The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a work of historical fiction within the sub-genre of Holocaust fiction. It also has aspects of the fable genre.

Point of View

The novel has a childlike point of view. The narrator has access to the thoughts and feelings of the novel’s protagonist, Bruno, and his perspective dominates the tale. As a nine-year-old boy, Bruno frequently misunderstands the adult world around him. For instance, he doesn’t comprehend the nature or purpose of the concentration camp over which his father presides. He also mishears the camp’s name, misunderstanding “Auschwitz” as “Out-With.”


The tone of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is fable-like yet foreboding. As a young child, Bruno understands little of what’s going on around him. Because of this, the novel has a fable-like tone in which Bruno sees everything as an adventure. Yet, as Bruno slowly learns more about the desolate realities of the camp, the tone of the novel grows increasingly foreboding.


The novel is set in Berlin, Germany, and the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943 during World War II.


Bruno’s observation that the train across the platform appears too crowded foreshadows Shmuel’s recollection of the crowded prisoner train that transferred him and his family to Out-With Camp. Lieutenant Kotler’s revelation that his father escaped Germany in 1938 foreshadows his sudden disappearance from Out-With Camp. The fact that Bruno and Shmuel share the same birthday foreshadows their shared fate in the gas chamber.

Major Conflict

The novel’s major conflict arises when Bruno’s family is forced to move from their home in Berlin to a desolate place in Poland. Isolated, friendless, and far away from the familiar comforts of home, Bruno rails against the injustice of his situation. He also feels confused about the people in the striped pajamas he can see from his bedroom window, living on the other side of a tall fence.

Rising Action

Bruno adjusts to his new life in Poland and slowly learns more about “Out-With” Camp, for which his father serves as commandant. Bruno grows to detest the cruelty and patronizing behavior of German soldiers like Lieutenant Kotler, and he develops empathy for those with less power, including his family’s housekeeper, Maria, and a Jewish prisoner named Pavel, who helps prepare and serve the dinner meal. Bruno also befriends Shmuel, a boy from the other side of the fence whom he meets one day while out exploring. The two boys meet frequently and tell each other their life stories. They finally make a plan to disguise Bruno in striped pajamas and search together for Shmuel’s missing father.


On a rainy day, Bruno changes into striped pajamas provided by Shmuel and crawls under the fence into Out-With Camp. After a failed search, the boys are herded into a gas chamber with a large group of prisoners.

Falling Action

Bruno never returns home, and his parents search for him in vain. Mother and Gretel depart for Berlin, and Father remains at Out-With. He pieces together that Bruno likely perished inside the camp and is overcome by grief. He is ultimately removed from duty.