The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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The titular “boy in the striped pajamas,” Shmuel is Bruno’s Jewish friend who is kept prisoner at Auschwitz. Born on the same day as Bruno, he and Bruno become good friends, though Bruno never quite understands the horrors that Shmuel lives through in the camp. Shmuel is described as being very thin, and eagerly gobbles up the food that Bruno brings him. He understands much more about his situation and the war than Bruno does, but often does not retaliate to Bruno’s blasé remarks about his comparatively luxurious life, in order to not start arguments. The two boys ultimately die together in a gas chamber when Bruno crawls under the fence to help Shmuel look for his father, who has gone missing (and was likely killed by the German soldiers).

Shmuel Quotes in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The The Boy in the Striped Pajamas quotes below are all either spoken by Shmuel or refer to Shmuel . 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 10 Quotes

Bruno was sure that he had never seen a skinnier or sadder boy in his life but decided that he had better talk to him.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel
Related Symbols: Striped Pajamas, The Fence
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis:

One afternoon, Bruno decides that he will explore the grounds outside of the house. He walks for some time until he reaches the fence, where he encounters a boy sitting down. The boy is wearing the "striped pajamas" he has seen from his bedroom window, and he wears a yellow star on his chest. 

The boy is very thin and gaunt because he is starved and overworked by Nazi soldiers inside the fence. Bruno is shocked at the boy's physical and emotional state because he has lived in a very sheltered world, in which he has never encountered poverty, and he also seems to be keeping himself willfully ignorant about the suffering people he sees from his window. Yet Bruno also has the natural innocence and kindness of a child, as Boyne uses this extended analogy to show how hatred is learned, not instinctual—despite the fact that Bruno is a German child of Nazis, and the boy (Shmuel) is a Jewish prisoner, Bruno's first reaction is to try and make friends.

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“Poland,” said Bruno thoughtfully, weighing up the word on his tongue. “That’s not as good as Germany, is it?”
Shmuel frowned. “Why isn’t it?” he asked.
“Well, because Germany is the greatest of all countries,” Bruno replied, remembering something that he had overheard Father discussing with Grandfather on any number of occasions. “We’re superior.”

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker), Father , Grandfather
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

The boy on the other side of the fence tells Bruno his name is Shmuel, and that he is from Poland. In this quote, Bruno repeats what Father and Grandfather have said about Germany being a separate and "superior" nation compared to others. 

Bruno believes that Germany is a superior nation only due to what he has heard his elders say, and not due to a personally held belief (or any kind of truth he has experienced). This system of indoctrination is how the Nazi party cultivated a younger generation of nationalistic party supporters. It is also indicative of the role that parents, in any society, play in shaping their children's beliefs. Here, Boyne shows that prejudices are often passed from one generation to the next, so that when a boy such as Bruno grows up, he continues to believe that Germans are superior and cultivates a disdain for other cultures. It is this dangerous cycle that fed into the widespread Nationalism and anti-Semitism of World War II. 

Chapter 12 Quotes

Shmuel looked very sad when he told this story and Bruno didn’t know why; it didn’t seem like such a terrible thing to him, and after all much the same thing had happened to him.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel
Page Number: 130
Explanation and Analysis:

Bruno continues to visit Shmuel along the Fence every day. Shmuel tells Bruno of how he arrived at Auschwitz from his home in Cracow. First, he and his family were forced to wear armbands with the Star of David, indicating that they were Jews. One day, they were told they were not allowed to live in their home anymore, and had to move to a small apartment with many other families. They were then herded onto a train and brought to the camp, where Shmuel's mother was separated from Shmuel, his brother, father, and grandfather. 

As Shmuel tells the story, Bruno keeps thinking that the same thing happened to him—that he too boarded a train and lost his home due to the Fury. In this sense, Bruno can relate to Shmuel's upset at having left his home, but Bruno's privilege and ignorance also means that he cannot comprehend the horrors that Shmuel encounters behind the fence. To Bruno the two boys' situations seem similar, but we as readers know that they couldn't be more different. Here Boyne suggests the inability of an outsider to ever truly empathize and understand the plights of another person—Bruno considers Shmuel his friend, but he doesn't really understand Shmuel at all.

“Dinner isn’t served until half past six. What time do you have yours?”
Shmuel shrugged his shoulders and pulled himself to his feet. “I think I’d better get back,” he said.
“Perhaps you can come to dinner with us one evening,” said Bruno, although he wasn’t sure it was a very good idea.
“Perhaps,” said Shmuel, although he didn’t sound convinced.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker)
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

When Bruno visits Shmuel, it is in the lazy afternoon hours between his morning lessons and dinnertime. The boys can spend long stretches of time talking, but Bruno must return to the house before anyone notices he has been gone.

Bruno constantly discusses food in front of Shmuel, not realizing that Shmuel receives very little food on his side of the Fence, if any at all. Inside concentration camps, prisoners lived in squalor and faced constant starvation. Bruno does not understand that Shmuel does not have a "dinner time" inside the Fence, and seemingly doesn't understand that Shmuel cannot leave the Fence at all, much less come to Bruno's house. Though Bruno does not understand the underlying reasons for this, he does have a premonition that he has made an offer to Shmuel that neither of them will realistically be able to act upon. This again casts into doubt just how "innocent" Bruno still is regarding the true nature of Auschwitz.

Chapter 13 Quotes

“There aren’t any good soldiers,” said Shmuel.
“Of course there are,” said Bruno.
“Who?”
“Well, Father, for one,” said Bruno. “That’s why he has such an impressive uniform and why everyone calls him Commandant and does whatever he says. The Fury has big things in mind for him because he’s such a good soldier.”
“There aren’t any good soldiers,” repeated Shmuel.
“Except Father,” repeated Bruno, who was hoping that Shmuel wouldn’t say that again because he didn’t want to have to argue with him. After all, he was the only friend he had here at Out-With. But Father was Father, and Bruno didn’t think it was right for someone to say something bad about him.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker), Father
Related Symbols: The Fury
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

One day at the Fence, Bruno and Shmuel discuss what they want to be when they grow up. Shmuel notes that he wants to work in a zoo, while Bruno says he wants to become a soldier like Father. In this quote, Shmuel counters Bruno to claim that there are no good soldiers, and Bruno refutes his statement out of respect for his father.

As a prisoner in a concentration camp, Shmuel has no reason to believe that there are any good soldiers in the world. The only soldiers he has encountered are ones that taunt and torture him and the other prisoners in the camp. Even Bruno understands that someone like Lieutenant Kotler has a sadistic side, and thinks that he would not want to be that kind of soldier, but he defends Father by default, as he does not understand that Father's true role in Shmuel's suffering. This again shows Bruno parroting the ideology he has been taught, as even in his relative innocence he still places country and family over his new friendship with Shmuel.

Chapter 14 Quotes

Bruno tried to return to his book, but he’d lost interest in it for now and stared out at the rain instead and wondered whether Shmuel, wherever he was, was thinking about him too and missing their conversations as much as he was.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

One rainy day, Bruno is stuck inside the house with Gretel and is unable to go visit Shmuel at the Fence. He makes a passing remark to her that he should be somewhere else, and she demands to know what he means by this. Bruno has a feeling that he should not tell Gretel about Shmuel, and instead tells her that he has an imaginary friend. Gretel laughs at him and goes into her room to arrange her dolls. In this quote, Bruno thinks about how much he misses his afternoon conversations with Shmuel.

Despite the differences in the two boys' lives, they find more in common with each other than they find to be different. This allows them to spend hours talking, and in this quote, Bruno realizes how close he has come to feel with Shmuel as a friend. He hopes that Shmuel feels as strongly about their friendship as he does. Boyne uses the friendship between Shmuel and Bruno to highlight the absurdity of the supposedly inherent differences the Nazis claimed existed between Aryan Germans and Jews. At the end of the day, he claims, the only thing really separating the two groups of people is a manufactured fence and an ideology of prejudice and hatred. 

Chapter 15 Quotes

“What are you doing here?” repeated Bruno, for although he still didn’t quite understand what took place on the other side of the fence, there was something about the people from there that made him think they shouldn’t be here in his house.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

On Father's birthday, the whole house is busy preparing for a party. Bruno walks into the kitchen and is shocked to see Shmuel there. Shmuel tells Bruno that Lieutenant Kotler brought him into the house to polish the smaller glasses and silverware because he has tiny fingers. 

Though Bruno still does not know the true reason why Shmuel lives on one side of the Fence and he lives on the other, Bruno has a sense that someone like Shmuel is not normally welcomed into their home. Like Pavel, Shmuel is only welcomed into the house to perform tasks commanded of him by Nazi officials. Just as when he almost tells Gretel of his friendship with Shmuel, here Bruno somehow knows that he should not let his family know the truth. This understanding shows that, while he enjoys his time with Shmuel, Bruno is also subconsciously retaining some of the disdain that Kotler and Father show for the people on the other side of the Fence. Even an idealized friendship between young children is already affected by outside prejudices and beliefs, and Bruno isn't as innocent as he seems (or seems to want to be). 

It was the first time they had ever touched.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel
Related Symbols: The Fence
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

While Shmuel is in the house polishing the silverware, Bruno notes that, though the boys are the same height and age, Shmuel's hand is very different from his—the fingers are bony and shriveled, and his veins are visible through the thin skin. This is because Shmuel is starved and tortured on the other side of the Fence, while Bruno is well fed and taken care of in his home. The realization that this comparison of hands is the first time they have ever touched further informs Bruno of the divide between the two boys' lives. At the same time, this simple bit of contact is also a reminder of the boys' common humanity, despite the many boundaries placed between them.

Chapter 16 Quotes

“I look just like you now,” said Bruno sadly, as if this was a terrible thing to admit.
“Only fatter,” admitted Shmuel.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker)
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

Gretel discovers a tiny egg in her hair, and Mother soon realizes that both of the children have head lice. While Gretel is treated with a special shampoo, Father decides that Bruno should shave his head. When Bruno and Shmuel meet at the Fence, they realize that with two shaved heads, they look more similar than usual. 

Both boys are conscious of the fact that Bruno is fatter and more well-nourished than Shmuel, though only Shmuel fully comprehends the reasoning behind this. Bruno understands that Shmuel looks sickly, and Bruno also has absorbed the belief that as a person on the other side of the Fence, Shmuel is somehow divided from and inferior to him, so here Bruno feels "sad" about this new resemblance. Previously in the novel, the two boys also discover that they have the same birthday. Boyne continues to create similarities between the two boys in order to highlight their most pressing difference: that Shmuel is being starved and tortured behind the Fence, whereas Bruno lives in comfort. By continuing to illustrate how well the two boys get along, and to show that they are more similar than they are different, Boyne shows how the prejudices against Jews (which had been present in Europe for centuries) were exacerbated by the Nazi party in order to use the group as a scapegoat for all of Germany's problems. Just like Gretel's inability to name what a "Jew" or an "Opposite" is, this hatred was senseless. 

Chapter 18 Quotes

Shmuel bit his lip and said nothing. He had seen Bruno’s father on any number of occasions and couldn’t understand how such a man could have a son who was so friendly and kind.

Related Characters: Shmuel (speaker), Bruno, Father
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

Shmuel remarks to Bruno that he hates soldiers, since he knows that they hate him and the rest of the prisoners on his side of the Fence. Bruno, confused, asks him if he hates his Father. Shmuel wants to say yes, but holds back his answer. In this quote, he wonders how Bruno could be so kind when his Father is so cruel. 

Bruno, meanwhile, seems unwilling to accept that his Father is directly in charge of the misery that Shmuel faces every day. Bruno remains very naive and ignorant, but the more he learns the more uncomfortable he grows with the truth of his and Shmuel's situation. Here Boyne also makes his usual point about the inherent innocence of children, as the division between Father and Bruno represents the idea that hatred is not instinctive, or naturally divided along racial or national lines, but rather that it must be taught. Boyne contrasts Bruno and Father to show that it is possible for a younger generation to fix the toxic and prejudiced views of its elders. 

Chapter 19 Quotes

Bruno had an urge to give Shmuel a hug, just to let him know how much he liked him and how much he’d enjoyed talking to him over the last year.
Shmuel had an urge to give Bruno a hug too, just to thank him for all his many kindnesses, and his gifts of food, and the fact that he was going to help him find Papa.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel (speaker)
Page Number: 206
Explanation and Analysis:

One day at the Fence, Shmuel tells Bruno that he cannot find his father anywhere. Bruno agrees to help Shmuel search for him. Shmuel gets Bruno a pair of striped pajamas in his size, and the boys find a boy-sized hole in the Fence through which Bruno can fit. The boys realize that with their shaved heads and pajamas, they look completely identical. 

In this quote, both Bruno and Shmuel both internally acknowledge how important the other boy has been to them during their time at Auschwitz. For Bruno, Shmuel made Auschwitz feel like home, and for Shmuel, Bruno was a major source of comfort and escape from the horrors of the camp inside the Fence. Shmuel is particularly touched that Bruno would be willing to come inside the Fence to help Shmuel look for his father. Their mutual bond and admiration shows that friendship can transcend prejudices and war.

Bruno found that he was still holding Shmuel’s hand in his own and nothing in the world would have persuaded him to let it go.

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Shmuel
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

After searching around the camp for over an hour, Bruno and Shmuel fail to find Shmuel's father. Suddenly, the soldiers blow whistles indicating that the prisoners must begin to march. Bruno wants to leave, but Shmuel tells him the soldiers will become angry if they don't follow orders. The boys end up inside of a metal room with many other people. Bruno is not sure why the soldiers put everyone inside the room, but holding Shmuel's hand gives him comfort. 

In Nazi concentration camp, Jews and other minority groups were systematically murdered in gas chambers. It is into one of these chambers that the Nazi soldiers led Bruno and Shmuel. Though Bruno's parents intentionally did not tell him what the camp was for due to his young age, it is in this moment that his naïveté has proven fatal. Holding hands, Shmuel and Bruno die together in the gas chamber, and Bruno seemingly never really learns the truth about the situation. The image of a German boy and a Jewish boy holding hands in a Nazi gas chamber is a symbol of love and innocence in the face of evil. Boyne uses this tragic ending to show both the dangers of ignorance and of senseless prejudices and hatred in society. 

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Shmuel Character Timeline in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The timeline below shows where the character Shmuel appears in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 10
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
...saw it once, but had not seen Bruno. He tells Bruno that his name is Shmuel, and Bruno tells Shmuel his own name. They both agree that they had never heard... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Bruno asks Shmuel if he has any friends, and Shmuel says sort of—there are a lot of boys... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
Bruno tells Shmuel that he does not think Poland is as good a country as Germany, and Shmuel... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
Bruno tells Shmuel that if they are in Poland, this is the first time he has been in... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
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Bruno asks Shmuel if he likes exploring, and Shmuel says he’s never really done any. Bruno declares that... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Boundaries  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
Several months before Bruno first met Shmuel, Bruno remembers the day that Father received a new uniform, along with the title “Commandant.”... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Back in the present, Shmuel explains to Bruno how he got to Out-With. He tells Bruno that he used to... (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
Shmuel goes on with his story, and says that after a few months of wearing the... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
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Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Shmuel tells Bruno that there are hundreds of other people on his side of the fence,... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
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Complicity Theme Icon
...he realizes that it is probably not a good idea to tell his family about Shmuel. They may not want him to be friends with Shmuel, and he does not want... (full context)
Chapter 13
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
...at Out-With, and stops feeling so unhappy. He is glad to find a friend in Shmuel, and goes to sit and talk with him at the fence every day. Bruno starts... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
At the fence, Bruno finds Shmuel waiting for him. He gives Shmuel the food, and asks if he knows Pavel. Shmuel... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
Bruno asks Shmuel what he wants to be when he grows up, and Shmuel says that he wants... (full context)
Chapter 14
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
...the house after his lessons end for the day, and he spends time talking to Shmuel through the fence until it is time for him to return home for dinner. One... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
One day Bruno asks Shmuel why he and everyone else only wear the striped pajamas. Shmuel says that that is... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
...bicker as usual. Bruno complains about the rain, and says that he should be with Shmuel, before realizing that he should not have mentioned his new friend. Gretel demands he explain,... (full context)
Chapter 15
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
It continues to rain on and off for the next few weeks, and Shmuel and Bruno are able to have their conversations at the fence only sporadically. Bruno becomes... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Angered, Bruno 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... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
...cold chicken with sage and onion stuffing. He cuts a few pieces, and talks to Shmuel while stuffing food in his mouth. Shmuel becomes listless while watching Bruno eat, and Bruno... (full context)
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Boundaries  Theme Icon
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Kotler comes in and stares at the two boys talking. He shouts at Shmuel for speaking in the house. Shmuel apologizes quietly, but Kotler becomes enraged when he sees... (full context)
Chapter 16
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
...has now become his home. 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... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
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Bruno is pleased to see that Shmuel seems happier lately, though he is still very skinny. Bruno remarks that this is the... (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
...should be shaven. Bruno hates the way he looks, but the next time he sees Shmuel, the two boys admit that now they look even more alike—even though Bruno is a... (full context)
Chapter 17
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
...he never hears from Grandfather, whom Father says has gone senile. Bruno would also miss Shmuel if they moved away. (full context)
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
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...that they are to return to Berlin within the week. Bruno dreads having to tell Shmuel that he is leaving. (full context)
Chapter 18
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Shmuel does not show up at the fence for several days. Bruno is overjoyed when he... (full context)
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Bruno wishes they could play together just once before they have to part, and Shmuel lifts up the fence—there is enough room for Bruno to crawl under. Bruno is afraid... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Though it is raining the next day, Bruno goes to meet Shmuel at the fence anyway. Bruno is unhappy to leave his clothes in the mud, but... (full context)
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...into space. Bruno says he doesn’t like it there and wants to go home, but Shmuel wants help to find his father. They search for evidence, but find nothing. After a... (full context)