John Boyne presents Bruno in a highly unusual situation, living at a concentration camp as part of the director's family. It is very unlikely today that employees' families would live on the premises at prisons and detention centers.
During World War II, thousands of children were imprisoned, like Shmuel. In the Nazi-run camps, many children died; often their deaths resulted from illness, but at camps like Auschwitz, children were killed. Outside of being deliberately imprisoned, during the war thousands of children were left orphaned, separated from their families, and wounded; many became refugees in another country.
Although conditions have improved, many children worldwide do live in refugee camps and detention centers. Children are sometimes forced to be combatants. The situation is especially bleak is war torn countries such as Syria.
UNICEF, the United Nations agency concerned with children, actively works with national and international agencies to improve conditions in places where children are incarcerated or detained.