Study Guide

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Friendship

By John Boyne


When Bruno is forced to leave Berlin in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, one of his main complaints is that he also has to leave his three best friends. To make matters worse, when he gets to the new house in Auschwitz, there are no other families or children around. Ugh—so long, social life. When he meets Shmuel, though, a kid on the other side of the fence, it's the beginning of a beautiful—albeit short-lived—friendship.

Despite their many differences, these two form a bond that transcends race, and even fences—so much so, that when asked if he still wants to go back to Berlin, Bruno confidently says no. In a world governed by hatred, Bruno and Shmuel show that friendship can thrive even in darkness.

Questions About Friendship

  1. What is Bruno's first reaction to Shmuel? How does his understanding of Shmuel change over time?
  2. What do Bruno and Shmuel have in common? What is different about them?
  3. Do you think Bruno would be friends with Shmuel if there were children on his side of the fence? Why or why not?
  4. Why do you think Gretel is okay with not having any friends? What makes her different from Bruno in that sense?

Chew on This

If it weren't for the Holocaust, Bruno and Shmuel wouldn't be friends.

Both Bruno and Shmuel need friendship to distract themselves from their loneliness.