The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Father Character Analysis

Ralf, Bruno’s father, was a soldier in the Great War (World War I), and is promoted to Commandant in the German Army by Hitler during World War II. He moves the family to Auschwitz, where he is in charge of the camp. Father is strict and intimidating, but expresses tenderness towards his family. He eventually consents to letting the family move back to Berlin, though he remains at Auschwitz to continue his duties for Hitler. A year after Bruno disappears, he figures out what happened to his son, and is destroyed by the realization. When the Allied soldiers come to take him away for punishment, Father submits to their demands, as he no longer has the will to live.

Father Quotes in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The The Boy in the Striped Pajamas quotes below are all either spoken by Father or refer to Father. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the David Fickling Books edition of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas published in 2007.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“It’s a very important job,” said Mother, hesitating for a moment. “A job that needs a very special man to do it. You can understand that, can’t you?”

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Bruno, Father
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

“We don’t have the luxury of thinking,” said Mother. “…Some people make all the decisions for us.”

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Bruno, Father
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

“But what does it mean?” he asked in exasperation. “Out with what?”
“Out with the people who lived here before us, I expect,” said Gretel. “It must have to do with the fact that he didn’t do a very good job and someone said out with him and let’s get a man in who can do it right.”
“You mean Father.”

Related Characters: Bruno (speaker), Gretel (speaker), Father
Related Symbols: Out-With
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

“Ah, those people,” said Father, nodding his head and smiling slightly. “Those people…well, they’re not people at all, Bruno.”

Related Characters: Father (speaker), Bruno
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

“Bruno, if you have any sense at all, you will stay quiet and concentrate on your schoolwork and do whatever your father tells you. We must all just keep ourselves safe until this is all over. That’s what I intend to do anyway. What more can we do than that after all? It’s not up to us to change things.”

Related Characters: Maria (speaker), Bruno, Father
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

“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:

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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:

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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:

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Chapter 17 Quotes

He paused for a moment and looked out the window to his left—the window that led off to a view of the camp on the other side of the fence. “When I think about it, perhaps she is right. Perhaps this is not a place for children.”

Related Characters: Father (speaker), Bruno, Gretel, Mother
Related Symbols: Out-With, The Fence
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Chapter 20 Quotes

He looked into the distance then and followed it through logically, step by step by step, and when he did he found that his legs seemed to stop working right—as if they couldn’t hold his body up any longer—and he ended up sitting on the ground in almost exactly the same position as Bruno had every afternoon for a year, although he didn’t cross his legs beneath him.

Related Characters: Father (speaker), Bruno
Related Symbols: The Fence
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

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Father Character Timeline in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The timeline below shows where the character Father appears in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...and that he has done nothing wrong to cause the move. She explains that his Father’s job in the army necessitates their moving far away from Berlin for the time being.... (full context)
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...family could bring along his grandparents instead. He hears his mother and father talking in Father’s office, which is “Out Of Bounds At All Times.” Feeling defeated, Bruno goes to his... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...alone in a desolate place, with no other families around. The only similarity is that Father has another office in this house, which is also off-limits to Bruno. Bruno desperately misses... (full context)
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...“some people” make all the decisions for the household. When Mother wants to refer to Father without naming him, Bruno notices that she always calls him “some people.” She instructs Bruno... (full context)
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...strict. He nods at Bruno and then leaves. Maria guesses that he is one of Father’s soldiers. (full context)
Chapter 3
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...new bedroom. The siblings theorize about how long they might live in the new house. Father had told both of them that they would be living there for “the foreseeable future,”... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...could no longer be seen.” Bruno and Gretel are both confused as to why their Father would move them from a nice street in Berlin to such a desolate place with... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Bruno decides that he must speak with Father about how much he dislikes their new home. Father had left for the new house... (full context)
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...father since arriving at Out-With. He hears a commotion downstairs and looks down to see Father talking with a group of five men. His father is dressed in his military finest,... (full context)
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Bruno creeps down the stairs and decides to try and see Father in his office. In Berlin, Bruno had only been inside Father’s office a handful of... (full context)
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Bruno asks Father when the family is returning to Berlin, but Father counters by saying a home is... (full context)
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Unsure how to respond, Bruno asks Father if he did something to make the Fury angry, due to the fact that he... (full context)
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Father is silent for a time, and then he goes and sits behind his desk. He... (full context)
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Before he goes to his bedroom, Bruno asks his father who the people outside are. Father tells Bruno that they are soldiers, secretaries, and staff workers. Bruno asks who the people... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Bruno begs Maria to tell him how she feels, because he still hopes to convince Father to take them home again, especially if everyone feels the same way as he does.... (full context)
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...Maria to his campaign to leave Out-With. Maria looks out the window, and muses that Father has a kindness in his soul, but that it makes her “wonder what he…how he... (full context)
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Alone again with Maria, Bruno admits that he still thinks Father has made a terrible mistake. Maria says that even if that’s how he feels, he... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...a young man but became ill after suffering a head injury in World War I. Father had served with Herr Roller in the trenches. Mother refused to speak on the topic... (full context)
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...is the perfect tree on which to construct a tire swing. That day, Mother and Father are both out of the house, so Bruno is on his own to find the... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...at their last Christmas in Berlin had ended in sadness. Something exciting had happened with Father—he was now to be addressed by Maria, their Cook, and Lars the butler as “Commandant,”... (full context)
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Grandmother asks Father if there was something that went wrong when she was raising him, and Father tells... (full context)
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...door slams open, and Grandmother comes out, saying that she is ashamed of her son. Father calls after her and says that he is a patriot, but Grandmother retorts that seeing... (full context)
Chapter 9
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One day Father decides that Bruno and Gretel should resume their studies. A few days later, a man... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Several months before Bruno first met Shmuel, Bruno remembers the day that Father received a new uniform, along with the title “Commandant.” Father came home one night very... (full context)
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An hour before the Fury is scheduled to arrive, Gretel and Bruno are summoned to Father’s office, one of the rare occasions they are allowed inside. The children are both wearing... (full context)
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...takes their places. A small man and a taller woman appear in the doorway, and Father salutes them while Maria takes their coats. Bruno observes that the Fury is “far shorter”... (full context)
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...what a horrible man the Fury is. Later that night, Bruno eavesdrops on Mother and Father’s conversation in Father’s office. From snippets, he can hear Mother saying that she does not... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...in a zoo because he likes animals. Bruno says he will be a soldier like Father, but a good one, not mean like Lieutenant Kotler. Shmuel says there aren’t any good... (full context)
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...table, Bruno complains of learning history from Herr Liszt, because he would rather read. Angered, Father points his knife at Bruno and says that the family is in Out-With because they... (full context)
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...touch with his father since he left Germany in 1938, so he does not know. Father is startled that Kotler’s father left Germany, and seems concerned when Kotler says he believes... (full context)
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Father calls for Pavel to fill up his wine glass, and asks what is the matter... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...have some kind of embarrassing information on Bruno, but she warns him not to let Father know—he will think Bruno has gone mad. She flounces back to her room to rearrange... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...to dislike Kotler, because he calls him “little man” and makes Mother laugh more than Father does. One day Bruno sees a dog barking from his window, and Kotler comes outside... (full context)
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One day 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... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...attend the funeral of Grandmother, whom Bruno had not seen since their last Christmas pageant. Father is particularly sad, since he and his mother had not reconciled from their fight before... (full context)
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...that both Gretel and Bruno have lice. While Gretel’s hair is treated with special shampoo, Father decides that Bruno’s head should be shaven. Bruno hates the way he looks, but the... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...Out-With, especially since Kotler, her only friend, has been sent away. Bruno hears Mother and Father yelling in his office. He realizes there may be a chance for the family to... (full context)
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...with her maps, and Mother takes more naps and drinks more “medicinal sherries.” One day, Father summons Gretel and Bruno into his office, and asks them if they are happy at... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...that Mother spends most of her time crying, and Gretel, too, misses Bruno very much. Father stays at Out-With for a year, but orders around the soldiers mercilessly and becomes very... (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
One day Father forms a theory about what happened to Bruno. He goes to the part of the... (full context)