set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
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What makes The Boy in the Striped Pajamas historical fiction?

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a book that follows a young German child named Bruno. Bruno's father is appointed to be the head of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Bruno's family moves to the camp so that his father can carry out his job as the commandant. Bruno eventually befriends a Jewish boy named Shmuel who is being held at the camp. As the two bond, Bruno eventually develops a plan in which he sneaks into the camp to help Shmuel look for his father. Bruno is mistakenly taken to a gas chamber along with Shmuel, where it is presumed he dies.

The reason this book is classified as historical fiction is because of its setting in a historical time and place, along with the fact that it is a fiction book. It is clear that the Holocaust and Auschwitz play a major role in the history of 1940s Europe, but the character Bruno, and many of the other characters of the book, were created. Bruno and his story did not actually exist during the Holocaust, and thus the book is historical fiction.

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A book is classified as being in the historical fiction genre when it tells a fictional story that takes place in a historical setting.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a fictional story, which takes place in another time (the early 1940s) and in a historic setting (Berlin and Auschwitz during the second World War).  

The author created a fictional character, Bruno.  Bruno was the son of the Nazi commander in charge of Auschwitz.  Historically, there was a man in charge of Auschwitz who lived on the premises with his family.  The fictional characters of Bruno and his family were based on this real-life family, but were largely creations of John Boyne, the author.

Bruno's experiences in "Out-With" (what he calls Auschwitz) were based on historical fact.  Boyne described what Auschwitz was like during World War II.  He described the conditions of the prisoners there through characters like Pavel and Shmuel.  John Boyne did extensive research to make sure that the story aligned closely with historical facts.

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