Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Herman
Produced byDavid Heyman
Screenplay byMark Herman
Based onThe Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
by John Boyne
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyBenoît Delhomme
Edited byMichael Ellis
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • 12 September 2008
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$12.5 million[1]
Box office$44 million[2]
Bruno is a nine-year-old boy growing up during World War II in Berlin. He lives with his parents, his 12-year-old sister Gretel and maids, one of whom is called Maria. After a visit by Adolf Hitler, Bruno's father is promoted to Commandant, and the family has to move to 'Out-With' because of the orders of "The Fury" (Bruno's naïve interpretation of the word 'Führer'). Bruno is initially upset about moving to Out-With (never identified, but cf. Auschwitz[4]) and leaving his friends, Daniel, Karl, and Martin. From the house at Out-With, Bruno sees a camp. One day, Bruno decides to explore the strange wire fence. As he walks along the fence, he meets a Jewish boy named Shmuel, who he learns shares his birthday. Shmuel says that his father, grandfather, and brother are with him on this side of the fence, but he is separated from his mother. Bruno and Shmuel talk and become very good friends, although Bruno still does not understand very much about Shmuel and his side of the fence. Nearly every day, unless it's raining Bruno goes to see Shmuel and sneaks him food. As the meetings go on, and Shmuel gets more and more skinny, Bruno's naïveteshows that his innocence has been preserved despite being near a death camp.


An 8-year-old boy named Bruno (Asa Butterfield) lives with his family in Berlin, in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. He learns that his father Ralf (David Thewlis) has been promoted, due to which their family, including Bruno's mother Elsa (Vera Farmiga) and 12-year-old sister Gretel (Amber Beattie), relocate to the countryside. Bruno hates his new home as there is no one to play with and very little to explore. After commenting that he has spotted people working on what he thinks is a farm in the distance, he is also forbidden from playing in the back garden.
Bruno and Gretel get a tutor, Herr Liszt (Jim Norton), who pushes an agenda of antisemitism and nationalist propaganda. Gretel becomes increasingly fanatical in her support for the Third Reich, covering her bedroom wall with Nazi propaganda posters. Bruno is confused as the Jews he has seen, in particular the family's Jewish servant Pavel (David Hayman), do not resemble the caricatures in Liszt's teachings
One day, Bruno disobeys his parents and sneaks off into the woods, eventually arriving at an electric barbed wire fence surrounding a camp. He befriends a boy his own age named Schmuel (Jack Scanlon). The pair's lack of knowledge on the true nature of the camp is revealed: Bruno thinks that the striped uniforms that Schmuel, Pavel, and the other prisoners wear are pyjamas and Schmuel believes his grandparents died from an illness during their journey to the camp. Bruno starts meeting Schmuel regularly, sneaking him food and playing board games with him. He eventually learns that Schmuel is a Jew and was brought to the camp with his father.
One day, Elsa discovers the reality of Ralf's assignment after Lieutenant Kurt Kotler (Rupert Friend) lets slip that the black smoke coming from the camp's chimneys is due to the burning corpses of Jews. She confronts Ralf, disgusted and heartbroken. At dinner that night, Kotler admits that his father had left his family and moved toSwitzerland. Upon hearing this, Ralf tells Kotler he should have informed the authorities of his father's disagreement with the current political regime as it was his duty. The embarrassed Kotler then uses Pavel's spilling of a wine glass as an excuse to beat the inmate to prove his support of the regime. The next morning the maid, Maria, is seen scrubbing the blood stains.
Later the next day, Bruno sees Schmuel working in his home. Schmuel is there to clean wine glasses because they needed someone with small hands to do it. Bruno offers him some cake and willingly Schmuel accepts it. Unfortunately, Kotler happens to walk into the room where Bruno and Schmuel are socializing. Kotler is furious and yells at Schmuel for talking to Bruno. In the midst of his scolding, Kotler notices Schmuel chewing the food Bruno gave him. When Kotler asks Schmuel where he got the food, he says Bruno offered the cake, but Bruno, fearful of Kotler, denies this. Believing Bruno, Kotler tells Schmuel that they will have a "little chat" later. Distraught, Bruno goes to apologize to Schmuel, but finds him gone. Every day, Bruno returns to the same spot by the camp but does not see Schmuel. Eventually, Schmuel reappears behind the fence, sporting a black eye. Bruno apologizes and Schmuel forgives him, renewing the friendship.
After the funeral of Bruno's grandmother, who was killed in Berlin by an enemy bombing, Ralf tells Bruno and Gretel that their mother suggests that they go live with a relative because it isn't safe there. Their mother suggests this because she doesn't want her children living with their murderous father. Schmuel has problems of his own; his father has gone missing after those with whom he participated in a march did not return to the camp. Bruno decides to redeem himself by helping Schmuel find his father. The next day, Bruno, who is due to leave that afternoon, dons a striped prisoners' outfit and a cap to cover his unshaven hair, and digs under the fence to join Schmuel in the search. Bruno soon discovers the true nature of the camp after seeing the many sick and weak-looking Jews. While searching, the boys are taken on a march with other inmates by Sonderkommandos.
At the house, Gretel and Elsa discover Bruno's disappearance, and Elsa bursts into Ralf's meeting to alert him that Bruno is missing. Ralf and his men mount a search and find Bruno's discarded clothing outside the fence. They enter the camp, looking for him; Bruno, Schmuel and the other inmates are stopped inside a changing room and are told to remove their clothes for a "shower". They are packed into a gas chamber, where Bruno and Schmuel hold each other's hands. An SSsoldier pours some Zyklon B pellets inside, and the prisoners start yelling and banging on the metal door. When Ralf realizes that a gassing is taking place, he cries out his son's name, and Elsa and Gretel fall to their knees in despair. The film ends by showing the closed door of the now-silent gas chamber, indicating that the prisoners, Schmuel and Bruno, are dead.


Historical accuracy[edit]

Some critics have criticized the premise of the book and subsequent film. Reviewing the original book, Rabbi Benjamin Blechwrote: "Note to the reader: There were no 9-year-old Jewish boys in Auschwitz – the Nazis immediately gassed those not old enough to work."[8] Rabbi Blech affirmed the opinion of a Holocaust survivor friend that the book is "not just a lie and not just a fairytale, but a profanation." Blech acknowledges the objection that a "fable" need not be factually accurate; he counters that the book trivializes the conditions in and around the death camps and perpetuates the "myth that those [...] not directly involved can claim innocence," and thus undermines its moral authority. Students who read it, he warns, may believe the camps "weren't that bad" if a boy could conduct a clandestine friendship with a Jewish captive of the same age, unaware of "the constant presence of death."[9] Blech, Benjamin (23 October 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" Retrieved 11 February2013.
But, according to the memoirs of several Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors, a few young children did live in the camp: "The oldest children were 16, and 52 were less than 8 years of age. Some children were employed as camp messengers and were treated as a kind of curiosity, while every day an enormous number of children of all ages were killed in the gas chambers."[10][11] Langbein, Hermann; Zohn, Harry (Translator) (2004).People in AuschwitzUniversity of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill. ISBN 0-8078-2816-5. Buergentha, Thomas (2009). A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy. London: Profile.ISBN 1-84668-178-2.
Kathryn Hughes, whilst agreeing about the implausibility of the plot, argues that "Bruno's innocence comes to stand for the willful refusal of all adult Germans to see what was going on under their noses."[12] In the Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert, says the film is not a reconstruction of Germany during the war, but is "about a value system that survives like a virus."[13] Ebert, Roger (5 November 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (released as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in the United States; see spelling difference) is a 2008 Britishhistorical period drama based on the novel of the same name by Irish writerJohn Boyne.[3] Vilkomerson, Sara (31 March 2009).Week: Lost Boys"The  "On Demand This New York Observer. Retrieved4 July 2011. Directed by Mark Herman, produced by Miramax Films, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the film stars Vera FarmigaDavid ThewlisAsa Butterfield, and Jack Scanlon. It was released on 12 September 2008 in the United Kingdom.
The film is a Holocaust drama that explores the horror of a World War II Naziextermination camp through the eyes of two 8-year-old boys; one the son of the camp's Nazi commandant (Butterfield), the other a Jewish inmate(Scanlon).


  1. Jump up^ "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)"Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  2. Jump up^ "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008) – Financial Information"The Numbers. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  3. Jump up^ Vilkomerson, Sara (31 March 2009). "On Demand This Week: Lost Boys"The New York Observer. Retrieved4 July 2011.
  4. Jump up^ "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)"Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  5. Jump up^ "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Reviews"Metacritic. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  6. Jump up^ Christopher, James (11 September 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Review"The Times. Archived fromthe original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 30 August2009.
  7. Jump up^ Dargis, Manohla (7 November 2008). "Horror Through a Child's Eyes"The New York Times. Retrieved 30 August2009.
  8. Jump up^ Blech, Benjamin (23 October 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" Archived from the originalon 30 August 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
  9. Jump up^ Blech, Benjamin (23 October 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" Retrieved 11 February2013.
  10. Jump up^ Langbein, Hermann; Zohn, Harry (Translator) (2004).People in AuschwitzUniversity of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill. ISBN 0-8078-2816-5.
  11. Jump up^ Buergentha, Thomas (2009). A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy. London: Profile.ISBN 1-84668-178-2.
  12. Jump up^ Hughes, Kathryn (21 January 2006). "Educating Bruno".The Guardian.
  13. Jump up^ Ebert, Roger (5 November 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  14. Jump up^ BIFA 2008 Nominations at British Independent Film Awards
  15. Jump up^ "2009 Winners—Film Categories"The Irish Film & Television Academy.
  16. Jump up^ "2009 Nominations & Recipients"Young Artist Awards.

This well-meaning book ends up distorting the Holocaust.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Soon there will be no more eyewitnesses. The Holocaust is inexorably moving from personal testimony to textual narrative.
Survivors, those who clung to life no matter how unbearable so that they could confirm the unimaginable and attest to the unbelievable, are harder to find after more than half a century. It is the written word that will have to substitute for the heart-rending tales of woe shared by those who endured hell on earth. That is, after all, all that will remain of six million victims.

Holocaust authors have a daunting responsibility.
Holocaust authors have a daunting responsibility. They must speak for those who cannot, but whose suffering demands to be remembered and whose deaths cry out for posthumous meaning. Their task transcends the mere recording of history. It is nothing less than a sacred mission. Holocaust literature, like the biblical admonition to remember the crimes of Amalek, deservedly rises to the level of the holy.
For that reason I admire anyone who is courageous enough to attempt to deal with the subject. No, there will never be too many books about this dreadful period we would rather forget. No, we have no right to ignore the past because it is unpleasant or refuse to let reality intrude on our preference for fun and for laughter. And John Boyne is to be commended for tackling a frightening story that needs to be told to teenagers today in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas -- a fictional account of the Nazi era that uses the powerful device of a tale told from the perspective of its nine year old hero.
I came to this book fully prepared to love it. Although the publisher insists that all reviewers not reveal its story, the back cover promises "As memorable an introduction to the subject as The Diary of Anne Frank." And indeed the writing is gripping. The style, sharing with Anne Frank the distinctive voice of youth, is extremely effective. One can readily understand why the book has had such a strong impact on countless readers, become required reading in high school Holocaust courses round the country, and is about to be released as a major motion picture.
And yet…
How should one react to a book that ostensibly seeks to inform while it so blatantly distorts? If it is meant as a way of understanding what actually happened -- and indeed for many students it will be the definitive and perhaps only Holocaust account to which they will be exposed -- how will its inaccuracies affect the way in which readers will remain oblivious to the most important moral message we are to discover in the holocaust's aftermath?
Without giving away the plot, it is enough to tell you that Bruno, the nine-year-old son of the Nazi Commandant at Auschwitz (never identified by that name, but rather as "Out-With" -- a lame pun I think out of place in context) lives within yards of the concentration camp his father oversees and actually believes that its inhabitants who wear striped pajamas -- oh, how lucky, he thinks, to be able to be so comfortably dressed --spend their time on vacation drinking in cafes on the premises while their children are happily playing games all day long even as he envies them their carefree lives and friendships! And, oh yes, this son of a Nazi in the mid 1940's does not know what a Jew is, and whether he is one too! And after a year of surreptitious meetings with a same-aged nine-year-old Jewish boy who somehow manages every day to find time to meet him at an unobserved fence (!) (Note to the reader: There were no nine-year-old Jewish boys in Auschwitz -- the Nazis immediately gassed those not old enough to work) Bruno still doesn't have a clue about what is going on inside this hell -- this after supposedly sharing an intimate friendship with someone surrounded by torture and death every waking moment!
According to the book's premise, it was possible to live in the immediate proximity of Auschwitz and simply not know -- the defense of those Germans who denied their complicity.
Do you see the most egregious part of this picture? As Elie Wiesel put it, the cruelest lesson of the Holocaust was not man's capacity for inhumanity -- but the far more prevalent and dangerous capacity for indifference. There were millions who knew and did nothing. There were "good people" who watched -- as if passivity in the face of evil was sinless. If there is to be a moral we must exact from the Holocaust it is the "never again" that must henceforth be applied to our cowardice to intervene, our failure to react when evildoers rush in to fill the ethical vacuum.

Yet if we were to believe the premise of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, it was possible to live in the immediate proximity of Auschwitz and simply not know -- the very defense of all those Germans after the war who chose to deny their complicity.
True, Bruno in the story was but a boy. But I have spoken to Auschwitz survivors. They tell me how the stench of burning human flesh and the ashes of corpses from the crematoria filled the air for miles around. The trains traveling with human cargo stacked like cordwood screaming for water as they died standing in their natural wastes without even room to fall to the ground were witnessed throughout every countryside. Nobody, not even little German children who were weaned on hatred of the Jews as subhuman vermin could have been unaware of "The Final Solution." And to suggest that Bruno simply had no idea what was happening in the camp his father directed yards from his home is to allow the myth that those who were not directly involved can claim innocence.
But it's only a fable, a story, and stories don't have to be factually accurate. It's just a naive little boy who makes mistaken assumptions. However that misses the point. This is a story that is supposed to convey truths about one of the most horrendous eras of history. It is meant to lead us to judgments about these events that will determine what lessons we ultimately learn from them.
So what will the students studying this as required reading take away from it? The camps certainly weren't that bad if youngsters like Shmuley, Bruno's friend, were able to walk about freely, have clandestine meetings at a fence (non-electrified, it appears) which even allows for crawling underneath it, never reveals the constant presence of death, and survives without being forced into full-time labor. And as for those people in the striped pajamas -- why if you only saw them from a distance you would never know these weren't happy masqueraders!

My Auschwitz friend read the book at my urging. He wept, and begged me tell everyone that this book is not just a lie and not just a fairytale, but a profanation. No one may dare alter the truths of the Holocaust, no matter how noble his motives.
The Holocaust is simply too grim a subject for Grimm fairytales.