Monday, July 11, 2011
Harry Potter and Holocaust Education
Harry Potter fans around the world are marking a bittersweet week as the beloved film series comes to an end. I must admit that I am more than a muggle (or casual fan). In addition to reading the series several times and waiting for the new releases at midnight, I have been to the café in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling wrote the first book, I took a tour of the Highlands of Scotland where I saw several locations used as backdrops, and I have been to King’s Cross station in London in search of platform 9 ¾. However, the most thrilling experience I have had was a few years ago when I got to go to Carnegie Hall to hear J.K. Rowling read from the Deathly Hallows and answer questions from the audience.
One of the questions had to do with Holocaust imagery in the later books. The audience member asked about the idea of the evil characters being obsessed with pure blood lines and the interrogations performed on half-blood wizards. Ms. Rowling said that it was very much intentional and that she took what she knew about the Nazis and incorporated it into the books to teach about tolerance, resistance, and moral imperatives. My question to educators and to parents is whether Harry Potter could or should be used as an introduction to or as a springboard for a discussion of the Holocaust. What do you think?