Study Guide

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Warfare (The Holocaust)

By John Boyne

Warfare (The Holocaust)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is set during World War II, primarily right next to Auschwitz, one of the biggest concentration camps in the Holocaust. And yet, when it comes to Bruno, our main character, there's only one instance in which he confront mortality: when his grandmother dies.

While warfare isn't particularly visible on Bruno's side of the fence, on Shmuel's side, it's a totally different story. Shmuel's mother's "taken away," his grandfather "disappears," and then one day, his father doesn't come back from work. When your entire people are systematically under attack, it's safe to say that war is being waged against you—which is exactly the case for Shmuel and the other prisoners held in Auschwitz.

Questions About Warfare (The Holocaust)

  1. How are the boys and men described who live on the other side of the fence? How about on Bruno's side? Where can you see the impact of war in both of these populations?
  2. How do we first find out that Shmuel and his family are Jewish? What is Bruno's reaction (if any)?
  3. Why do you think Boyne decides to include images of the Star of David and the Swastika in the novel?
  4. What differences are there between Jews and non-Jews in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Chew on This

By omitting gory details about warfare and the Holocaust, Boyne downplays the importance of the event.

In this book, apathy is violence in its own right.