The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - Summary

John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Book Cover


“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is a powerful and thought-provoking novel written by John Boyne. Set during World War II, the story follows the journey of a young German boy named Bruno, who moves with his family to a new home near a concentration camp. This book summary will provide an overview of the plot, delve into the main characters, and explore the themes and messages conveyed by the author.

Plot Summary

The novel begins with Bruno’s family relocating from Berlin to “Out-With,” a desolate area where his father has been appointed as a commandant. Bruno, initially unhappy about leaving his friends and familiar surroundings, feels isolated in his new home. From his bedroom window, he notices a group of people wearing striped pajamas on the other side of a fence, which piques his curiosity.

One day, Bruno decides to explore beyond the fence and befriends a Jewish boy named Shmuel. Despite their different backgrounds and circumstances, the two boys form an unlikely friendship. Bruno remains oblivious to the horrors of the concentration camp, as he is shielded from the truth by his parents and the Nazi ideology prevalent at the time.

As the story progresses, Bruno becomes more aware of the atrocities happening around him. However, his innocence and naivety prevent him from fully understanding the gravity of the situation. The narrative takes a tragic turn when Bruno, determined to help his friend, sneaks into the camp wearing a pair of striped pajamas. The devastating consequences of this decision serve as a poignant reminder of the devastating impact of war and prejudice.



Bruno is the main protagonist of the story, a nine-year-old German boy who is uprooted from his comfortable life in Berlin. He is portrayed as innocent, curious, and compassionate. Bruno’s perspective allows readers to witness the events of the Holocaust through the eyes of a child, highlighting the stark contrast between his ignorance and the harsh reality surrounding him.


Shmuel is a young Jewish boy who becomes Bruno’s friend. He is a prisoner in the concentration camp located near Bruno’s house. Shmuel’s character represents the countless innocent victims of the Holocaust. Through his friendship with Bruno, Shmuel humanizes the individuals behind the striped pajamas, emphasizing their shared humanity despite the circumstances that separate them.


Bruno’s father is a high-ranking Nazi officer and the commandant of the concentration camp. Initially portrayed as a stern and distant figure, his true nature is gradually revealed as the story unfolds. Father’s loyalty to the Nazi regime and his involvement in the atrocities committed in the camp highlight the dangers of blind obedience and the consequences of unchecked power.

Themes and Messages

Innocence and Ignorance

One of the central themes in “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is the stark contrast between Bruno’s innocence and the reality of the Holocaust. Bruno’s lack of understanding and his parents’ deliberate attempts to shield him from the truth serve as a commentary on the dangers of ignorance. The novel prompts readers to reflect on the importance of education and awareness in preventing the repetition of such atrocities.

Friendship and Compassion

The friendship between Bruno and Shmuel transcends societal boundaries and demonstrates the power of empathy and compassion. Despite their different backgrounds, the boys form a deep bond, highlighting the shared humanity that unites people regardless of their circumstances. This theme encourages readers to look beyond superficial differences and embrace empathy and understanding.

Prejudice and Discrimination

“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” sheds light on the destructive nature of prejudice and discrimination. The book explores how these ideologies can dehumanize individuals and lead to unspeakable acts of violence. By presenting the Holocaust through the eyes of an innocent child, the novel emphasizes the importance of challenging and resisting such ideologies to create a more inclusive and compassionate world.


In conclusion, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” is a poignant and powerful novel that explores the themes of innocence, friendship, and the devastating consequences of prejudice. Through the eyes of young Bruno, readers are confronted with the horrors of the Holocaust, reminding us of the importance of education, empathy, and compassion. John Boyne’s masterful storytelling and vivid characters make this book a must-read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the human experience during one of history’s darkest periods.

Read other book summaries