This book tugs at your heartstrings just the way it's supposed to. It makes you sad. That's fine. The only problem is, the glaring inaccuracies ate awThis book tugs at your heartstrings just the way it's supposed to. It makes you sad. That's fine. The only problem is, the glaring inaccuracies ate away at me the entire time I read it, thus stunting the catharsis I was supposed to have at its completion.
Firstly, Bruno, the 9 year old narrator, reads with the ignorance and naivety of a child of 5 or 6. Not only that, but his lack of knowledge is completely impossible considering his cultural and historical context. He's the son of a high ranking Nazi official, and yet he has no knowledge of even the most basic of Nazi tenets. He's apparently never heard phrases like "the Furor", "Heil Hitler", or even "Jew". He has no idea that his country is in a war, or that there are ethnic groups that exist apart from his own. Oh...and that he's supposed to hate them.
The author uses the narrative convention of telling the story through the innocence of a child. The innocence of German children during the Nazi era is worthy of examination. Nazi children were innocent. They just weren't innocent in the way that blank-slate Bruno is, who apparently remains un-impressionable until adulthood, at which time he can pick his own prejudices. Bruno would have grown up in a Nazi propaganda filled education system and would likely have been a part of Hitler youth considering his father's high status. Bruno might have grown up to reach a full understanding of what happened, why it was wrong, and how horrible it was. The fact remains, he still would have been an impressionable child.
The children of Nazis officers were innocent in that their parents hated Jews, they were told to hate Jews, they never knew any different than hating Jews, so they hated Jews and were too innocent to ask why. That's sad. That pulls at your heartstrings. That's the reality of the cycle of hatred that spawns from prejudice. Not some mythical naive child who is entirely ignorant of the horrors that are going on around him, but a child who sees those horrors and doesn't even know it's wrong.
Apart from my main beef with the entirely ludicrous nature of the narrator, there are dozens of other plot loopholes and inaccuracies. Somehow, Bruno is able to sit at the fence of Auschwitz and talk to his new found friend, Shmuel, a fellow 9 year old boy. A fence, which, by the way, is loose enough that Bruno can fit through it. The fact that a 9 year old was even allowed to live at Auschwitz rather than being killed on arrival is hard to believe. If you can get past that, the fact that he somehow managed to live for the entire year that the story takes place is next to impossible. Shmuel was accused of stealing food from Bruno's home and was beaten for it. Right. At a concentration camp. And I'm not talking the kind of beating that would leave you horribly disfigured. Shmuel was able to go see Bruno again a couple days later.
I'm sure the author had no ill intent in writing this book. It's a story of an innocent boy who is presented with a situation he doesn't understand, and he responds to it with total ignorance and love where all others only show hate or indifference. Out of it's context, it's a lovely story. The problem is, Bruno's naive nature isn't only unbelievable-- it's disrespectful to the memory of what actually took place. ...more