Irish author John Boyne has become involved in a Twitter spat with the official account of the Auschwitz Museum over the accuracy of his bestselling novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
The novel, published in 2006, was an international bestseller and was made into a film two years later.
However, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, which runs the facility at the former Nazi concentration camp in Poland, has suggested that readers should avoid the novel if they want to know the truth about the Holocaust.
On his Twitter account, Mr Boyne criticised a proliferation of books with "Auschwitz" in the title, including The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, which was Ireland's bestselling book in 2018 and 2019.
He listed seven books in total with Auschwitz in the title and tweeted: “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.”
The Auschwitz Museum responded by stating that it understood the reservations people had about the historical accuracy in many of those titles. It went on to state: “However, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ should be avoided by anyone who studies or teaches about the history of the Holocaust.”
The museum posted a link to the website of The Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre from September which criticised the portrayals of the two boys in the novel, Bruno, the son of a high-ranking Nazi, and Schmuel, a Jewish boy.
Boyne tweeted back: “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.”
He didn’t elaborate on what the factual inaccuracies were, but added: “I believe I treated the subject matter with great care in my novel, although readers are of course free to feel differently.”
The Auschwitz Memorial has also been critical of The Tattooist of Auschwitz stating that “the book contains numerous errors and information inconsistent with the facts, as well as exaggerations, misinterpretations and understatements”.