The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Why doesnt Bruno stand up för Shmuel? What would happen if he did?

chapter 15-19

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Bruno's betrayal of Shmuel in front of Lieutenant Kotler is representative of the many people who betrayed their Jewish neighbors and friends during the Holocaust in similar ways. By distancing himself from Shmuel because he is afraid of the consequences of associating with the boy, Bruno contributes to Shmuel's punishment for a crime he did not commit: stealing food. The way Bruno considers his actions immediately following the event reflects a personal disconnect: "[he] wondered how a boy who thought he was a good person really could act in such a cowardly way toward a friend" (174). He feels ashamed of himself, but does not take action to right the wrong. When Shmuel finally returns to meet him at the fence, his face covered in bruises, Bruno apologizes. His words could have easily come from any of the Germans who fell in line with the Nazis and didn't speak up for the Jews during the Holocaust. Had Bruno conducted himself differently, he likely would have faced a similar beating...... but possibly not, as Kotler would have been required to answer to his father.