The Diary of Anne Frank and John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are both powerful glimpses into life under the Nazi regime. Both works explore life during wartime, lived under the government of a fascist dictatorship, in a light previously given so little attention. Have you ever heard the phrase, "History is written by the victors?" While this may be true, I think that history has more specifically been written by those at the top of society. The narrative of history that we read--World War Two included--has mostly been written by adults. Specifically, adult men. When Anne Frank's diary was published by her father after the war, it had a significant impact on the way we, as a culture, think about history. It is easy to get caught up in the "major plots" of history, especially when discussing war. We can conjure images of troops of soldiers, all men dressed in neat uniforms marching against each other. The truth is that many more people than adult, male military members were impacted by the events of the Second World War. Anne Frank's diary is one such account of the very real circumstances people found themselves in.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas also takes place in Nazi Germany, but it is different in that it is a work of historical fiction. Bruno's circumstances speak to the reality of childhood and relationships under the Nazi regime, but it is a fictional piece of writing. The "truth" of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas lies in the possibility that the son of a Nazi commandant could very well have befriended a Jewish boy, especially if both were ignorant of what was really going on. Children are somewhat blessed during times of war because adults around them may try to shelter them from the evils of reality. Bruno was blessed in this way because he did not know what was going on inside Shmuel's camp or that his father was responsible for it.
Both works impress upon us that children are not merely passive parties in history-- young people are still people with thoughts, feelings, and actions of their own.