The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Chapters 11 to 13

how does Bruno reveal he has no understanding of Shmuel's situation?


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Chapter Ten had ended with Bruno's question to Shmuel: "Why are there so many people on that side of the fence? And what are you all doing there?" (115). Shmuel answers by explaining his experience. He lived with his mother, father, and his brother Josef in an apartment above his father's watchmaking store. One day, his mother was making armbands for the family with the Star of David on them, and she told him he had to wear his whenever he left the house. Bruno tells Shmuel that his father wears an armband, too - only Father's armband has the Nazi symbol on it, while Shmuel's family's armbands have the Star of David.

Shmuel goes on to tell Bruno about how he came to live at Out-With. His family was told they had to move to a different part of Cracow, all cramped in one room with another family. They were on the wrong side of a wall that the soldiers had built. Bruno doesn't believe that so many people could have lived in only one room, but he doesn't tell Shmuel that. There were eleven people total living in that room, including one of the sons from the other family, Luka, who Shmuel tells Bruno "kept hitting me even when I did nothing wrong" (129). Bruno relates that Gretel sometimes hits him, too, but Shmuel doesn't respond to his observation.

Shmuel tells Bruno that one day soldiers arrived and packed him and everyone living nearby into huge trucks. Lots of people hid from the soldiers, but Shmuel believes they were all eventually found. They were brought to a train, which Shmuel says "was horrible... there was no air to breathe. And it smelled awful" (129). Bruno tells him that he should have gotten on the train Bruno took, the one on the other side of the platform, but Shmuel says his train had no doors. Bruno doesn't believe him about that detail, either. Shmuel tells him that when they got off the train, they all had to walk to Out-With; Bruno counters that his family "had a car" (130). He cannot understand why Shmuel seems so sad, since "after all much the same thing had happened to him" (130).

Shmuel tells Bruno that there are hundreds of other boys on his side of the fence, and Bruno reiterates his feeling that it is unfair for him to have no one to play with on his side. Shmuel tells him they don't play, and this surprises Bruno. Shmuel asks Bruno if he has any food and Bruno tells him that he had meant to bring chocolate, but forgot. Bruno tells him that dinner isn't served until half-past six, and invites Shmuel to come have dinner with his family sometime. When Shmuel doesn't return the invitation, Bruno suggests that perhaps he could come under the fence to visit with Shmuel and his friends. Shmuel becomes nervous and tells Bruno he has to go back because he'll be in trouble if they catch him. Bruno shouts after him that he'll be back tomorrow, and sets off for home. He decides to keep his new friend a secret from his family, since he doesn't want to be told he can't see Shmuel anymore.