Study Guide

Minor Characters in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

By John Boyne

Minor Characters

Grandmother and Grandfather

These are the two people Bruno misses the most from Berlin. His grandfather owns a restaurant and his grandmother was once a popular singer. More importantly than their ability to feed him delicious food while singing sweet songs, though, is the fact that Bruno's grandmother is the only character who speaks her mind and stands up to Bruno's father. Grandma for the win.

In Chapter 8, we get a rare glimpse of what the other side thinks about Hitler and the Nazis, thanks for Bruno's grandmother. She says to his father:

"That's all you soldiers are interested in anyway […] looking handsome in your fine uniforms. Dressing up and doing the terrible, terrible things you do." (8.485)

In a time dominated by fear and racism, Bruno's grandmother stands out as a bold and powerful individual. And in a family that seems to live in submission to their father, Bruno's grandmother makes it clear that his bark is bigger than his bite—otherwise she wouldn't risk checking him in such an epic fashion. You go, Granny.

Lieutenant Kotler

On the opposite side of the spectrum from Bruno's grandmother are those who believe wholeheartedly in the Nazi cause, of which Kotler is a shining example. A young Aryan blondie, Kotler takes pleasure in his job and seems to enjoy treating Jews like dirt. When he finds Shmuel talking to Bruno he says—to a nine-year-old:

"Who told you that you were allowed to talk in this house? […] do you dare to disobey me?" (15.1022)

Yikes—Kotler's bought the Nazi propaganda hook, line, and sinker. Not surprisingly, Bruno doesn't like Kotler and Shmuel is afraid of him. It is these fearful reactions to the man that contribute to Bruno's failure of his friend in the kitchen. To really dig into this, though, swing by Bruno's page elsewhere in this section.


Maria is Bruno's family's maid who was taken in by Bruno's father in a surprising act of mercy. Her mother used to work for Bruno's grandmother, and when she didn't have any food or a job, she was hired to work for the family. This may be why she doesn't say a bad word about Bruno's father and is tight lipped about the horrible things that are happening in Auschwitz.


Vegetable peeler, waiter, and Jew, Pavel works in Bruno's family's home once they move to Auschwitz. He helps Bruno when he falls off his tire swing by cleaning his cut—he used to be a doctor before the Nazis came along, and while Bruno simply can't believe this, for readers, Pavel illustrates just how misguided the Nazis are in their hatred for Jewish people. Doctors, after all, are bright people who spend their lives helping others—in other words, generally not terrible people. Pavel's a sad example of how millions of Jews were stripped of their lives and identities.

The Fury

The Fury is none other than Adolph Hitler himself, and in this book, he's also Bruno's father's boss. In a flashback, we see him come over for dinner with his girlfriend, Eva Braun, before the family moves to Auschwitz. Even though Bruno meets the terrible tyrant, he doesn't understand who he is. He does, however, have enough sense to dislike him, showing once again that Bruno has some pretty solid instincts when it comes to reading people.

Herr Liszt

Herr Liszt is hired to tutor both Bruno and Gretel. He's a full-on Nazi supporter, and isn't interested in the same things as Bruno.

Daniel, Martin, Karl

These guys are Bruno's best friends in Berlin, the people he's so dismayed about being taken away from. When Bruno meets Shmuel, though, he forgets about them.