[…] [Bruno's] mother had always told him that he was to treat Maria respectfully and not just imitate the way Father spoke to her. (1.2)
Here we have a perfect example of where Bruno's gets his values. Politeness may seem like a small thing, but it can make all the difference in making someone feel appreciated or not. Or, you know, human.
<em></em>"Some people make all the decisions for us." (2.64)
"Some people" is Bruno's mother's code for Bruno's dad, a.k.a. her husband, as she expresses her displeasure in the move away from Berlin. The powerlessness she feels is demonstrated in her inability/refusal to refer to him directly—even when the guy's not in the room, he runs the show. Although, perhaps, by "some people" she really means Hitler…
Father was not usually the type of man to give anyone a hug, unlike Mother and Grandmother, who gave them a little too often for comfort […]. (5.232)
Ah, good old machismo. Then again, Father's lack of mushy-gushiness could be due to his profession as a commandant and Nazi. For him, showing love could be seen as a sign of weakness, something the Nazis definitely don't admire.
"A home is not a building or a street or a city or something so artificial as bricks and mortar a home is where one's family is, isn't that right?" (5.246)
Bruno's father asks him this poignant question when Bruno says that he wants to leave their new house and go back to Berlin. Thing is, though, Bruno's father is hardly ever at home, his mother's often unconscious, and Gretel wants nothing to do with her little brother. So, yeah—not the strongest argument in defense of the Auschwitz house, Dad.
"And I have listened to what you have to say, even though your youth and inexperience force you to phrase things in an insolent manner." (5. 274)
After Bruno pleads his case for leaving Auschwitz, his dad reacts to him as if he were just another soldier. Guess he's not too sympathetic to the fact that his son is nine and has no other children to play with. Parents just don't understand…
"You're part of the family, aren't you?" (6.303)
Bruno asks Maria this after she refuses to give her opinion about the move to Auschwitz. It's a pretty empathetic statement to come from a kid—he doesn't view the maid as merely a worker or a servant, but instead sees her as a person who forms part of his family unit.
The two people Bruno missed most of all from home were Grandfather and Grandmother. (8.456)
We're not sure why Bruno's grandparents stay in Berlin, but we're guessing it has something to do with the fact that his grandmother is totally against what her son does for a living. Having them remain in Berlin adds even another layer of loneliness to Bruno's life, and further fragments his family.
"Mama is a teacher in my school and she taught me German […] she speaks French too. And Italian. And English." (10.588)
Shmuel shares this information about his mother with Bruno and it serves as a great contrast to Bruno's mother. Shmuel's mother is (was?) very involved in his life and preoccupied for his education, whereas Bruno's mother doesn't seem particularly concerned. Maybe it's all those medicinal Sherries?
"And yesterday [Shmuel] told me that his grandfather hasn't been seen for days […] and whenever he asks his father about him he starts crying and hugs him so hard that he's worried he's going to squeeze him to death." (14.934)
When Bruno shares this with Gretel, he lies and tells her that Shmuel is an imaginary friend. This shows his lack of confidence in his family members; even at the age of nine, Bruno knows to keep important things secret from them.
"I'd prefer for all of us to stay together." (17. 1154)
When Bruno's father asks whether the children want to go back to Berlin, Bruno gives this surprising answer. After all the complaining, he's actually happy where he is, the main reason being that now he's got Shmuel in his life. Blood, it seems, isn't always thicker than water.
"Your father's job […] you know how important it is, don't you?" (1.16)
Bruno's mother asks Bruno this before they go to Auschwitz. He replies yes, but really he's thinking, uh, no. Bruno has no idea what his dad does except that he wears a uniform. Kind of strange for a nine-year-old not to know that, but then again, his mother is not exactly forthcoming.
"Out-With?" asked Bruno. "What's an Out-With?" (3.117)
We don't know about you, Shmoopers, but we have to wonder: Why can't Gretel pronounce the word Auschwitz? After all, she is German and it's not that hard of a word. When she makes the error, we realize that she's not a reliable source of information for Bruno.
"Ah, those people," said Father, nodding his head and smiling slightly. "Those people… well, they're not people at all, Bruno." (5.283)
Yikes. This pretty much sums up the Nazi ideology when it comes to Jews. Much like people enslaved in the United States, they weren't considered human beings, which made it justifiable (and logical) to get rid of them. Hearing it from Bruno's father definitely gives us the creeps, but it only serves to confuse Bruno even more.
"Just keep quiet about it, Bruno. Don't you know how much trouble you could cause? For all of us?" (6.342)
Maria's attitude toward Hitler, the Nazis, and everything going on at Auschwitz is feigned ignorance. She obviously knows the wrongs being committed, but prefers to stay silent rather than protest because Bruno's father helped her and her mother out. Does this make her silence justifiable, though? We'll let you sort this out for yourself.
"War is not a fit subject for conversation. I'm afraid we'll be spending too much time talking about it soon." (7.358)
Good one, Mom. In Bruno's household there is little to no talk about the war, unless it's done behind closed doors. Bruno hears his parents arguing about related issues, and Gretel studies the progress being made by Germany on her maps, but nobody ever sits down with Bruno to talk about war.
"Then this is what I am here to change […]. To get your head out of your storybooks and teach you more about where you come from. About the great wrongs that have been done to you." (9.508)
Thanks for nothing, teach. Herr Liszt claims that he'll teach Bruno all about the history of Germany and what's going on with the Jews, but Bruno stays very much in the dark. Either his teacher changed his mind, or Bruno is a really bad student.
Bruno was of the opinion that when it came to parents, and especially when it came to sisters, what they didn't know couldn't hurt them. (12.752)
Funny, because that's exactly the attitude Bruno's parents take toward him. Both mother and father think Bruno is better off not knowing what's happening at Auschwitz, even though atrocities are being committed right outside his window. What his family doesn't know is that his best friend is a Jewish kid in Auschwitz—which is kind of a big deal.
"They're very far away of course, but it looks like there are hundreds. All wearing the striped pajamas." (17.1160)
Here, Bruno explains to his father what he's seen from his window. This is the first time in which his father realizes that Auschwitz might not be the best place for a kid to grow up. Uh, ya think? We're amazed it took him over a year to come up with that brilliant opinion.
In his imagination he had thought that all the huts were full of happy families, some of whom sat outside on rocking chairs […]. (19.1270)
Bruno's naïveté and innocence are apparent in his thoughts here about Auschwitz. When he goes over to the other side to help Shmuel find his father, he sees up close how very wrong he's been. Nobody has prepared him to see deathly skinny people, the faces full of fear as soldiers point guns at prisoners.
[Bruno] didn't know what everyone looked so frightened about—after all, marching wasn't such a terrible thing-and he wanted to whisper to them that everything was all right […]. (19.1297)
In this moment, we really wish Bruno's parents (or some adult) had been honest with him. The fact that he feels no sense of danger while being marched by SS men certainly freaks us out. Not only do we know he's in a bad place, we know he's in for a bad ending.
"Who are all those people? […] And what are they all doing there?" (4.190)
Bruno asks this question out loud to himself when he sees the prisoners for the first time on the other side of the fence. At this point in the novel, he does not know that the majority of them are Jews (nor does he realize that he is no longer in Germany).
[…] [The prisoners] were wearing the same clothes as each other: a pair of grey striped pajamas with a grey striped cap on their heads. (4.204)
Bruno is confused as to why all the people wear the same uniform. The only sense he can make of the clothes is that they're all in pajamas. What could be so bad about spending all day in your pajamas, right? Oh so much, Bruno—oh so much.
"Ah, those people […]. Those people… well, they're not people at all, Bruno." (5.283)
Bruno's father, like many of the SS, believes Jewish people are an inferior race, and therefore, not really people. Of course, he doesn't ever bother to explain to Bruno the exact details of why race is involved—or that they're killing the Jews.
"They're nothing to do with you. You have nothing whatsoever in common with them." (5.284)
Again, a common misconception: Jews and ethnic Germans have nothing in common. Of course, Bruno's father is more wrong than he could ever imagine because his own son is actually best friends with a Jewish kid. Oops.
"Heil, Hitler." (5.288)
When Bruno says this to his father, he admits to himself (and readers) that he thinks it's another way to say goodbye or "have a pleasant afternoon." We're not too convinced about that, though, since he speaks German and should know exactly what it means.
"Well, you've been brought here against your will, just like I have. If you ask me, we're all in the same boat. And it's leaking." (6.305)
A pretty profound thought from Bruno, no? When he tells Maria this, we can't help seeing the relation to the situation at hand: Jews were forcefully taken from their homes and brought to Auschwitz as prisoners—and sooner or later, the Nazi boat is going to sink.
[…] [Bruno] looked across at Maria and realized for the first time that he had never fully considered her to be a person with a life and a history all her own. (6.319)
Talk about deep. Bruno has his very own eureka moment when he sees Maria not as the maid, but as a person with feelings, emotions, and a family. We think this is why he can so easily talk to her, Pavel, and Shmuel—because he sees them as people and not for their labels.
"Come over here, you—" (7. 390)
Lieutenant Kotler orders Pavel to help Bruno make a tire swing, and calls him an ugly name several times. Boyne chooses not to print the name, but it's probably safe to assume given the context (and Kotler's character) that it's a derogatory term for a Jewish person.
"About the great wrongs that have been done to you." (9.508)
Like Bruno, we're left pretty perplexed by Herr Liszt's insistence that "great wrongs" have been done to Bruno and Germany. We're never told about these wrongs, and Bruno never brings them up either. Talk about vague.
On [Shmuel's] arm he wore an armband with a star on it. (9.535)
This is the first time Bruno sees the Star of David, which Shmuel and the other prisoners wear. He doesn't ask what it means, but we know that it was a way for the Nazis to further discriminate and distinguish the Jews from the rest of the population.
The more [the children] were shouted at, the closer they huddled together, but then one of the soldiers lunged towards them and they separated […]. (4.195)
Bruno observes this scene from his window and mistakes it for a game. We're not sure about you, Shmoopers, but huddling together and being "lunged" at by men with guns sounds more frightening than fun to us…
"And afterwards, when you return to the kitchen, make sure you wash your hands before touching any of the food, you filthy—" (7.393)
There are many forms of violence, and this is a good example of verbal violence. Lieutenant Kotler is by far the most violent character in the book, and even though we don't know what word he uses to insult Pavel, we know that it's nasty.
[…] 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. (13.874)
Once again, Kotler proves his bad guy status and beats up Pavel after the poor guy accidentally spills wine on him. Because this is told from Bruno's point of view, we don't know why Bruno's parents stay silent, but we have a feeling it's due to the fact that it is a risk to defend Jews, no matter who you are.
Even though it made Bruno cry and Gretel grow pale.
Here we see the children's reactions to Kotler's violent abuse of Pavel. As readers, we have to draw our own conclusions about what happens—does Kotler slap him? Beat him up? Shoot him? What do you think?
One afternoon Shmuel had a black eye, and when Bruno asked him about it he just shook his head and said that he didn't want to talk about it. (14. 878)
This is the first time we see the effects of concentration camp abuse, and it leaves a big impact on us because Shmuel is not a man, nor even a teenager—he's a nine-year-old boy. The fact that he doesn't complain or go into details about it reveals his maturity and stoicism—and also, perhaps, his fear and shame.
[…] he saw a dog approach the fence and start barking loudly, and when Lieutenant Kotler heard it he marched right over to the dog and shot it. (15.954)
Man, Kotler just gets worse and worse. So far he's beat up a man and a little kid, and now he murders a helpless animal. Definitely not the kind of guy we want to have over for dinner any time soon… or ever.
"Who told you that you were allowed to talk in this house? […] Do you dare to disobey me?" (15.1024)
Some more verbal violence from Kotler here, this time as he screams at Shmuel for talking to Bruno. Things go from bad to worse when Kotler discovers that Shmuel also ate food from the fridge. First it's screams, then it's fists.
There was a lot of bruising on his face and Bruno grimaced, and for a moment he forgot about his apology. (15.1045)
Unfortunately, Bruno's well-intentioned gesture of giving Shmuel food leads to a smack down from Kotler. When Bruno sees his friend's bruised face, he's not quite sure what to make of it, whereas for Shmuel it's just another part of concentration camp life.
"But that's alright because I hate them too. I hate them." (17.1191)
In a rare glimpse into the psyche of a Jewish prisoner, we can understand Shmuel's violent attitude toward the SS soldiers. And can we blame him for hating them when they're responsible for taking away his mother, father, grandfather, and life? Nope. Not at all.
And then the room went very dark and somehow, despite the chaos that followed, Bruno found that he was still holding Shmuel's hand […]. (19.1313)
The final scene in Bruno and Shmuel's story is also one of the most symbolically violent in the novel. While they might not realize it, readers know that they are in a gas chamber and that they will be dead soon. Death is the ultimate violent act in this story, one that can never be righted.
Bruno didn't like to admit that he was a little scared of her, but if he was honest with himself—which he always tried to be—he would have admitted that he was. (3.97)
Honesty is a really big deal for Bruno. Of course, he's not perfect and lies about his Jewish friend, Shmuel, (he tells Gretel he's imaginary) and he lies again when Kotler asks if he knows Shmuel. Okay, but besides those two times he's an honest guy…
"Well they don't," said Bruno, not wishing to judge [the children] before he met them but going by appearances, which Mother had told him time and time again not to do. (3.146)
Ah, so some of his sense of morality comes from his mother. But wait a second… isn't she the one married to an SS commandant? And isn't she living super close to a concentration camp, where people are being killed every single day as a result of judging people superficially? We think she might want to reassess her priorities… But at least she talks the talk to her kid.
"I wonder if you are being brave […] rather than merely disrespectful. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing." (5.272)
Here, Bruno's father calls him out for complaining about the new house. Ethically speaking, is it better to state your feelings and be disrespectful, or is better to stay quiet and be respectful? When it comes to the Holocaust, we're inclined to go with the first option.
<em></em>"We must just keep ourselves safe until this is all over. That's what I intend to do anyway. What more can we do after all?" (6.344)
Ah, good old complacency—Maria says this to Bruno, and what a fine example she sets. Not. She's basically telling Bruno that they're powerless and that whatever happens happens. Why stick out your neck for someone else if it'll put you in danger? Then again, why do anything at all if there's no such thing as empathy?
"It's not up to us to change things." (6.344)
Um, okay Maria, then who is it up to? Hitler? God? The Pope? At some point or another, there's always a choice between action and inaction. Maria (and many people who weren't Jewish) chooses to do nothing while the Holocaust takes place.
"Standing there in your uniform […] as if it makes you something special. Not even caring what it means. What it stands for." (8.471)
Grandma is a sympathizer with the Jews? Oh, say it ain't so. Out of all the adult characters in the book, she's the most outspoken and brave in the face of Hitler and the Nazis. Unfortunately, she dies soon after Bruno moves to Auschwitz with his family—there goes that positive influence.
"Ashamed!" she called out before she left. "That a son of mine should be—"
"A patriot," cried Father, who perhaps had never learned the rule about not interrupting your mother. (8.489)
This is what Bruno's father claims to be, showing where his morality and loyalty lies—anything for the good of Germany and the Aryan race. Ugh.
And were they really so different? (9.515)
Bruno thinks this while looking out his window at the concentration camp. His sense of morality and ethics shine through in his inability to understand what makes the people on the other side of the fence different from himself or anyone else. Underneath the pajamas, they're all just human.
"… as if it's the most natural thing in the world and it's not, it's just not…" (12.683)
Here we get a rare insight into how Bruno's mother actually feels about the situation as she argues with his father behind closed doors. We can infer that she thinks it's not right or natural for the Nazis to eliminate the Jews, but she never says so in front of the children.
"There aren't any good soldiers." (13.804)
When Shmuel says this to Bruno, he's taken aback—after all, his father is a soldier and he's pretty convinced he's not a bad guy. Then again, the Jewish experience with soldiers versus the German experience is like comparing chocolate to rotten meat.
"But they're my three best friends for life!" (1.41)
Typical kid move, bringing out the best friend card. Bruno tries using his three amigos as an excuse for not leaving Berlin, but neither his mother nor his father are sympathetic to his cause. Nice try, kiddo.
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. (10.537)
We suppose that when you've been forced to move with your family to the middle of nowhere in a different country, and there are no signs of life anywhere, exceptions must be made. When considering the options Bruno has (Gretel or Kotler), the sad, skinny boy seems like a nice alternative to us!
"I don't mean I don't believe you. […]. Because my birthday is April the fifteenth too. And I was born in nineteen thirty-four." (10.568)
When Bruno discovers that the boy (Shmuel) is the same age as him and has the same birthday, he takes it as a sign of fast friendship. The odds of sharing a birthday with someone are pretty slim, and it helps break the ice between two kids who are separated by a wire fence.
"We're like twins." (10.572)
Okay, maybe this is a bit of a stretch coming from Bruno, but the sentiment is cute. Besides the shared birthday, they have little in common, particular by the time they meet. Still, it says a lot that kids will look for similarities rather than differences, unlike many adults.
"Or I could come to you […]. Perhaps I could come and meet your friends." (12.742)
Awkward moment: Before they part ways, Bruno suggests coming over to Shmuel's side of the fence. However, due to history (and, well, the fence), we know this won't be the easiest thing to do.
"No sir. [Bruno] gave it to me […]. He's my friend." (15.1029)
This is definitely an uh-oh moment—not only does Lieutenant Kotler walk into Bruno's kitchen to find the boys talking together, but he also discovers that Shmuel has been eating. Things get really mucked up when Bruno tells Kotler that he's never seen Shmuel before. Friend, schmiend.
"I can't believe I didn't tell him the truth. I've never let a friend down like that before. Shmuel, I'm ashamed of myself." (15.1050)
Well, at least Bruno sucks it up and apologizes properly. We have to admit—it's a pretty deep and honest apology for a youngin', and we're not surprised when Shmuel forgives him and the two continue their chummy relationship.
It was the first time they had ever touched. (15.1052)
Thought the apology wasn't enough? Well, you're in luck, because it's followed by a true moment of poetry—Shmuel lifts up the fence, slips his hand under, and the two boys shake hands. Aw…
"I won't have anyone to talk to any more when you're gone." (18.1204)
Shmuel's reaction here to Bruno leaving Auschwitz is super sad. Bruno's one of the best things Shmuel has going in his life at this point.
"You're my best friend, Shmuel […]. My best friend for life." (19.1310)
These are the last words Bruno says to his friend; in the next moment, the lights go off and we know they're going to be killed in a gas chamber. The words, sweet and full of love and trust, are a stark contrast to the ugly end these two (and so many others) meet.
There was a huge wire fence that ran along the length of the house and turned in at the top, extending further along in either direction, further than [Gretel] could possibly see. (4.162)
Through Gretel's eyes, we see how the two sides of Auschwitz are literally separated—on one side is Bruno and his family, and on the other side is the camp and its prisoners, all of whom have no freedom whatsoever.
"[…] when we were told we couldn't live in our house we had to move to a different part of Cracow, where the soldiers built a big wall and my mother and father and my brother and I all had to live in one room." (12.704)
Shmuel recounts what happened to him and his family before coming to live in Auschwitz. Because they were "told" they couldn't live somewhere, we know that they're not free, and when they live in one room, it's just the beginning of their entrapment.
"There were too many of us in the carriages for one thing. And there was no air to breathe. And it smelled awful." (12.713)
Shmuel and his family, like many Jews, were forced to ride in train cars, packed to capacity for days. There's a lack of space, a feeling of claustrophobia, and a general disregard for the hygiene. The Nazis were terrible every step of the way.
"But don't you ever wake up in the morning and feel like wearing something different? There must be something else in your wardrobe." (14.884)
Oh, Bruno. Talk about living under a rock—for the entire span of the novel he thinks that what Shmuel and the others wear are pajamas and not prison uniforms. Of course, we can't blame him entirely; neither Gretel nor his parents explain to him about the clothes.
There, sitting at the table, a long way from the other side of the fence, was Shmuel. (15.985)
Holy smokes, Shmuel's in Bruno's house. This is the first of two times that Shmuel and Bruno are in the same space, and both instances lead to disastrous results. In this case, Shmuel gets in trouble for talking to Bruno and eating—things any person should be able to do.
[…] there was something about the people from there that made [Bruno] think they shouldn't be here in his house. (15.988)
We're kind of surprised that Bruno thinks this after all the time he's spent hanging out with Shmuel. Is it a demonstration of some inner racism he has, or just an observation he makes due to how Shmuel looks compared to his family?
"It's only food." (15.1013)
Food is only food if you never have to worry about eating. The thing Bruno doesn't understand is that the prisoners don't have the freedom to buy their own food, cook, or go shopping. They have to eat what is given to them, and usually it isn't close to enough.
In another corner [Bruno] could see more soldiers standing around and laughing and looking down the barrels of their guns, aiming them in random directions, but not firing them. (19.1278)
At this point in the novel, Bruno has crossed over to the other side. For the first time he sees what really goes on in the camp, and he quickly becomes very uncomfortable. Umm, yeah, we would, too, if we saw a bunch of Nazis walking around with guns…
[…] they were all piling into a long room that was surprisingly warm and must have been very securely built because no rain was getting in anywhere. In fact it felt completely airtight. (19.1303)
This is the second time that Bruno and Shmuel are in a room together, and unfortunately, it will also be the last. Unknowingly, they're led into a gas chamber, pushed up against many others, completely trapped, confined, and beaten.
[…] the door at the front was suddenly closed and a loud metallic sound rang through from the outside. (19.1311)
By incorporating the sound that the door makes as it's closed, we get an even deeper sense of Bruno and Shmuel's entrapment. We know that there is no way Bruno, Shmuel, or anyone else in the chamber will survive what comes next.
Others were on crutches and many had bandages around their heads. Some carried spades and were being led by groups of soldiers to a place where they could no longer be seen. (4.192)
With the ominous images of "crutches'" and "bandages," as well as the fact that soldiers are leading people to a place they can't be "seen," we're pretty sure nothing good is happening at Auschwitz. Even if we knew nothing about history (like Bruno), the dark mood is enough to make us uncomfortable.
"Those children look like they've never had a bath in their lives." (4.198)
Gretel makes this observation when Bruno shows her the children he sees from his bedroom window. She offers a rare glimpse into prisoner life—and it ain't pretty. We are totally going to feel grateful for our shower the next time we step into it.
[…] the very last things they owned were put into suitcases and an official car with red-and-black flags on the front had stopped at their door to take them away. (5.208)
The contrast between how Bruno's family is moved to Auschwitz and how Shmuel's family is forced to go there is staggeringly different. For Bruno and his family, their items are packed by the help, and then they're driven by official cars to a nice, comfy train. As we later learn, Shmuel's family got there by far less pleasant means.
"We should have never let the Fury come to dinner […]. Some people and their determination to get ahead." (5.210)
Yes, it probably wasn't the best idea to have Adolf Hitler to dinner--Bruno's mom is right about that. But when it comes to the family decisions, anything "some people" (a.k.a. Bruno's father) wants is what he gets.
"This is my work, important work. Important to our country. Important to the Fury. You'll understand that some day." (5.254)
Bruno's father explains why they are in Auschwitz to Bruno, but if you ask us, it's a pretty weak excuse, especially considering Bruno doesn't know who "the Fury" is or what's going on in Germany.
"War is not a fit subject for conversation." (7.358)
Really? Really? We're not entirely convinced that keeping kids in the dark about what's happening in the world (especially in their own country) is the best idea. Then again, ignorance is bliss.
"He runs the country, idiot […] don't you ever read a newspaper?" (11.638)
You know, we wonder the same thing ourselves. Why is it that Gretel reads the newspapers but Bruno doesn't? He may be nine-years-old, but he's old enough to read a paper, right?
"And every time we left the house, [Shmuel's mother] told us we had to wear one of these armbands." (12.695)
Shmuel relates his experience to Bruno of being forced to wear armbands with the Star of David. Bruno doesn't understand the significance of it, though, and instead considers Shmuel lucky to have been given an accessory. Yeah, Bruno really doesn't get what's going on here…
[Shmuel] turned and walked away and Bruno noticed again just how small and skinny his new friend was. (12.748)
As the days pass, Shmuel gets smaller and skinnier, something Bruno notices but doesn't question. It's clear, though, that one of the warfare tactics being used on Shmuel is denial of enough food.
[…] they were all piling into a long room that was surprisingly warm and must have been very securely built because no rain was getting in anywhere. (19.1303)
This is one of the last scenes of the novel, and in it, Bruno and Shmuel are packed into a gas chamber with other Auschwitz prisoners. Even though this was a common way to kill people during the Holocaust, we're still left pretty shocked.