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Teach "Better Holocaust"? Author stunned by book ban in US schools

In Tennessee, a school district decides to remove the Holocaust comic “Mouse” from the curriculum. The decision sparked a major controversy in the United States.

WASHINGTON DC – A Tennessee school district has decided to ban the world-famous Holocaust comic “Mouse” from school libraries because the book contains material the district believes is unsuitable for students. Since then, the step has been hotly debated in the United States.

“Mouse” author Art Spiegelman described the McMinn School District’s decision on Thursday (January 27, 2022), i.e. on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as “short-sighted”. The fact that the comic, which is about his father’s survival in the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, is being banned from school libraries because of the swear words it contains, represents a “bigger problem” in the USA.

District in the US removes Holocaust comic “Mouse” from the curriculum

“They just focus on some bad words in the book,” Spiegelman said on CNN. “I can’t believe it.” Jewish associations also sharply criticized the school district’s decision. “In view of the pronounced knowledge gaps, especially among young Americans, about the Holocaust,” the decision was “completely incomprehensible,” said David Harris, chairman of the American Jewish Committee.

The McMinn School District decided to remove the comic from school libraries on January 10, citing a nude scene in addition to swear words like “damn” or “bitch.” District Superintendent Lee Parkison’s suggestion that only the affected passages should be censored was rejected by other board members.

In a statement released Thursday, the school district defended its decision. “Mouse. The Story of a Survivor was banned as a teaching tool for its “unnecessary use of obscenity and nudity and depictions of violence and suicide,” it said. Other works are currently being sought that can be used to bring the history of the Holocaust closer to the schoolchildren in a “more age-appropriate way”.

Holocaust book banned in US school district: Mouse author stunned

The school board recorded the panel’s discussion and published it on the Internet. Tony Allman, a member of the panel, said at the meeting: “It shows people being hanged, it shows them killing children, why does the education system encourage that? That is neither wise nor healthy.”

Allman does not want to deny that the Holocaust was “terrible, brutal and cruel” – but he still vehemently railed against the book. “I might be wrong, but the guy who created the comic used to do the graphics for Playboy. You can look at his background, and we let him do graphics in books for elementary school students,” Allman said outraged about Spiegelman.

Spiegelman told the New York Times that he was completely surprised by the decision. After reading the minutes, he got the impression that the panel members were wondering how they could teach a “beautiful Holocaust.”

USA: Holocaust comic “Maus” wins Pulitzer Prize

The Pulitzer Prize-winning comic, which features Spiegelman’s own family history, has been used in history classes in many US schools for decades. In the black-and-white comic, Jews are represented as mice and the National Socialists as cats.

Ein Exemplar von „Maus“ liegt auf einem Tisch.


A copy of “Mouse” is on a table.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC disapproved of the school board’s move. It was said on Twitter that the work played an important role in educating people about the Holocaust “by conveying detailed and personal experiences of victims and survivors.” Students can learn about the Holocaust using books like “Maus”. encourage them to think critically about the past and their own role and responsibility today.

Again and again arguments about books in schools in the USA

In US school administrations, there are always heated arguments about what content and books belong on the curriculum. Books that deal with historical topics from the perspective of minorities are often at the center of the debates. Last year, for example, parents in the state of Virginia campaigned to have the slavery novel “Menschenkind” by the black Nobel Prize winner in literature Toni Morrison removed from the curriculum. In Pennsylvania last October, high school students fought to reverse a ban on books about anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

Action against such books usually comes from conservatives and Donald Trump’s circle of supporters. More recently, under pressure from anti-racism activists, some schools have decided to remove classics such as “To disturb the nightingale” or “Huckleberry Finn” from the curriculum on the grounds that they negatively portray African-American characters. (tvd/AFP)

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