The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a cruel and misleading distortation of the real events of the Holocaust that has been watered down for the purpose of cheap entertainment. Boyne's attention to any historical detail is virtually nil - has he neglected to do his homework, or is he incapable of researching properly?
Does one really suppose the an eight-year old child, born and raised in Nazi Germany, could not know about the persecution of the Jews. Yes, the Holocaust itself was carefully kept under wraps, by the ghettos, pogroms and inferiority of the Jewish 'untermenschen' were public knowledge. As a Nazi child, especially the son of a senior SS officer, Bruno would have been indoctrinated almost since birth about his own racial superiority and the glorious destiny of his country. How, then, is it that the author proposes that Bruno is totally oblivious to everything - the persecution of the Jews, the war, and even the identity of the Fuhrer? I think that the reading audience must draw the line between childish innocence and complete ignorance and stupidity.
There are a whole host of other historical inaccuracies, among them why the fence could be lifted by Bruno and Shmuel at the end. The fence was electrified! Here is another clear example for Boyne's refusal to properly research. Otherwise, it seems strange that he believes that a young boy could withstrand several hundred volts of electricity - several thousand perhaps - running from arm to arm. One other major historical inaccuracy is Bruno's - and Shmuel's - end in the gas chamber. Perhaps the author is not aware of the mass panic that always occured once the victims saw the Zyklon B come through the vents. There would be a stampede for the door, which would have resulted in quite a few victims being crushed to death instead of gassed to death. In any case, even without a frenzied stampede, being gassed is an unpleasant at best and often painful experience, as judicial executions by gassing in the United States have shown. Boyne should be criticized for his portrayal of their deaths as oblivious and peaceful, if a little nervous.
Boyne seems to enjoy using puns - 'Fury' and 'Out-with'. Firstly, a German child would have no problem pronouncing these words, although we may have trouble doing so, especially with 'Auschwitz'. Secondly, they are weak and, I daresay, childish, attempt to maintain ambiguity. Anyone with even an elementary knowledge of the Holocaust should be able to see through it. Most importantly though, although puns may be entertaining elsewhere, these ones are a cruel joke. Any author on a subject as grave, tragic and great in magnitude as the Holocaust should not even dare to use puns; Boyne has reduced one of history's greatest crimes to a little joke: 'Out-with', hahaha!
Also, Boyne's style is hopelessly simplistic.
The time I took to read this book - it hardly deserves the designation 'novel' - was terribly wasted. If found this book a compendium of rubbish, falsehoods and lies - a 'profanation', as a Jewish rabbi put it, that, I quote Time magazine, 'requires everyone to remain unconscious to every clue — and there are many — about what is happening' and is 'so reliant on human stupidity to achieve its effect, so totally dishonest in its insistence on that quality (which it presents as innocence) to achieve its narrative goals'. It has been condemned - ad nauseum, I admit, but rightly and well-deservedly so - by some critics, and the Jewish community, especially Holocaust survivors.
I find it quite dangerous, as other have noted, that The Boy in the Striped is used as an introduction to the Holocaust, even in history classes! Sometimes, it is the only exposure students will get to that dark chapter in our history. How can it be that such a blatantly distorted book based in false assumptions be used to teach English, much less history? I'm sure that there are far better sources on the Holocaust.
The fact that this book has had such a warm and enthusiastic reception in the public, filmmakers, even critics, and here too, should be a clear and burning indictment that people nowadays are looking for cheap entertainment instead of well-written, even borderline accurate works. Boyne's distortion of such a subjct as the Holocaust is condemnable and cruel. Many have said that they cried at the end. I would not shed tears for such a futile, inaccurate book that has been 'watered down for public consumption', so to speak. This is perhaps that worst book that I have read within memory.
I implore you: there is a lot more on the shelves of libraries and bookshops. Most - almost all - of it is better than The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Don't read this book.
One that cannot write accurately about the Holocaust and give a proper memorial to the victims - and the survivors - should not be dabbling in an almost sacred subject.