Two German Boys – Erich and Bruno

In my last post I said that I’d met Bruno, in John Boyne’s ‘The Boy In The Striped Pajamas’. As I mentioned, a teacher in County Fermanagh, Ireland who read ‘Hitler and Mars Bars’ commented that she found similarities between the two books so I decided to read Boyne’s novel to find out what she meant. I really enjoyed his novel and I can see what she is talking about. So now I’ll tell you a bit more about what Bruno and my main character, Erich, have in common.

The most obvious similarities are that they are both young German boys living in Europe during the same era. Erich is four when my story opens and we follow him through until he is fourteen. We only see  Bruno for a much shorter period – during a one year span around his ninth birthday. Both boys, though living in completely different places and circumstances, cannot help but be affected by the events of World War 2.

Both children are naïve and innocent. Some critics suggest that Bruno is perhaps too naïve for his age. But I think they are typical of children born in a more innocent era. Children were less worldly than their counterparts today.  Since we only see Bruno for a short period, he does not have the chance to develop and mature in the same way as Erich does over a ten year period.

The children’s guileless views of their lives and events that affect them add to the poignancy of their stories. Through these characters’ eyes we see events in their lives and history develop in a clear, moving manner.

Strong, caring relationships are the foundation of each story. Bruno develops a friendship with Shmuel, a boy detained in a concentration camp. Their relationship becomes the centre of his existence, though he doesn’t realise this, until the climax of the story. Erich, deprived of his mother from a young age, is constantly searching for people to bond with. In the process he gradually develops a good relationship with his brother and he grows to deeply love to his foster parents, Davy and Elsie. Both boys are distraught when events occur that lead them to lose these important relationships.

Adventurous, resilient spirits carry both boys through the difficult, trying events in their lives. While sometimes challenged and afraid, they remain undaunted.

So, now you’ve also met Erich and Bruno, the main characters in ‘Hitler and Mars Bars’ and ‘The Boy In The Striped Pajamas’.

Both books are simply written but effective and will touch the reader’s emotions. They allow the reader to view the Second World War from completely different angles than most books set in this era. Although I’m biased, I’d say they are both worth a read.

And don’t forget the film! I think that the recently released film version of ‘The Boy In The Striped Pajamas’ will be a must see. After reading the book, I’m sure it has to be a powerful film.

Maybe one day ‘Hitler and Mars Bars’ will also hit the big screen. Brian D’Arcy said, in his review of the book,

“As a novel it is extraordinarily well researched. It could form the basis of a revealing film script.”  Brian D’Arcy, BBC broadcaster, Sunday World columnist, journalist, author

So I will hope and dream that there might be a filmmaker out there who will read and heed Father D’Arcy’s words….But, in the meantime, I’m always delighted to hear from readers. It’s good to know that others enjoy meeting Erich as much as I enjoyed meeting Bruno.



About Dianne Ascroft

I'm a Canadian writer and author, living in Britain. My first novel, 'Hitler and Mars Bars' was released in March 2008. More information abo
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