when the girls and I show up, if you can control yourself and behave, if you can somehow manage to keep little Roy in your little cowboy pants when those nubile cheerleaders come bounding in, you and I, we'll sit down at the food court, we'll have a little Panda Express and we'll talk about Christian values. But when you commit a sin at our church, at our church we're encouraged to confess and ask for forgiveness for the sin. I imagine that's how a lot of people in Alabama feel.
I'm going to come to Gadsden, Alabama, with a team of high school cheerleaders, OK? Because, and I don't know, it doesn't fit your stereotype - but I happen to be a Christian, too. So if you're open to it, when we sit down, I will share with you what I learned at my church. Not to call the women you allegedly victimised liars and damage them even more. So if you do have that feeling, know that at least here in Hollywood, we don't hate Alabama.
If there is to be a moral we must exact from the Holocaust it is the "never again" that must henceforth be applied to our cowardice to intervene, our failure to react when evildoers rush in to fill the ethical vacuum. They tell me how the stench of burning human flesh and the ashes of corpses from the crematoria filled the air for miles around.
Yet if we were to believe the premise of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, it was possible to live in the immediate proximity of Auschwitz and simply not know -- the very defense of all those Germans after the war who chose to deny their complicity. The trains traveling with human cargo stacked like cordwood screaming for water as they died standing in their natural wastes without even room to fall to the ground were witnessed throughout every countryside.
It is the written word that will have to substitute for the heart-rending tales of woe shared by those who endured hell on earth.
That is, after all, all that will remain of six million victims. They must speak for those who cannot, but whose suffering demands to be remembered and whose deaths cry out for posthumous meaning.Nobody, not even little German children who were weaned on hatred of the Jews as subhuman vermin could have been unaware of "The Final Solution." And to suggest that Bruno simply had no idea what was happening in the camp his father directed yards from his home is to allow the myth that those who were not directly involved can claim innocence.But it's only a fable, a story, and stories don't have to be factually accurate.One can readily understand why the book has had such a strong impact on countless readers, become required reading in high school Holocaust courses round the country, and is about to be released as a major motion picture. How should one react to a book that ostensibly seeks to inform while it so blatantly distorts?If it is meant as a way of understanding what actually happened -- and indeed for many students it will be the definitive and perhaps only Holocaust account to which they will be exposed -- how will its inaccuracies affect the way in which readers will remain oblivious to the most important moral message we are to discover in the holocaust's aftermath?The Holocaust is simply too grim a subject for Grimm fairytales.