While The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a very unrealistic account of the treatment of the Jews in Auschwitz (children were usually eliminated), it is a tale that depicts the various moods that existed in the German people, and it is a narrative from which young readers can...
While The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a very unrealistic account of the treatment of the Jews in Auschwitz (children were usually eliminated), it is a tale that depicts the various moods that existed in the German people, and it is a narrative from which young readers can derive some sense of man's inhumanity to man during this infamous era of German history.
Certainly, the characterization points to those Germans who were appalled at the Nazi Regime, those who did not or chose not to know, those who took sadistic delight in the Final Solution, and others who enjoyed the chauvinism of the time and the sense of bravado that many of the soldiers displayed, as well as the growth in the country's economy. The development of characters also points to the divisions within families on ideologies. For instance, Bruno's paternal grandparents differ greatly: Bruno's grandfather is proud that his son Ralf, who shows off his uniform one Christmas, is the commandant of the concentration camp; however, the former singer and actress, the grandmother, is very ashamed of her son.
Within Bruno's family, there are also divisions. Gretel, who is attracted to the cruel and inhumane Lt. Kotler, selects her own reality as many Germans did during World War II, laughing with him at his cruel jokes. Her mother, too, is attracted to Kotler, typifying the illicit and godless behavior that was concomitant with the acts of inhumanity of the time as she has Kotler staying overnight when her husband attends military meetings in Berlin. Of course, she is probably neglected by her husband whose career absorbs his time.
Bruno, like the Jewish prisoner from Poland, Shmuel, who shares his birthday, is ingenuous. While Shmuel keeps trying to find his father, Bruno has no comprehension of what goes on at "Out-With." Although the narratives about these two boys is unrealistic, the characters serve to illustrate the idea that they are two innocent children, victims of their environments, and could have been in each other's place given the circumstances with the other race having been stronger and equally cruel.
Unlike any other character outside the fences, Bruno has compassion for Shmuel and Pavel, who work in the kitchen. However, Bruno's charitableness toward Shmuel before one dinner party actually harms the small boy. Unfortunately, Bruno means well, but his giving of pieces of chicken to Shmuel effect his receiving a tremendous beating from Kotler because the frightened Bruno denies before Kotler offering the chicken to Shmuel.