It’s hilariously ironic that the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Maus” has become a bestseller on Amazon after a Tennessee school board banned the graphic novel just over a week ago. The banning sadly coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was Jan. 27.
According to meeting minutes, 10 school board members in McMinn County decided to remove “Maus” from the eighth-grade curriculum due to “rough, objectionable language” and illustrated animal nudity that was deemed unsuitable for 13-year-old students.
What’s not funny is a book ban, especially when the focus is the Holocaust. Children and, well, everyone should be privy to the unimaginable atrocity that was the murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others that occurred less than 80 years ago.
It’s understandable why Art Spiegelman, the author of the 1986 classic, is borderline apoplectic over the decision. The book was inspired by his parents’ harrowing experience in concentration camps and his mother’s suicide. The book depicts Jewish people as mice, the Nazis as cats and Polish people as pigs.
“It’s leaving me with my jaw open, like, ‘What?’ ” Spiegelman said on CNBC. “I’ve met so many young people who have learned things from my book. I also understand that Tennessee is obviously demented. There’s something going on (that’s) very, very haywire there.”
If the Holocaust is whitewashed, should we stop showing images of violence perpetrated against Blacks and no longer show footage of the 9/11 attacks? We can’t look the other way and avoid educating our children about the darker periods in history.
My children have yet to visit concentration camps, but one day they will accompany me to them. I’ve been to Auschwitz and Dachau, and I’m thankful that the camps weren’t razed since they are a constant reminder of how evil humans can be if they have opportunity.
When prisoners arrived at Auschwitz, their photos were taken, and they filled out a card, which included where they lived and their occupation. It was sobering staring into the eyes of the photographs of the victims and witnessing the piles of their clothes.
I purchased a copy of “A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy” in the Auschwitz bookstore for my children. It’s a spellbinding tale. “Maus” is just as captivating.
Just after Christmas, my daughter Jane, 12, and I watched “Au Revoir Les Enfants,” which is director Louis Malle’s masterpiece inspired by his life at a Catholic boarding school in France. Malle witnessed a Gestapo raid at 11 in which three Jewish students and a Jewish teacher were discovered and deported to Auschwitz.
“How could something like the Holocaust happen?” Jane asked. “How could they get away with something so horrible?” The answer is in the books and in the museums. Our children should be privy to the details of the Holocaust, especially since anti-Semitic crime is on the rise.
My friend Paul Goldenberg, who is a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council, hit me with grisly details of hate crimes in the U.S. and in Europe. “We have to be vigilant and live our lives to the fullest, or they’ve won,” Goldenberg said of the anti-Semites.
“We’re not going to let that happen. We can’t allow terrorists to take away our way of life.” We also can’t allow anyone to take away books, which will edify young men and women. Some disagree, such as McMinn County board member Tony Allman, who said, “We don’t need to enable or somewhat promote this stuff.
“It shows people hanging. It shows them killing kids. Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff? It is not wise or healthy.” Most kids are unfortunately desensitized when it comes to salty language and violence thanks to video games and social media.
I don’t recall being so buffered from reality when I was a kid a generation ago. History repeats itself. Hopefully, there will never be anything again remotely like the Holocaust, but we need to know as much as possible about the atrocity to prevent a recurrence.
We also must be able to read books like “Maus,” which is widely regarded as a masterpiece. The story of Spiegelman’s parents’ unbelievable experiences is required reading in the Condran home. Since Jane is on the edge of becoming a teen, I’ll add to the bestselling numbers for “Maus.”
The brilliant Romanian-American writer Elie Wiesel, who was also a Holocaust survivor, perfectly noted why we should always remember and why books about the Holocaust should always be accessible. “To forget a holocaust is to kill twice.”
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