When I was reading Ruth Kluger’s account of her time at Auschwitz, the major thing that I noticed was how youth under the age of around fifteen were to be immediately killed since they were deemed not strong enough or capable of becoming useful laborers. That’s why Kluger’s mother implored her to tell the officer she was fifteen instead of her real age of twelve, which meant she would’ve been sent to the gas chambers. I read the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas not too long ago and recalled how the nine year old son of a Nazi officer stationed at the camp befriended a Jewish boy of the same age who lived in the camp, which is assumed to be Auschwitz. There’s a clear contradiction here because according to historical accounts, such as Kluger’s, that Jewish boy should’ve been killed as soon as he arrived at the camp because he was too young to be a worker.
Obviously Kluger’s account of the age determination system has a lot of merit because she lived through the experience. And based on other accounts and reports found online, they all agree that children and the elderly were the first to be killed when they arrived at extermination camps like Auschwitz. So if applying that historical knowledge, why would author John Boyne make such a historical inaccuracy in his novel by keeping alive that Jewish boy? Because it’s actually not an inaccuracy. There are other accounts from survivors of Auschwitz that say there were a small group of young kids who generally acted as camp messengers. Then there were those like Kluger who were spared because of sympathetic German officers and were allowed to continue on as workers. Kluger’s account is still legitimate because based on what she saw herself, children were the first to be killed. The Jewish boy from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Kluger and the small group of children allowed to act as messengers were the extremely rare exceptions. Since so few of them made it beyond the screening process, it’s understandable why many survivors of the camps never came in contact with those young children and thus believed no children lived in the camp.