In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne tells the story of Bruno, a nine-year-old boy living in Berlin during World War 2. Bruno's father has a very important job, and one night the "Fury"comes to have dinner. He offers Bruno's father a position as commandant at "Out-With." Bruno understands that this is a very important position, but is not thrilled about having to leave their house in Berlin, which has a great bannister to slide down and still has places in its five stories that Bruno has not explored.
It doesn't take long for Bruno to see that Out-With (Boyne never actually calls Auschwitz or Hitler by their proper names, in keeping with Bruno's perspective.) is not at all like Berlin. He can see part of the camp from his window, and sees all the people in their matching striped pajamas. His sister Gretel asks, "What sort of place is this?" Bruno replies, "I'm not sure. But it's not as nice as home, I do know that much."
Despite his misgivings about the place, he sets out to explore, and discovers a boy sitting inside the fence, on the edge of the camp. Through the fence, Bruno and his new friend Shmuel spend many an hour talking as boys, Bruno oblivious to Shmuel's plight. Through the lens of this friendship Boyne demonstrates the basic humanity of ordinary people, for whom ethnic and religious differences mean little until they are taught or imposed.
Bruno's father is presented as a good man caught up in the policies and politics of his time, his ambition silencing any moral objections that might arise. But he reveals his true feelings about the Jews when Bruno ask about the people "in the huts . . . all dressed the same." His Father answers, "Those people . . . well, they're not people at all, Bruno . . . At least not as we understand the term."
Boyne softens the image of "Out-With" in a way, by limiting the descriptions of the camp only to Bruno's ignorant perspective. But given what we know now about the camp, the presentation comes across as that much more brutal. And the ending, which you must read to discover, exposes the horror of both the camp and those who run it.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a powerful story which I cannot recommend highly enough.