The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a young adult novel by John Boyne, takes place during the Holocaust and is told from the point of view of Bruno, a young German boy. Religious themes arise when Bruno meets Shmuel, a Jewish boy who lives on the other side of the fence. The reader understands that Bruno’s new friend is behind the fence of the concentration camp where Bruno’s father works as a Nazi officer. As Bruno gets to know Shmuel, this friendship conflicts with the anti-Semitic propaganda Bruno has been taught.
Regarding religious practices of Nazis, the German population in 1933 was about 67% Protestant and 33% Catholic. While Nazi leadership was somewhat divided in its view of the role of religion, the Nazi party generally viewed religion as somewhat of a threat. Nazism desired to transform German society into a unified national community. Religious differences would threaten that common national identity.
Hitler’s Minister for Church Affairs, Hans Kerrl, supported the idea of Christianity being adopted by the Nazi party into “Positive Christianity” that renounced the Jewish origins of the faith. Hitler’s Protestant Reich Church was a failed attempt to unify Germany’s existing Protestant churches. The Catholic Church and others were persecuted; more than 6,000 clergymen were executed or imprisoned on charges of treason.
With the onset of war, however, Hitler softened his position on religion. Wanting to eliminate sources of contention within Germany, he announced that his regime would no longer take action against Evangelical and Catholic churches for the duration of the war. While the Nazi party saw traditional religion as a threat, elements of Nazism could be considered semi-religious with Hitler at its center as a sort of demigod.