The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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Lieutenant Kotler Character Analysis

Kurt Kotler is a nineteen-year-old German soldier at Auschwitz who frequents Bruno’s home. He is well-dressed, over-cologned, and has striking blond hair—seemingly the ideal “Aryan” of Nazi ideology. Gretel develops a crush on him, and Mother strikes up a friendship (and likely an affair) with the young handsome soldier. He is cruel to the prisoners, and taunts Bruno by calling him “little man,” something the boy despises. Kotler is eventually transferred away from Auschwitz when Father discovers that Kotler’s father, a literature professor, fled from Germany in 1938 at the start of the war.

Lieutenant Kotler Quotes in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The The Boy in the Striped Pajamas quotes below are all either spoken by Lieutenant Kotler or refer to Lieutenant Kotler . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the David Fickling Books edition of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas published in 2007.
Chapter 7 Quotes

“Young man,” said Pavel (and Bruno appreciated the fact that he had the courtesy to call him ‘young man’ instead of ‘little man’ as Lieutenant Kotler had), “I certainly am a doctor. Just because a man glances up at the sky at night does not make him an astronomer, you know.”

Related Characters: Pavel (speaker), Bruno, Lieutenant Kotler
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

In an effort to defeat his boredom, Bruno creates a swing out of an old tire and a tree just outside the house. He soon falls, and hurts himself. Pavel, one of the new butlers at Auschwitz, runs out of the kitchen and takes the injured boy inside to clean up his scrapes. Bruno insists he must be taken to a doctor, but Pavel tells him he will be just fine with the bandage he has made. Bruno argues that Pavel cannot know this since he is not a doctor, and Pavel says he used to be one.

As a prisoner of the Nazis, Pavel has been captured from his home and career as a doctor to serve Father, his family, and the Nazi soldiers that visit. Able bodied Jewish men and women from every profession were forced to work in labor camps; the young, old, and those who could not work were often immediately killed. Boyne once again emphasize's Bruno's innocence by showing that he has no understanding as to why someone who is trained as a doctor would peel his vegetables and serve dinner. Bruno has been taught that the prisoners at Auschwitz are "not people at all," but this idea doesn't seem to fit with what Bruno now learns about the intelligent, friendly Pavel.

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Chapter 13 Quotes

What happened then was both unexpected and extremely unpleasant. Lieutenant Kotler grew very angry with Pavel and no one—not Bruno, not Gretel, not Mother and not even Father—stepped in to stop him doing what he did next, even though none of them could watch. Even though it made Bruno cry and Gretel grow pale.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Gretel, Mother , Father , Lieutenant Kotler , Pavel
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

Bruno notices that Pavel, the Jewish servant who once treated his wounds and claimed to be a doctor, becomes weaker each day. One night at dinner, he continually blunders his serving job, until he finally loses grip of a bottle of wine and spills it onto Lieutenant Kotler's lap. It may be inferred from this quote that Kotler beats Pavel mercilessly as punishment, and perhaps even kills him.

Though Pavel works in the home of Mother and Father, he is still considered a prisoner, and as a Jew, he is seen as less than human by the Nazis. Though such dehumanization and violence is constantly occurring on the other side of the Fence, this is seemingly the first time Bruno experiences it up close, and he is shocked. This is an important passage because it shows how complicity can be just as bad as negative action. Kotler is the one actually beating Pavel, but Father and Mother's unwillingness to stop him ends up with the same result. This is a point often made about the Holocaust—it might have been a minority of the population actually perpetrating atrocities, but the majority who stood by and did nothing about it were guilty as well.

This scene, which makes Bruno cry, also shows him further losing his innocence about the reality of his situation. It then becomes more far-fetched that he continues to remain so "innocent" and ignorant in his ensuing interactions with Shmuel. This suggests that Bruno too is trying to avoid thinking about things he doesn't want to, and thus is, in his own way, becoming complicit in the crimes he doesn't speak out against.

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Lieutenant Kotler Character Timeline in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The timeline below shows where the character Lieutenant Kotler appears in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
...the house, so Bruno is on his own to find the materials. He sees Lieutenant Kotler (the blond young soldier Bruno saw before) and Gretel speaking together outside, and Bruno is... (full context)
Chapter 9
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
...memories of his old home begin to fade. The soldiers come and go, and Lieutenant Kotler is a constant presence in the house, where he is either whispering with Mother or... (full context)
Chapter 13
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
...he will be a soldier like Father, but a good one, not mean like Lieutenant Kotler. Shmuel says there aren’t any good soldiers, but Bruno says that Father is a good... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
Back at his house that evening, Bruno is disappointed to see that Lieutenant Kotler is joining them for dinner. Pavel waits on them as usual, and Bruno notices that... (full context)
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lieutenant Kotler remarks that he enjoyed learning history as a boy, though his father was a professor... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
...loses control of the bottle as he is filling the glass. The bottle empties onto Kotler's lap. “No one… stepped in to stop [Kotler] doing what he did next, even though... (full context)
Chapter 15
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
...of it along the walk to their spot in the fence. Bruno continues to dislike Kotler, because he calls him “little man” and makes Mother laugh more than Father does. One... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...Bruno is reading Treasure Island in the living room, a book that Father gave him. Kotler pulls it away from him and taunts him, playing keep-away with the book. Bruno finally... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
...goes into the kitchen and is shocked to find Shmuel sitting there. Shmuel says that Kotler brought him there to polish Mother’s small glasses for the party, since they needed someone... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
...him food. He offers to cut him some food, but Shmuel says he is afraid Kotler will catch him. Bruno says it’s no big deal, and cuts him pieces. Shmuel eats... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
Kotler comes in and stares at the two boys talking. He shouts at Shmuel for speaking... (full context)
Chapter 16
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
...He realizes it isn’t so bad, now that he has Shmuel as a friend. Lieutenant Kotler has been transferred away from Out-With, much to the dismay of Mother and Gretel and... (full context)
Chapter 17
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Mother becomes increasingly unhappy with life at Out-With, especially since Kotler, her only friend, has been sent away. Bruno hears Mother and Father yelling in his... (full context)