The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas

By: Cassidy White

About The Author

John Boyne was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1971. At Trinity College, in Dublin, he studied English Literature. He later attended the University of East Anglian in Norwich. There, he studied studied creative writing.

Boyne's early stories were short stories. He wrote 70 short stories. His books have also been published in 46 different Languages.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was out on bookshelves in 2006. Boyne got several awards for his book such as the Bistro Book of the Year. His novel won 2 Irish awards. His novel also was #1 for more than 80 weeks in Ireland, it topped the New York Bestseller List, and it was the best selling book in Spain 2008 to 2009. It sold more than 5 million copies worldwide.

Holocaust Overview

The Holocaust was a genocide of about 6 million Jews. The Holocaust took place durning World War II. The Holocaust started when laws required Jews to be removed from the population. They were placed in the ghetto. The laws forced the Jews into overcrowded and filthy dirty places used as holding areas.

Concentration camps were soon created during this time. The Jews were pulled out of their own houses and put into these concentration camps.

Once the Jews were brought to the camps, each of the families were separated. The Nazi's separated them into two groups, men and woman. If you were lucky, the Nazi's let you be with your mom or dad if you were a kid. Yes, they took the children too. After you got separated, you never knew if you would see your mother, father, brother(s) or sister(s) again.

The camps conditions were not in the least bit appealing. During the day, the Jews worked all day. At night, they got only a few hours of sleep. They literally worked from sunrise to sunset.

As far as food goes, they did get three meals a day, but they only got enough food to barley keep them alive. They didn't get a 5 star steak with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans. There food was mushy. Although they did get fed, most people died from starvation because they were given little food.

In the camps, the Jews were forced to work into slave labor until starvation, disease, exhaustion or even a combination of all three killed them.

As there became more and more concentration camps, the Nazi's started to execute the Jews. First, the Nazi' lined people up in pits where dirt had been dug up and shot people to death. In September of 1941, the Nazi's started killing the camp prisoners by putting them in a gas chamber and locking the door leaving them to die.

Nazi's also hung people. This was normally carried out during roll call to intimidate witnesses. People that got hung were normally the ones that tired to escape or that helped others escape.

Adolph Hitler was the leader of the Nazi Party. He was the dictator in Germany from 1934 to 1945.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Bruno, an eight year old German boy, through his short-lived experiences during World War II. His father, a commander in the Nazi army, moves the family to a three story house in Poland, a mere mile away from Out-With (Auschwitz) - the concentration camp he oversees. The camp is so close that Bruno can see the thousands people in striped pajamas from his window. Unable to get sufficient answers from his his sister, Gretel, his curiosity gets the better of him. He walks the tiresome distance from the house to the "Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions" barbwired fence.

There, he meets Shmuel, of the same age, and the two quickly become friends. But Shmuel is on the other side of the fence, the side that keeps people in, not out. Shmuel doesn't know why he and the rest of his family are there; only that they can't get out. Bruno goes to visit Shmuel daily, but never tells anyone of his activities, even under the heavy questioning of his sister.

Bruno soon learns the real reason, or what Gretel thinks is the real reason, that Shmuel, and the other people, are being held captive. They are Jews. Bruno never fully comprehends why the Jews are hated but the "Nothings," as Gretel put it.

Bruno journeys to the fence on a daily basis, and Shmuel often tells him about life at the camp; he hates it. Bruno, however, wants to see for himself. One day Shmuel doesn't show up, or the next day, or the day after that. Bruno faithfully returns each day in hopes that Shmuel will appear.

A week later, Shmuel shows up he looks even more tired than usual. He tells Bruno that his Papa has disappeared. He was taken on a march and hasn't returned since. Bruno them informs him that he will be moving back to Berlin the coming Friday.

Shmuel is heartbroken: first his father is missing, now his best friend is moving away. In a meager attempt at a going away gesture, Bruno offers to help Shmuel find his father.

The appointed day arrives, only to be plagued by heavy rain. Bruno's mother won't let him leave the house. The rain soon stops, and Bruno races out of the house, donning his rain boots and and poncho. Bruno arrives at the gate and Shmuel is waiting, surprised by his friend's appearance. Bruno reluctantly changes into the prisoner's uniform that Shmuel has brought him, leaving his clothes in the ground outside of the fence.

Bruno crawls under the fence, and they both walk back toward the main part of the camp. It is nothing like Bruno has imagined, and he immediately wants to return to his safe, comfortable home; he stays, however, and the two soon find themselves enclosed within a group of prisoners who are ordered to march.

Unable to escape, the two have no choice but to follow, in hopes that it will bring them closer to Shmuel's father. It starts to rain again and they are herded into a dark room. The door is closed in locked, but the two have no fear. They have each other.

A search is put out for Bruno, and his clothes are soon recovered. His Father finds a gap in the fence, one small enough that a very small person, such as a young boy, can crawl under.

Authors Purpose

I think John Boyne wrote this book to simply tell a story about people,on the other side of the fence and what it was really like.


I think the one major theme of this book is that friendship comes first. Bruno basically risked his own life every time he went to see Shmuel. Bruno tried to help Shmuel as much as he could.


I think the symbol of this book is the fence because it symbolizes the destruction of the Holocaust. The fence also shows how the Nazi's separated people.

Personal Reaction

I was very surprised with the detail that was given when Bruno goes under the fence to be with his best friend.


I would recommend this book to anybody interested in the Holocaust.