Friday, 20 March 2009

Press Release - "Boy in the Striped Pyjamas"

This press release was sent to me by an online PR company, the text of what follows has not been altered by me in any way (though I've had to change the formatting a little):


Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” helps to improve understanding of World War II in UK classrooms

· Only one in three (37%) children realise the Holocaust claimed the lives of six million Jews
· A quarter (25%) do not know what Auschwitz was, with some mistaking it for a beer-like drink
· 60% do not know what the Final Solution was, with 20% believing it was peace talks to end the war

Most British children underestimate the true horrors of the Holocaust, according to new research released today.

The nationwide study, commissioned by Miramax Films and the London Jewish Cultural Centre to mark the DVD release of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas on Monday 9 March 2009, surveyed 1,200 secondary school children of all religions about their knowledge of the subject.

Despite the fact that Holocaust studies are part of the national curriculum in English secondary schools, two in three (63%) pupils underestimate the death toll at concentration camps by as much as five million lives.

A quarter (25%) of respondents do not know what Auschwitz was, with one in ten (8%) mistaking it for a country bordering Germany. Others believe it to be a type of bread or a beer-like drink.

Some taking part in the study - the equivalent of over 135,000 secondary school pupils - even misidentified images of historical figures such as Winston Churchill, Salvador Dali and Albert Einstein as Adolf Hitler.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is based on the award-winning novel of the same name by John Boyne. It tells the story of a German boy’s friendship with a Jewish child held in a concentration camp. Makers of the movie Miramax Films are now working with the charity Film Education to encourage use of the DVD, which is classified as a 12 certificate in the UK, as the basis for increasing children’s knowledge of what happened.

Special screenings of the award-winning film, which stars Sheila Hancock and David Thewlis, are taking place for school children around the UK and new teaching aids that tie into the national curriculum key stage 3 are being devised to help capture the interest of students in the classroom.

Stephanie Rose, Director of the Holocaust and Anti-racism Education Department of the London Jewish Cultural Centre, said that the study proves how vital it is to continue to teach about the Holocaust in schools, and to constantly re-assess the impact of its delivery.

“There is an assumption that British children understand what happened; but thousands clearly don’t. After hearing survivors speak in their schools, our experience has been that many young people, despite having studied the Holocaust, respond with shock and surprise as if hearing such information for the first time.”

Mark Herman, director of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, said the new DVD can be a powerful educational tool when used with the teaching aids created by Film Education:

“The reaction I had from many teachers and school children to the film when it came out was that, although this is a fictional story, it is one that children get very emotionally involved in, and as a result makes them want to learn more about the subject.

“Sadly, children sometimes find documentaries and textbooks on the subject quite inaccessible, whereas because this quite simple fictional tale revolves around children, it is something they can relate to. They are touched, their hearts get involved, and they seem to want to know more as a result.”

Additional research findings:

· 40% of children don’t understand Hitler’s motives, with many thinking that the Holocaust was a revenge attack on Jewish people while others think it was a way of reducing the German population
· The equivalent of over 270,000 secondary school pupils could not identify a swastika as the Nazi emblem
· The survey also looked at children’s attitudes to befriending people of different religions, with positive findings showing that only 7% of youngsters would let someone’s faith get in the way of befriending them – a theme supported by the film

- Ends -

Notes to editors
Survey carried out among 1,200 secondary school children aged 11 to 16 from Monday 9 February to Friday 27 February 2009 by youth research agency Dubit.

According to TGI Youth 2007 Autumn there are approximately 4.5 million children aged 11-16 in the UK.

Stills from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and interviews with Film Education and Stephanie Rose at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, are available on request.
Sound files of the testimonial from Eva Neuman are available on request.

Clips, stills and artwork from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas are available on request

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
The Miramax film, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, tells the story of Bruno – an eight-year-old who befriends a boy of his own age through the wire fence of a concentration camp. Through the naive perceptions of Bruno, audiences get telling glimpses of the true horrors taking place. This unique story of forbidden friendship and its devastating consequences in the context of World War II is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Irish author John Boyne.

The film stars David Thewlis (Kingdom of Heaven, Seven Years in Tibet), Rupert Friend (Pride and Prejudice, The Young Victoria) and newcomer Asa Butterfield as ‘Bruno’. American actress Vera Farmiga (Breaking & Entering, The Departed) who was named Best Actress at the 2008 British Independent Film Awards for her moving portrayal of Bruno’s mother.

The London Jewish Cultural Centre
The London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC) offers the widest range of Jewish learning opportunities and Jewish cultural events in the UK. Although the Holocaust stands as the central issue of twentieth century Jewish history, the Centre emphasises its continuing and inescapable relevance for humanity as a whole. To this end the LJCC runs pioneering and influential educational programmes in the UK, including the provision of survivor testimony in schools, and also - under the auspices of the International Task Force for Holocaust Education - in Eastern Europe and in China. The Centre also acts as an advisor on issues related to the Holocaust and racism for many organisations including the BBC (the recent visit to Auschwitz by Blue Peter presenter Joel de Fries, with Auschwitz survivor Freda Weineman was facilitated by the LJCC).

Film Education
To mark the release of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas on DVD, Miramax is working with Film Education on a school educational campaign comprising:
· The development of new content for an online teaching resource that was created to mark the theatrical release of the film in September 2008
· Updates including: historical learnings from World War II; The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas teacher case studies showing other educators how the film has been used effectively in the classroom to aid learning; and a Holocaust survivor case study
· Screenings of the DVD around the UK, exclusively for secondary school children
· Mailers to 12,000 schools about national screenings and background information on the film

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