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The Boy in The Striped Pajamas: a Powerful Story of Human Nature, Genocide and Innocence

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The three major themes that occurred in the story, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, are the desire for friendship, boundaries, and the innocence of childhood. To begin, John Boyne explored the theme of friendship by having Bruno wander to the fence of the camp, and he met another boy his age. A problem occurred when Bruno discovered the boy’s nationality. Shmuel was a Polish Jewish prisoner, that had been jailed at Auschwitz with his family. The boys became friends from the two opposite sides of the fence during the war. Bruno and Shmuel’s desire for friendship was so strong that the fence separating them became invisible and non existing in their view. The boys bond grew beyond measure and they soon became dependant upon one another. In addition, the story explored the theme, boundaries, when Bruno and Shmuel were separated by a fence which portrayed that they can never play or explore together. The separation between the two kids was also inhanced by the German Nazi’s strict rules which forbids Germans to be friends with Jews, Poles, and the other groups persecuted by Hitler. Lastly, John Boyne successfully told the story from Bruno’s perspective, demonstrating the innocence and purity of Bruno’s childhood, despite the fact that he was living on the property of Auschwitz, a death camp, and has met Adolf Hitler. Shmuel who had been imprisoned in the camp, seemed to not understand the severity of his situation. When his father went missing, Shmuel was clueless and did not comprehend that he had been forced into the gas chambers to meet his death sentence.

The story began with Bruno, a nine-year old boy living in Berlin, Germany in 1943 with his family. They must move from their lovely home to a new house in an unfamiliar place called ‘Out-With.’ Tempted to explore his new environment, Bruno is told that there are certain places that are ‘Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions.’ Being unable to withstand his adventurous spirit and curiosity, Bruno wanders into the unknown part of “Out-With”.

He came upon an electrical fence that he followed until he saw a young boy sitting on the other side of it. The shoeless boy was wearing striped pajamas and a cloth cap. Bruno surprisingly noticed the boy’s armband which had a star on it. Bruno and the unknown boy quickly became friends and establish a trusting relationship. Their bond grew stronger as they exchanged family stories and realized that they even share the same birthday. At the end of their first meeting, Bruno asked Shmuel why there were so many people on his side of the fence and what they are doing there. A few days later, Bruno’s father had dinner guests, a man whose name was ‘the Fury’ and his date, Eva. Bruno instantly disliked the couple and their attitude. His sister Gretel, which he referred to as ‘the Hopeless Case,’ had caught feelings for “the Fury”, and tried hard to impress him and his lady friend. Bruno, however, was disgusted by his sister’s behavior and her upcoming romance with a young soldier.

Being so young and innocent, Bruno interpreted the words, ‘Auschwitz’ as ‘Out-With,’ and ‘the Führer’ as ‘the Fury.’ He did not realize the dangerous territory and outside war that was taking place directly where he lived and played. He continued to explore the woods near his house and often found himself at the fence spending time with his only friend Shmuel. He felt his friends hunger and saw his malnutrition, Bruno stole food from his house to provide to Shmuel. The two friends are saddened by the fact that they cannot explore together or play a game of football. Shmuel broke down, confessed to Bruno that he was unable to find his father and was worried that he was lost. Bruno felt his friends pain and vowed to help him look for his father but found himself limited due to the separation of the fence. Shmuel found a solution and promised to get Bruno a pair of pajamas from the storage bin inorder to blend in on his side of the fence.

One fateful day, Bruno took off his clothes, put on the dirty, striped pajamas, and snuck onto Shmuel’s side of the fence through a discrete hole which the boys had previously dug up. The search for Shmuel’s father ended abruptly. The tall, loud German soldiers ordered the prisoners to remove their pajamas and head for a shower. Bruno and Shmuel found themselves standing in the same line, frightened and nervous of the unknown. Holding hands, they were pushed together into the gas chambers where they devastatingly died as best friends.

The response question that I decided to reply to is “what did you learn about after reading the story you chose?” After reading the overwhelming and powerful story, I have learned about human nature, genocide, and innocence. The author contrasted a German boy with a Jewish boy, that showed the purity of children. It was the circumstances and the surrounding such as war, prejudice, hate, dictatorship that influenced humans. Innocence was shown through Bruno, being innocent of his father’s crimes, and the Jewish people locked up in Auschwitz are innocent of any crime. The two boys did not understand what is going on, as they do not see Auschwitz as a death camp. Genocide was introduced when Bruno saw the camp as a farm where children had fun and play with one another. As Bruno and Shmuel are placed in the gas chambers, the horrors of genocide is evident and appeared.

The genre of this alarming story was historical fiction. John Boyne, the author of the incredible story, wrote this book based on a dream that he had about two boys sitting on the different sides of a barbed wire fence. The way the fence was constructed reminded him of the Holocost, as he wanted to write a story for young children to read about and teach them how horrible innocent Jewish people were treated. Three examples that I have found from the story that lead me in thinking the book was fiction was, if a Jewish child was to be talking to someone who was not in the camp boundaries, they would get caught and severely punished. Bruno would sit on the opposite side of the fence and talk to Shmuel everyday. In addition, if a camper or a non Jew were to dig a hole underneath the barbed wire fence and enter the camp grounds, the soldiers would instantly kill them. This relates to the story when Bruno dug up a hole under the fence and crawled through it to help Shmuel look for his father. Lastly, the author mainly wrote the story from the perspective of Bruno’s family, and briefly talked about how Shmuel and other people in the concentration camp were treated. I would definitely recommend this informational book to others who are interested in reading stories about the Holocaust. It is very important for everyone to understand and acknowledge the horrors about Jewish people’s history, and to treat everyone with respect. I would absolutely read a book of this genre again because I enjoy reading about other culture’s history, as it is interesting and educational. A text-to-text connection that I constructed was, the story “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas” to “The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain” written by John Boyne. In the book “The Boy At The Top Of The Mountain” Pierrot, the main character, became an orphan as he had to leave his house in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix. His aunt received a job as a servant in a wealthy house at the top of the German Mountains. This story took place in 1935, as it was the approachment of the Second World War and in a small house, Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler. Pierrot was quickly taken under Hitler’s wing, and was thrown into a dangerous new world, a world of terror and secrets from which young Pierrot may never be able to escape. Bruno and Pierrot were forced to move from their lovely home to an old, creepy house located in Germany. The two boys had met Adolf Hitler, and they both arrived in Auschwitz during heartbreaking moments. In conclusion, a fence may divide two people, but hope will only reunite them. 

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The Boy in The Striped Pajamas: A Powerful Story of Human Nature, Genocide and Innocence. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from
“The Boy in The Striped Pajamas: A Powerful Story of Human Nature, Genocide and Innocence.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022,
The Boy in The Striped Pajamas: A Powerful Story of Human Nature, Genocide and Innocence. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Jun. 2022].
The Boy in The Striped Pajamas: A Powerful Story of Human Nature, Genocide and Innocence [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 24 [cited 2022 Jun 27]. Available from:
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