The Holocaust Depicted through Film

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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The Holocaust is undoubtedly one of the most horrifying events in history. The mass murder of more than eleven million people, six million of them Jews, has left its mark on history and should never be forgotten. The events and the history of the Holocaust are presented in two very different ways in the movie The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and in the movie The Pianist . The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a historical drama film, which attempts to show the horrors of the concentration camps through the eyes of an eight-year-old German boy named Bruno and an eight-year old Jewish boy names Shmuel.

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The Pianist is a film based on Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir of life during the time of the holocaust. Both attempt to show the atrocities committed by the Nazi Regime, but the attempts to do so are done in very different ways. I found it difficult to make many comparisons between the two movies, but one of the comparisons that can easily be made is the element of obscurity in each situation in the opening scenes. Szpilman is Jewish and is forced to sit around a radio with his family and wait for further instructions from the Nazi regime deciding his family’s fate. Bruno on the other hand, the son of a Nazi officer, is forced to relocate from Berlin to the countryside with his family so that his father can help run one of the concentration camps. Though the each movie attempts to capture events that took place during the time of the Holocaust, many aspects of the movies are extremely different. I would argue that The Pianist is a much more educational representation of the Holocaust as compared to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas which is more of a Hollywood movie with the setting of the Holocaust. Even thought only one was supported by authentic historical events, both movies had a powerful impact on their viewers.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has repeatedly been called a children’s film, and I would argue that it is significantly less graphic that The Pianist . The two main child characters are Bruno, the son of a Nazi party member, and Shmuel who is inside the concentration camp. These characters, because they are so young, represent innocence in such a dark time of history. I found the film to be more emotional than some of the others we have watched, but that is because I got to see a side of the Holocaust that I had not seen in other movies. One major criticism of this film, and its representation of historical events, is the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel’s characters. It seems almost impossible that two boys would be able to form a friendship on either side of a barbed wire fence. In the movie, Shmuel is seen sitting on the ground by the fence unsupervised. In reality, the number of security guards in each camp was so high that it would have been impossible for Shmuel to have stayed by the fence all afternoon, or for him to get out of doing work, let alone form a friendship with a German boy. Shmuel, at the age of eight, would most likely have been sent to the gas chambers upon arrival to the camp. It is possible that when he arrived to the camp he was evaluated by one of the Nazis and thought to be a good worker, but this is highly unlikely. In my opinion, in order to watch this movie we are required to forget any knowledge that we have on the Holocaust and just immerse ourselves into the minds and lives of two innocent and naive main characters.

We find ourselves at the end of the movie feeling sorry for Bruno’s family. This is the first Holocaust movie I have seen where we cannot help but feel sorry for the German family as well as the Jewish people. I wonder if this ending was chosen for the movie so that the views are able to see that Bruno’s father, although a Nazi, is capable of love. Why do we find ourselves feeling sorry for the murder of one boy but not the murder of the thousands of Jews who also died in the camp with Bruno that very same day?

Even thought the movie is not historically accurate, I don’t think it is suppose to be. The movie pulls on the heartstring of its audience because it is centered on the drastically different lives of two children, and you cannot help but feel bad for them. Bruno’s character is portrayed as innocent and native.

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The Holocaust Depicted Through Film. (2019, Jun 27). Retrieved from