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“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” Essay

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Updated: May 14th, 2020


Most individuals prefer watching movies as a way of entrainment or killing time especially the youth. Movies entail different themes that might range from historical experiences to current day-to-day experiences. However, some movies and television shows purporting to highlight some historical issues may lack historical validity and accurateness. This paper is a review and historical analysis of the film, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Film review

The film is founded on a novel with the same title. John Boyne authored the novel. The film’s director is Mark Herman, and it was released in 2008. The main actor is Bruno, who is eight years of age living in the countryside with his family after his father receives a promotion in the workplace. Bruno’s dad is a commandant of an extermination camp, which borders their homestead, but it separated by a barbed wire electric fence.

At one point, Bruno decides to disobey the rules forbidding him from accessing the back garden. Curiosity leads him to the fence surrounding the extermination camp. Bruno meets Shmuel, who is a Jewish inmate at the camp, and befriends him. Bruno speculates the striped uniform that Shmuel is wearing to resemble pajamas, thus hinting to the viewers about the origin of the film’s title. The pair organizes regular meetings where they are involved in playing board games together, and Bruno sneaks food to his friend during such occasions.

One day, Bruno’s mother discovers the assignment of his husband following some insights from a junior commissioned officer often called Lieutenant concerning the black smoke emanating from the chimneys of the camp. Apparently, the smoke comes from the burning of the Jews who are perceived as lesser humans in the Nazi Germany. Bruno’s mother becomes agitated and heartbroken, and thus she confronts her husband. Later on at a dinner in Bruno’s home, the lieutenant pronounces how his biological father had moved to Switzerland and left his family.

Bruno’s father accuses the Lieutenant of neglect of duty and recklessness by not informing the concerned authorities about his father’s eminent disagreements with the prevailing political regime. Therefore, to prove his ultimate support for the political regime and cover his embarrassment, Lieutenant Kotler beats to death the Jewish inmate who was a servant at Bruno’s house so that he could show his undeterred support to the political system.

Later on, by coincidence, Shmuel replaces the murdered servant. Due to amusement, Bruno decides to offer him a cake. Unfortunately, the lieutenant sees Shmuel chewing and immediately accuses him of theft. Shmuel explains that the cake was duly offered to him, but Bruno denies the claims out of fear. Bruno decides to go and apologize to Shmuel. However, the servant cannot be found. Bruno keeps on going back to the same venue at the camp, but he is never fortunate to meet his friend until one moment when Shmuel reappears at the fence. During the reunion, Bruno expresses his ultimate apologies to his friend who forgives him before rekindled their friendship (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas).

Towards the end of the movie, Bruno endeavors to help Shmuel’s find his father who is missing after failing to return to the camp after a march. Consequently, he disappears from their house by digging a hole under the barbed wire fence to access the camp where Shmuel is residing. Later, his mother and sister discover that Bruno is missing. They inform the father who launches an immediate search together with his men. However, the search is unfruitful because the prohibited friendship between Bruno and Shmuel becomes a tragedy.

The good points in the movie

In the film, the aspect of true friendship is evident as demonstrated by Bruno and his ultimate affection to Shmuel, who is an inmate and a Jew. The audience often observes the deep relationship expressed through their conversation in the various meetings. Bruno breaks the confines of his family rules of not visiting the back garden just for the sake of friendship. The viewers also witness Bruno’s chances by sneaking food to his friend. At some point, he apologizes to Shmuel for denying that he offered him the cake. Lastly, Bruno’s decides to help Shmuel trace his father who has disappeared after a match.

Bruno’s mother is observed to oppose the dictatorial regime by expressing her anguish and dissatisfaction on the matter of anti-Semitism. She is heartbroken after discovering that the black smoke emanating from the camp chimneys is from the burning of Jewish corpses. She also confronts her husband after learning about his assignment in the camp, thus proving to viewers that she is not contended with the way that the current regime disregards the Jews.

The bad points in the movie

The aspect of dictatorship is evident in the film. Characters such as Bruno’s father, who shows ultimate support to the current regime, demonstrate the feature. At times, he accuses the lieutenant of not demonstrating his loyalty to the political regime by not reporting to the relevant authorities the disappearance of his father to Switzerland. The viewers also witness the killing the Jew servant by the lieutenant illegitimately to prove his support for Semitism.

Racism is also a bad point as depicted in the different scenarios. The discrimination against the Jews is profound in this movie as evidenced by the rules prohibiting Bruno from engaging in friendship with Shmuel. The lieutenant also murders the servant simply because he is a Jew. The black smoke from the Jews’ burning corpses additionally proves how the political regime disregarded the life of the Jews.

Historical accuracy of the movie

The movie, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is historically accurate. First, it was set during the World War II period from 1939 to 1945. The movie is relevant because it underscores the infamous Holocaust, which happened under the watch of Adolf Hitler’s tyrannical regime in the Nazi Germany. During this period, around six million Jews were murdered. The extermination camps as the one demonstrated in the movie were used in the systematic murder of the Jews.

The predominant ways of terminating life included gassing whereby the Jew inmates in the camps were packed in gas chambers, and then Carbon Monoxide or Zyklon B was used to suffocate them to death. The Jews were also killed by subjection to strenuous work under severe hunger conditions. The movie is historically correct due to the presence of death camps located beside Bruno’s home. The evidence provided by Bruno’s effort to sneak food to Shmuel and his vivid eyewitness of weak and malnourished Jews paints a picture of the situation during the Jews’ condition in the Nazi Germany.

The movie is also historically accurate because it portrays the element of dictatorship that characterized Adolf Halter’s political regime. The tutor employed to educate Bruno and his sister Gretel demonstrates the dictatorship. The tutor often campaigns for nationalist propaganda, which is a key element in a despotic regime. Gretel gradually develops an overwhelming support for Third Reich, which was the historical period between 1933 and 1945 when Hitler’s dictatorship was evident. Gretel even decides to cover her bedroom with posters encompassing the Nazi propaganda, thus painting a full picture of how the dictatorial government controlled all the aspects of the people’s lifestyles.

The movie also portrays its historical accuracy due to its vivid description of significant instances of anti-Semitism. This term underscores hatred, non-preference, and discrimination against the Jews based on their ethnicity, religious, or racial affiliation (Goldstein 28). During the Holocaust in the World War II, the Nazi regime discriminated the Jews leading to their death. This historical occurrence stands out clearly in the movie given the way Jews are treated. Additionally, the prejudice is evident after the lieutenant terminates the life of the Jew servant illegitimately so that he can demonstrate his allegiance and loyalty to the ruling regime.


Movies have different themes that they ultimately aim to communicate to the viewers. Most information may be historical while other films concentrate on the emerging issues around the globe. The movie, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, gives the audience a clear image of what conspired during the World War II in the Nazi Germany. Some of the themes that have been evident include the Nazi propaganda, the dictatorship under Adolf Hitler, and anti-Semitism. The movie is historically accurateness because its themes and occurrences coincide with those of the Second World War from which it derives its setting.

Works Cited

Goldstein, Phyllis. A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism, Brookline: Facing History and Ourselves, 2011. Print.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Dir. Mark Herman. New York: Miramax Home Entertainment. 2009. Film.

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