The Boy In Striped Pyjamas Book Plot Guide

The Boy In Striped Pyjamas Book

The Boy In Striped Pyjamas book is a popular novel written by John Boyne. Later in 2008, Mark Herman wrote and directed a historical tragedy film based on the same novel. The story sets the background of World War II. It is a Holocaust drama in which the cruelty of a Nazi concentration camp is depicted by the vision of two 8-year old boys. One is Bruno, the son of a Nazi camp commandant, and the other is Shmuel, a Jewish inmate. Shmuel used to wear the camp’s uniform, from where the novel got its name, “The Boy In Striped Pyjamas Book.”


The protagonist of the novel, Bruno, is an eight-year-old boy from Berlin, Germany, who is also the son of a Nazi camp commandant. He moves to the countryside in Europe with his mother, sister, and Commandant father. There, his father runs an extermination camp for jews. One day Bruno makes a visit to the camp to explore it, where he meets a Jewish child of his age named Shmuel. The two become fast friends until Bruno was scheduled to relocate to a new place. The novel has to face criticism from some Holocaust educators for tempering with the actual facts. Besides, it shows more sympathy for the Nazi German families than the Jewish Holocaust victims. Yet, The Boy In Striped Pyjamas book is one of the most popular books of its time. 

A Brief Story Of The Novel

In this section, we will discuss a summarized story of The Boy In Striped Pyjamas bookl so that you can acquire an idea about the plot. Let’s proceed further!

Bruno’s Family & The Nazi Propaganda

During World War II, Bruno is a young boy living in Nazi Germany in Berlin. His father, Ralf, is promoted and moves the family to the countryside. Bruno becomes lonely and bored, living without neighbors, far from any community, and with no friends to play with. Once he knows that what he considers a farm is actually a concentration camp, he is banned from playing in the garden as well. 

Mr. Liszt, who is the home tutor of Bruno and his sister Gretel, is pursuing an agenda of antisemitism and Nazi propaganda. The tutor’s deliberate teachings and infatuation with Lieutenant Kurt Kotler together make Gretel fanatical in her support for the Third Reich. She becomes obsessed to the point of using posters and a portrait of Adolf Hitler to cover her bedroom walls. Bruno, on the other hand, is confused as the only jew he known is their servant Pavel, who does not match with the antisemitic portrayal of his tutor. 

Flourishing Friendship With Shmuel

Annoyed with the boredom, Bruno sneaks into the woods to reach out the surrounding fence of the camp. He becomes friends with a boy named Shmuel, and their misunderstanding of the true existence of the camp is revealed: Bruno thinks pyjamas are the striped uniforms that Shmuel, Pavel, and the other prisoners wear, and Shmuel believes his grandparents died during their journey to the camp from illness. Bruno frequently visits Shmuel, slipping him food, and playing board games. He gets to know about Shmuel that he is a Jew and brought to the camp with his mother and father. 

The Confrontation

Elsa (Bruno’s mother) finds that the black smoke coming from the extermination camp chimney is arising due to the burning corpses of Jews and confronts Ralf for the same. Kotler confirmed at dinner that his father had left his family for Switzerland. Ralf reminds Kotler that his father’s disagreement with the new political system should have reached the authorities. Embarrassed, Pavel is brutally beaten to death by Kotler for spilling a bottle of wine, and the story of The Boy In Striped Pyjamas book proceeds further. 

Friends Again

Bruno watches Shmuel working in his home and offers cake to him. Kotler notices this socializing of Bruno and Shmuel. He also notices Shmuel chewing and scolds him. Shmuel tells Kotler that Bruno has offered this cake to him, which Bruno denies as he is afraid. Kotler threatens Shmuel that they will have a “little chat” later. Bruno feels guilty, and apologies for him crying but notices him gone. 

Afterward, Bruno stealthily sees his father and other soldiers watching a fake movie of camp. The movie shows inmates playing sports, dining in cafes, and attending musical concerts. Thinking that it is true, Bruno goes to hug his father. Kotler is moved to the Front for failing to tell the Nazi authorities about his father’s migration. Every day, Bruno returns to the fence, and finally, Shmuel reappears. Bruno notices a black eye from “little chat” by Kotler, apologizes for his actions. Shmuel forgives him, and they start their friendship again. 

The Revelation

After the funeral of his killed in an Allied bombing attack in Berlin, Ralf shares Elsa’s wish with Bruno and Gretel that she wants them to live at their relative’s place where they can be safe. However, the reality is that she doesn’t want them to live with their murderous father. 

After participating in a march, Shmuel’s father disappeared, and Bruno wanted to redeem himself by helping Shmuel trace his father. Donning the striped outfit of an inmate and a hat to cover his unshaven head, Bruno digs a passage under the fence to join Shmuel in this quest. He is surprised to see the many Jews who are ill and weak-looking, and the boys are taken by Sonderkommandos on a march with other inmates.

The Tragic End

Elsa and Gretel find that Bruno is missing, and Elsa breaks into Ralf’s meeting to inform him about the same. Ralf and his soldiers start searching for Bruno, with Gretel and Elsa following behind. 

Bruno’s scent is followed by a dog to his discarded clothes outside the gate, and Ralf enters the camp. Bruno, Shmuel, and the prisoners are led to a closet and ordered to take their clothes off for a “shower.” As the lights go out, they are all crammed into a gas chamber, and a Schutzstaffel soldier pours Zyklon B pellets inside, and the inmates start panicking in fear.

When Ralf discovers that gassing is taking place, he cries out the name of his son; Elsa and Gretel hear the cries of Ralf at the fence and collapse in despair to their knees. The film finishes by revealing that silent gas chamber’s closed door, suggesting that all the prisoners are dead, including Bruno and Shmuel.

Final Words!!

The Boy In Striped Pyjamas book shows the pathetic lives of the Jews in the concentration camps. However, it shows more sympathy to the Nazi German families for that it has attracted so much criticism. As a reader, you will love the book, but all the facts stated in the book are not accurate. If you liked this post, then our blog section has more for you. Pay a visit! 


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