“The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” is a best selling book written by John Boyne. Set in 1942 in Nazi Germany, it tells the story of a nine year-old boy Bruno whose father is a Military Commandant, and with that, the family moves from Berlin to Out-With, Poland and lives in a house just beside a concentration camp.
Bruno,being the main protagonist of the book, appears to be a very adventurous and curious nine year-old boy. He is originally from Berlin, but moves to “Out-With” (in Poland), due to his father’s job as a Military Commandant. Out-With is far from safe for Bruno, as they live just by a concentration camp of imprisoned Jews. However, as an innocent young boy, Bruno is not able to understand the situation at Out-With, not even knowing about the war that is going on, and continues to be curious about the people living in the concentration camp observable from the window of his room. Although Bruno and his family have moved to such a desolated place, Bruno’s strong passion for discovering new things continues to be displayed, although Herr Liszt, Bruno’s tutor, wants him to be less adventurous and to focus more into schoolwork. He often feels lonely, but gets along with Maria, the housemaid, who is very quiet and admires Bruno’s father as a commandant. One day, he meets Shmuel, a Jewish boy within the fences of the concentration camp, who then becomes Bruno’s first best friend in Out-With, but still has no idea why Shmuel and many others are being put inside such fenced area.
Bruno has a big sister named Gretel, a twelve-year-old who he refers to as a ‘Hopeless Case’ who always takes interest in everyone’s business, especially their father’s. Because Bruno is such a tiny boy for his age, Gretel treats him as if he is six and often bullies him with her friends back in Berlin. She does not spend time with Bruno, and this results to Bruno feeling very lonely and bored most of the time. She is that kind of sister who makes sure that she is always in charge and that Bruno does whatever she orders him to do. She always plays with her dolls, however her crush on Lieutenant Kotler, a very strict eighteen-year-old Nazi soldier, turns her into a girl who shows much interest on the Nazi doctrine and ideology.
Bruno’s father is seen as a very strict and busy man who is almost always doing work, wearing his uniform almost all the time. As a top Nazi soldier, a Military Commandant, he appears to be very proud of his occupation that serves the country. Although he doesn’t spend much time with his family, he is quite a loving father when he does spend time with them once in a while. However, he turns into such a hateful and violent man, which Bruno’s mother, Elsa, wonders about. She appears to be the type of mother who tries to keep things that are going on hidden from her children. She does not share the same Nazi beliefs of her husband and is very furious with the fact that her husband is a Commandant of such disgraceful activities when she finds out what is going on next door, but is too afraid to speak out.
Bruno meets Shmuel on one of his adventures. The Polish Jew, the prisoner who is about the same age as Bruno, is seen sitting right behind the fence of the concentration camp, wearing his striped pyjamas. Shmuel is a timid boy. He and Bruno share commonalities, which helps drive themselves closer to each other. When it comes to war, Shmuel is far more experienced than naïve Bruno, as he himself has been captured and taken away from his mother and siblings. However, Shmuel is still not aware of his whereabouts and what he is doing in the concentration camp, but it is clear of its impact on Shmuel as it turns such a young boy into an adult. His unawareness is inferable. He isn’t able to find his father and has no idea on what “trips” people go on.
What I found most interesting in the book “The Boy in The Striped Pajamas” was how the author manages to demonstrate how innocence can be destroyed by war, ambition, and greed. This book is written in an innocent nine year-old boy’s point of view on the Holocaust, which at the same time gives readers a story about what happened in World War Two. Surely, in times of war, children as young as Bruno are not aware of what is happening around them, and might as well be mislead into believing something. One example, in Bruno’s case, is how Bruno goes inside the concentration camp, hoping that there would be children he could play with when Shmuel tells him that there are children in the camp. This itself led to both Bruno and Shmuel’s death in the gas chambers as Bruno gets mistaken for one of the Jews.
Bruno’s death is mainly caused by the lack of communication with his father and the rest of his family. In my opinion, the father is to be the first to blame for Bruno’s death. Without having to move in such a desolate place just by a concentration camp, Bruno wouldn’t be so curious and get himself into such trouble. The father could’ve at least lived by himself or move the family somewhere further from the concentration camp. It is such a terrible way for him to die, but in my opinion, it is probably the only way for his father to finally see that what they have been killing were real people, as he said “They’re not people at all, Bruno” in the first parts of the book. Honestly, it has never crossed my mind how a child’s innocence could be destroyed by the worst of his surroundings. However, this book proved to me how cases like Bruno’s could be happening anytime and anywhere, especially in times of war, or even when racial prejudice is occurring in that child’s surroundings.
Children would continue to be curious, to explore, and also to discover. If I were Bruno, I would probably be as curious as he is. Imagine returning home from school one day and discovering our belongings being packed, and that our family has to move far away from home and leaving friends behind, to somewhere so desolate, where there is no one to play with. As a child like Bruno, I would also be exploring the new environment with hope to find something interesting. I would even go check on the concentration camp due to my curiosity now that Bruno’s father wouldn’t give him the answer he would understand or was looking for.
Reading this book has made me reflect on myself and my relationship with my family. I believe that there is a need to develop a healthier and finer relationship with them, and also to realize the importance of communication within a relationship. I feel fortunate to be living in a period where I wouldn’t have to experience such war and racial prejudice. I really enjoyed this book, and I believe it gives strong morals to readers while giving out relevant information about the Holocaust, the Nazi doctrine, and its inside stories.